“Are you Jewish?”

these flowers have nothing to do with this post, just thought it needed a little color, and since Crysthemums are a favorite of mine, and the flower for my November birthday

these flowers have nothing to do with this post, just thought it needed a little color. Chrysanthemums are a favorite of mine, and the flower for November birthdays, so they seemed appropriate. Check out last year’s “In Defense of November And Sweet Potato Soup.”

My husband Mike, the propane mr-fix-it guy, goes into people’s homes to fix appliances. Over the years he has grown fond of many customers he sees regularly, not only for fix-its, but for the annual maintenance service Sunshine Propane offers its customers. He has seen customers go through the usual life changing events we all experience – illnesses, travels, deaths of spouses and partners, retirements, job changes, kids growing up, grandkids being born. So it was not unusual when at the home of a couple in the midst of a crisis, a distressed wife began telling  him of her husband being taken to the hospital in an ambulance the night before for an apparent heart attack.  Mike listened sympathetically, then said, “I will pray for him.” She responded, “are you Jewish?”, to which Mike answered, “I’m Hindu” (not sure why he gave that answer, except our particular spiritual path draws from the teachings of the Christian Bible and the Hindu Bhagavad Gita).  She said, “Well, I guess that’s good too. We have Catholics, Presbyterians, and Methodists praying but no Jewish people.”

This story has been a sweet favorite of ours since it happened, several years ago.  In her despair, she wanted to make sure all bases were covered, (no doubt not thinking of Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and the multitude of other religions and spiritual traditions she may not have been familiar with.) It was ok with her if her husband received Hindu prayers! Of course one’s particular church, religion, or spiritual beliefs are not what’s important, what is important is the positive focus, with intention, asking for healing and the best outcome for the one being prayed for.

Recently I wrote in an email to friends, many of whom are not ‘religious’ but want to offer support, “some of you don’t ‘pray’ per se……for those of us who have a relationship with God, Great Spirit, Divine Mother….praying ‘to’ whatever divine manifestation we attune with connects us to a greater power. But positive affirmations tossed to the wind, the sun, the ocean, a tree, a totem animal…..wherever you feel a connection, is fabulous! Works for me!”.  

As I count down the days until I have a mastectomy, I, like the woman in the story, want to cover all the bases! Tonight, while talking about support from others, Mike, who is feeling the spousal worry and concern of his customer, said “but is there anyone Jewish praying for you?”.  We both laughed. A lighter moment shared. During my ‘good moments’ I feel, and greatly appreciate, the blessings and love that come from various people and places as I face this life changing surgery and the unknown that lays beyond it.  During my ‘bad moments’, I feel scared, alone, and experience the stages of grief one goes through when losing part of their body and facing a potentially life ending challenge. IMG_0305 A myriad of doctor appointments, tests, biopsies, etc. have pulled me out of my “home” environment and into the city, clinics, and hospitals. When home I’ve been too tired, achy and ill to do much except pick away at the paper work and tasks involved in wrapping up my mother’s life (an interesting expression, but that’s for another post!).

Yesterday, we took a deliciously long walk along the Dosewallips River in a gray drizzle, watching the rushing water as it lapped along the river banks, inches from flood stage.  I felt “at home” for the first time in weeks, maybe months.  In a large puddle I noticed a reflection of curved light and looking up saw a faint, but distinctive rainbow. A moment later our heads turned from the fading rainbow as the screech of an eagle flying over caught our attention. Walking to a stream next to the river, we unintentionally disturbed a Great Blue Heron hunting in the rushes.  In the dim light of a late November day, skies gray with cloud cover, the only colors muted tones of dull winter greens and shades of brown, we stood a long time as the drizzle became a light rain and watched American Dippers splash and bop in the cold water. It was such a comfort. I slept better last night than I had in weeks. Thank you Mother Nature for your prayer. And thank you readers, friends, for any prayers you feel inclined to offer on my behalf….of any faith, to any Divine Being…..or to the wind and the rushing river.

This is the same spot in the river I sat and wrote about the "Girl In The Purple Swimsuit", in fact where I sat is well underwater!"

This is the same spot in the river I sat and wrote the “Girl In The Turquoise Swimsuit“, in fact where I sat is well underwater!”

Recipe For Winter

For readers who may not live in the coastal Pacific Northwest…it’s raining out. Not just raining, November raining. The rain that spawns temperate rainforests of water-loving Sitka spruce, Western hemlock, Western red cedar, and Bigleaf maples, whose branches are covered with thick moss, holding the rain like sponges. It’s the type of rain that brings those gentle giants down by saturating the soil where their roots try to hold on while water pours into the earth, loosening even the hardest of clay soils, and moving in rivulets the rich peaty soils of the forest floor.

In our small, old, house with 2×4 framing, thin-glassed old windows, and low ceilings, November rain is a pounding force to be reckoned with, an omnipresent noise, day and night. The barrier between the sheets of falling water and us seems a bit weak-willed. I review in my mind…how old is our roof? Did we leave any unfinished projects at any buildings that might have left even a crack where water could get in? How will the old chicken coop hold up?

Everyone – us, chickens, ducks, are warm and dry…and for the most part staying indoors.

And then it stops. Just when you think it will never stop, when it has rained for at least 48-72 hours, when the weather forecast says 90-100% rain every day in the foreseeable future, the faucet suddenly turns off, the darken sky lightens, and the world opens up.

Going outside after the first good multiple-day November storm is always an awe-inspiring experience. Deciduous trees have lost nearly every last leaf (except our strange peach tree, which has never produced more than a few peaches, yet holds on to bright green leaves until Christmas). There is sky where there has not been sky since early the previous spring. The road noise, drowned out by the rain, is audible again, yet there is a silence when compared to the deafening water that has pounded, like the surf on a beach, and poured for hours. The rainstorm, washing away autumn,  has given birth to winter.  It is not the same stillness of the first snowfall, yet there is a tangible winter calm to the quiet that follows a robust rainstorm.

Remarkably, with the winter solstice still a month away, darkness increasing daily, and the days continuing to get shorter, there are signs of spring. New buds have formed on the Indian Plum, and on the Flowering Current, which I guiltily pruned today, cutting off many tender buds. It is difficult in the northwest to find a ‘dormant’ time to hack away at plants. With the wet weather and mild winters, the dying back and the budding forth appear seamless in many perennial bushes and trees.  Even some early perennial flowers have put forth new leaves, but it is a premature effort, for the first snow or a prolonged freeze will cause them to die back.

It is the lull before the next storm, according to the weather pundits, a much-appreciated lull before feeling buffeted around again by stormy weather. As this week of Thanksgiving, infamous for challenging weather patterns, begins, I am grateful to go out and work in the wet garden, breathing in the clean air as I prune back dead flowers, pull down soggy bean plants, cover the whitened, decaying squash plants with fallen Maple leaves, preparing the hills for next summer’s planting. An appreciated lull to put the garden to bed for the winter.

Northwest weather is made for soup.  I make a lot of soups.  Here is one of my latest. Warming food for stormy weather! A nice pre or post-Thanksgiving meal, easy, not too heavy, but filling.

Acorn Squash Soup

Quarter and bake in a 350 degree oven one acorn squash (any winter squash will do just fine) until a knife goes in easy and there is a little browning on top. After it has cooled, scrap out the meat, cut into chunks, and put in a soup pan. (You can also quarter and steam in a pan on the stove top, this saves time, but if you have the time, baking/roasting the squash in the oven brings out the flavor and sweetness more.)

Add a quart of water (actually I never measure so I’m just guessing on this, might need a little more)

Chop and add:

1/3 cup onion

2 medium to large carrots – not the bitter supermarket kind, but local, farmers market ones, this adds flavor and sweetness. (Nash’s Organic Produce or Dharma Ridge Farm are favorites of ours.)

Dharma Ridge Carrots at the Chimacum Market. The Port Townsend Market is still open on Saturdays with lots of winter veggies from local farmers.

1 small apple, a tart one is good

Also add:

¼ cup basmati rice

1 bay leaf

1 t. grated fresh ginger

1 to 1 ½ t. homemade curry powder

Cook until rice is done.  Put into a blender in batches to blend smooth.  It will have little pieces of apple skin, for a smoother soup peel apple first.

Options: I added homemade almond milk I had on hand, coconut milk is also nice, about 1/3 cup.

Garnish with a dollop of tahini and fresh grated ginger, the tahini adds protein, and a distinctive, richer flavor, but the soup is delicious, and a little lighter, without it.

Ah, it is raining again.  Think I’ll go make some soup! 

Happy Thanksgiving all! 

I am grateful you do me the honor of reading my musings!  It helps keep my creativity alive!

Wet Comfort

Looking out the window today I thought what a comfort rain can be.  There is an ease in rain, it is after all what we Northwesterners experience as our ‘default’, the weather that always comes back to us after periods of snow, hot sun, or dry spells.  Like most folks, rain impacts me in different ways at different times.  I remember, when going to school in Eugene, hearing on the radio one November that it had rained every day for a month.  Not just drizzle, significant, measurable rain for thirty days.  I was impressed, though I have no doubt since lived through many similar months.

Fully aware what lack of sun can do to ones mood, I have had my share of ‘cabin fever’ and winter blues.  Yet there is a psychological relief when it rains after a dry spell, not just in the summer, but winter too.  Maybe not the dramatic relief felt by those living in monsoon climates, whose dry spells are months long and to whom rain brings to live plants and the hope of survival. In the northwest, if it hasn’t rained for a spell, it brings a relief more like putting on a favorite sweatshirt and slippers after you haven’t worn them for a days, and sitting down with a cup of tea.  It’s subtle. It’s comfort.

I met a man at the end of our driveway today.  He was on a bicycle, pulling a bike trailer, the kind used for kids, a German Shepard by his side.  He was looking at a map and I asked if he needed help.  He wanted assurance he was headed toward the Hood Canal Bridge.  He had been camping and bicycling in the Olympics for four days. I commented that it was too bad the weather turned wet this week after last week’s sunny, dry, albeit cold, days. Thinking he might be from elsewhere, I remarked this might not be the best time of year to experience the Olympics.  He replied with enthusiasm “oh, I love it, I love the weather!”  He had ridden in rain, snow, and ice (he didn’t care for the ice) camping along the way.  He was celebrating his 47th birthday. He lived in Kingston. I asked about the dog needing breaks, “that’s what the trailer is for” he responded.

This man found the rain invigorating, inspiring, and enjoyed a solitude and Olympic experience few would relish!

Born in November, traditionally the wettest month on record, perhaps I was programmed in those early days of life to find comfort in the sounds and smells of rain.  I love water and am grateful not to live in a dry climate.

To my thinking the real culprit of winter ‘blues’ is darkness and we have more than our share during our short winter days.  I think rain without dark clouds would be lovely, and we would have many rainbows!

Note:  This is my first  blog in this new location on the internet.  I hope those who have been following my musings and ruminations have found this new site, which I think will be my itertnet home for some time!  Welcome!