Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Green Beans and Celebrations . . .

Jane Kenyon's observation about sensible people is true – sensible people plan ahead for what they need. They prepare for their future. They do what needs to be done.

But I think the peonies, campanula, roses, lilies, astilbe, and bee balm she plants are also a sensible response to our human need for beauty and celebration.

We've just had a week-long celebration at our house. Not only did we enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving; we celebrated the marriage of our youngest son and his wife. It was a week of both green beans and peonies . . .

The house was full of family and friends, old and new. There was a non-stop feast of good food – turkey, salads, dressing, all kinds of relishes and vegetables, cookies, pies – shared over a table graced with flowers, candles, laughter and good conversation. Then there was the wedding, complete with lovely music, fragrant flowers, joy-filled faces. The reception was more good food, dancing to good music, renewing acquaintance with friends and family.

This morning it's back to green beans for us; almost everyone is back in their normal routine. The scent of the celebration lingers, though, just like the fragrance of flowers, and the day is better for it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving Snow . . .

Our weather forecaster has said the “S” word – snow.

There's a small chance we'll have some before Thanksgiving.

I went out this afternoon – it was still warm and a little windy – and dug out some of the vine-y plants from the summer pots, then repotted them for the house. The closer winter gets, the more I want to hang on to the greens of summer!

This year we brought in two pots of basil; they release their fragrance when the sun warms them in the window. The rosemary and lemon thyme smell good when I brush by them.

What a difference fragrance makes! When the house has been shut up for awhile it smells stale, somehow. But having fresh green plants sitting around freshens the air, scents it with a touch of summer.

It's easy to understand why people used to build orangeries. We visited one in Kansas City this summer; it wasn't large but the ceiling was tall enough to allow large plants. Walking in was an adventure in beauty. The plants were a symphony of green, varied in texture; the fragrances tickled our noses with delight. Visitors were invited to touch some of the plants, adding a dimension of pleasure.

We don't have an orangerie in our house, but we do have generously sized windows that allow us to have green plants through the winter.

When the snow flurries, it's nice to watch it through our living room garden.

It's one more thing for our Thanksgiving list!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Thanksgiving Soup . . .

The sky filled with clouds this afternoon, and the wind picked up. The temperature is dropping, as this autumn tease continues.

It's a good day for soup, and I've just come from making a pot of beef-vegetable. All that chopping and slicing gave me a lot of time for thinking, and a lot of time for thanking.

I used up the last of the roast I made the day Meg died. She came into the kitchen as soon as I opened the package of raw meat to sear and put into the oven. She sat right at my feet when I took the roast out of the oven, and right beside John while we ate dinner that night, hoping – successfully, as it turned out – for morsels of hot meat from his hand.

As I prepared the left-over roast for the soup I thought of Meg, and wished she were in the kitchen with me, hoping for a morsel of meat to drop her way.

A friend who has been living with cancer has begun the process of dying from it. It doesn't look as if there will be another reprieve; but she is determined to live as much as she can til she dies.

I slice and dice the garlic, the onion, the carrots, and I think of her, wishing there would be more time for dinners out, wishing there would be more time to hear of her travels.

I think about loved ones who've died, and began a litany of thanksgiving for them. I'm thankful to have known them, thankful to have been part of their lives.

I'm thankful to know that death doesn't win in the end; love wins.

Some Sunday I'll take my place in a church pew, and it will be the last Sunday I'm there. Maybe I'll know that somehow, but more likely I won't. I hope, though, that I am aware of how precious, how lovely it is to be alive that day. I hope I have a thankful heart; I hope I'm completely present in those moments.

Making soup requires a kind of mindfulness. As I work with the vegetables I admire their shapes, their colors, their smells, the way they feel as I work with them. I think of the people who planted and grew them, who drew them from the ground, who shipped and sold them. I think of them with thanksgiving, and I think of the people who will gather round my table with thanksgiving. I think of those who came before, and those who will come after, with thanksgiving.

An attitude of thanksgiving is an antidote to mourning. It doesn't take away the sting of death, but it eases the pain somehow. On an autumn afternoon as darkness fills the house, thanksgiving is a bit of light and lightness that does my heart good.

The soup is warm now, and fills the house with an enticing aroma, just as thanksgiving fills our lives with the fragrance of God.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Family Favorite . . .

Ask people which soups are their favorites and you'll get different answers, but almost all of them will agree that a bowl of soup is a good thing, especially if someone has made it from scratch.

In our family, the house specialty for a long time was potato soup, made with bratwurst browned in a little olive oil, with garlic, onion, carrot, and celery added next, then some diced, cooked potatoes, milk and/or cream, salt, pepper, and thyme.

Depending on who was cooking, there might be other ingredients, herbs, or spices. If we'd had ham recently, the left-overs would be substituted for the bratwurst. Occasionally left-over mashed potatoes would be thrown into the blender with some of the milk and then added as a thickener.

Add a side of fresh bread or cornbread and some sliced apples and cheddar cheese, and everyone would be happy.

It's one of the consolations of cold weather.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Soup Weather . . .

Soup weather is here.

You know, that just-beyond-chilly kind of day that requires something steaming and delicious smelling when you come in the door.

Whether it's a main course or just an appetizer, soup satisfies.

The only question is – what kind?


Vegetable soup – with meat, or without?

Tortilla soup?

Corn chowder?

Take the What's Your Favorite Soup poll at the right . . . you never know when a bowl might show up!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Handel on an Autumn Afternoon's Drive . . .

Yesterday I had to make an hour's drive in the middle of the afternoon. It was glorious, beautiful autumn weather, not too warm but not cold, either. Traffic was light, the road was good, and I put Handel's Messiah into the CD player.

It had been a difficult week – our beloved dog Meg died suddenly, unexpectedly, and we were devastated. A friend was sick with an undiagnosed ailment, an acquaintance died, a sudden work assignment came up, I realized I'd forgotten to return something to its proper place in the office, causing problems for someone else.

Somehow, the trip with Handel eased my sadness. Mary Byers is right: “music is another way to meet God.” The music, the words, Kathleen Battles's lovely voice – they worked together to soothe, to reassure, to lift my spirits. I was reminded that nothing surprises God, that not only does He have a plan – He is the plan.

Disappointment, grief, sadness are all so real, and one afternoon of music won't make them disappear. It just reminds me that I don't suffer them without hope.

And that's enough for now.