Three Things

I recently discovered a Vermont blog that has some appeal to me. The View From the Last House in America claims to offer up “one life, lived in Vermont, and oddments.” Sounds good to me. That actually sounds about like what I’ve got here. Two posts on the site caught my attention.

One was called Who Cares What You Think? This seems a reasonable question to me. If you are going to write something that any random monkey can find, at least entertain the monkey. It is the question for anyone who cares to blog. I would love it if someone thought what I put down here interesting and worth musing over. Heck, I need affirmation as much as the next guy. But it ought to be interesting and not just pretend to be interesting. So that is my renewed challenge: to avoid proffering up tripe.

The second thing that I found interesting was a post about Seven Random Things. I like this idea. I was reading recently in Orion magazine an essay called Notes From a Very Small Island by Erik Reese. He talks about Nietzsche’s call for “an end of philosophy” and how we should really embrace art, especially poetry. He expounds on what this means to himself and I was struck by this sentence:

The true poem captures not just what is seen, but the experience of seeing. Poetry, we might say, is the aura thrown around an ordinary object to show that, in fact, it isn’t ordinary at all.

This captures well what I love about poetry. My favorite poems are about standing in line or shoveling snow or drinking beer on a porch. This idea of writing about seven random things really gets at the idea of poetry or, if one carries it back around, to philosophy. The question, if one takes on this challenge, is this: Can you find meaning in those objects and then share it in a way that has meaning to the reader? I like the idea. I’ll try it at some point.

And the third thing is this: it is snowing. The snow and rain and sleet and freezing rain (we may get all of them) might fall all night. Snow day tomorrow? I have mixed feelings about it. One one hand I get as excited as I did when I was ten when I think about school being canceled and a bonus day at home. On the other hand, it is a big old hassle to make up my meetings with students when school is closed. I don’t want to have to add a day, but I also would love to sit and watch the weather and drink some foamy coffee drink in my pajamas.

If tomorrow comes in with gray and slush and I don’t need to drive, then I will take on the seven random things challenge in the morning. If we have rain and school, then it will have to wait. In any case, even if you made it this far in this post you may still be wondering, enough to not at all consider reading the next one, Who Cares What You Think?

Christmas Tree Erection

The Saturday after Thanksgiving is the day we have gotten our Christmas tree in the past and we continued that tradition today.  We cut our own from Martel’s farm in Williston.  The place has an incredible view of the Green Mountains, Lake Iroquois and the town of Williston, so it is worth the trip just for that.  We got some help tying to the top of the car and drove slowly home.

This tree is tall and skinny, unlike the rotund jobbers of the past two years.  It is a long boy.  We stood it up and trimmed it this afternoon.  Christmas has arrived.  In a few days we start the advent calendars.  Now we just need some snow.  And it looks like tomorrow we will get some.  Snow day on Monday?

Before the Trimming

Before the Trimming

Avec Trimmings

Avec Trimmings

Thankgiving Dinner

We headed down to hang with my side of the family for Thanksgiving.  We had a typical Thanksgiving dinner.  The menu included:

  • Turkey ( I abstained)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Butternut squash
  • Peas
  • Stuffing (made by the brother, vegetarian even!)
  • Sweet potatoes (with maple syrup and cranberries, even I thought this was tasty)
  • Cream of broccoli soup

It was a team effort, with my brother and mother doing most of the work.  After a while we had dessert, with these offerings:

  • Apple pie
  • Chocolate pudding pie
  • Pumpkin pie
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Chocolate ice cream
  • Whipped cream to top things off

A word about the pumpkin pie:  It was the best pumpkin pie I have ever had.  My brother found a new recipe and my mom whipped it up and it was sweet and creamy and just plain GOOD.  I need to find out how to make me one of them puppies.

It was a fine meal, shared with family.  That is a good thing.  Like all families we have our differences and oddities, but we get along well.  That isn’t true of many families.  So I am lucky.  I am thankful for that.

Dinner Over, Dessert Soon

Dinner Over, Dessert Soon

Stuff in the Night

The stars finally came out last night.  Orion peeked over the horizon to look down on the melting snow.  Clouds came back at some point.  It was dripping this morning.

At one point I heard a great horned owl.  It called and called.  I listened to it from my post in bed.  It was too bad no one else heard it.  Soon they will start to look for mates, next month even.  They will be calling again.

My son woke up in the night.  He stumbled about in a sleepy state before going back to sleep.  He told me he loved me before he dozed off.  I feel asleep smiling, if that is possible.

I have had some clear dreams recently.  Bizarre, as one might expect from dreams.  But last night I don’t remember any dreams.  I slept or I woke.  Perhaps I did not dream at all.

I woke before the sun, which is easy to do these days.  It was almost 7:30 by the time the sun climbed over the ridge.  I had thought I might run right then but got caught up in a morning with children.  I ran later.

It was a good night.  I slept enough and saw and heard good things.  Let’s hope I get another one of those tonight.  Happy Thanksgiving to all who read this.

About the Weather

We are planning to take a trip down to Connecticut to visit my parents and other sundry relatives this week.  You know, celebrate the national holiday about the mythic sharing of the harvest between the native people who managed to survive the plague brought by Europeans and a group of those Europeans seeking freedom of religion.  I hope we get good driving weather.

I think about the weather a lot, and I especially think about it during the transition seasons such as November.  This morning as I drove home after dropping off my son at his, as my wife referred to it last night in our daughter’s parent teacher conference, “foo foo la la” preschool, I heard on Vermont Public Radio that the weather forecast might be “complex” today but it was pretty nasty 58 years ago.

Apparently, they had a big storm back in 1950.  The Great Appalachian Storm brought snow and high winds to a huge area of the northeast.  Burlington had sustained 72 mile per hour winds with gusts up to 100 miles per hour.  Hello hurricane, although it was technically an extratropical cyclone.  It had more of an effect on other states, including New York, but damage was extensive in Vermont.  It was one of the biggest storms of the century.

It was pretty mild today.  I ate my rapidly cooling lunch as I walked out to meet my daughter off the bus for her half day of school today.  It was a little windy and the spitting rain was misting my glasses.  I even grumbled about it for a moment, until I realized that I did not want to be an ass.  What is a cool lunch when it means being on time to meet my kid?  I had no blizzard to contend with.

We should have fine weather for driving this week.  Rain continues to drip out of the clouds at the moment.  We might get more of that.  My car’s wipers, although brand new, seem to be–how to put this eruditely?–sucky?  They will get us through.  I’m not going out to buy new ones at this point.  Too lazy.

I will keep an eye on the weather for now and when we get there for the ride home.  It won’t be long before we are thinking about snow days.  We talked about the possibility that school might be closed today if the weather turned just right.  Soon soon

The Pilgrims and their native hosts had a mild first Thanksgiving although, to be fair, it was in October back then.  It looks like this one will be pretty mild as well.  We will have no century marking storm, which is good.  If we are going to have a big storm, let’s hope it happens during the middle of a week of school.  That way we go out and play when school gets canceled.

Holiday Cards

I spent a good chunk of time today creating a holiday card.  We used to buy a box of cards and write something interesting inside and then send them to family and friends.  We never went with the photo cards where we had to drop off the negative and then pick up the cards a few days later.   It just never seemed worth the effort.

Now, however, one can simply upload digital photographs to a handy web site, choose from a variety of card layouts with multiple photos, pay by credit card, and wait for them to come in the mail.  That is what I spent my time on today.  What took the biggest bit of time was selecting the photos.  We have lots of photos but few fit the criteria.

The photos had to:

  • Have good composition, meaning they had to be good photographs in general
  • Contain a mix of seasons (not all from the summer, not all from the winter)
  • Show each of us at least once, with a preference for the children
  • Not show any of us in every photo

I think I did well.  I went with four photos, rather than nine to keep a balanced square.  That would have taken even longer.  I clicked the “purchase” button and they should be here soon.  Then we need to write personal notes and addresses and send them off.

I look forward to getting cards as well as sending them.  My parents used to hang them along a doorway, then along the wall when that was filled.  It was a part of the holidays I enjoyed and remember.  We always hear from someone we have not seen or heard from on a while.  It seems the one time of year when being in touch happens for many people.

We might have gone with e-cards, to save paper and greenhouse gases, and money for that matter.  But they just don’t feel the same.  You can’t hang an e-card on the wall or read it as you walk back from the mailbox in the snow.  The children can’t line up e-cards on the floor and sort them.  It is a conscious choice to send paper cards.  It is worth it.  Holiday cards are a part of the season and I look forward to them.  Even thinking about hearing from friends and family makes me smile.  With the cold and snow lately, I say bring on the holidays.

Tofu Pot Pie

I just opened the oven and slid in a pie, a tofu pot pie.  For those with eclectic or simply open tastes, this is one good dish.  It was introduced to us by our friends, Spike and Liz, when we visited them a couple of years ago out in Idaho.  We jotted down the recipe on the back of a random page from a transcribed telephone conversation about a land conservation deal, and it has become a staple for us since then.

It took me about an hour and a quarter to put it all together, another quarter hour to clean, and we still have 15 minutes remaining for it to bake.  It can sometimes take two hours from beginning of prep time to pulling it from the oven, but it is worth it.  It is comfort food at its best, with no factory farmed critters in the mix.

Aside from its gustatory pleasures and its ability to satisfactorily fill one’s gut, this pie offers something else.  Whenever I make it I think of Spike and Liz.  They are two of my favorite people and I have not seen them in way too long.  We almost saw them this fall but plans fell through.  Making this pie helps keep them fresh in my mind.  I hope that anyone who reads this has had the fortune to have friends like these.

They are bright, ambitious and set an example of how to achieve.  Yet, despite their ambitions and achievements, they are both humble, enjoy simple pleasures and are accepting of even those with differing viewpoints.  Neither of them is content to accept anything without asking first, Why is this this way, and is there a better way?  They probe the mysteries of life and take what comes, even if it is difficult or tragic, with grace.  I love them both.

So in this season where the harvest is now in the root cellar, I sit in the dark for dinner and enjoy with my family a meal whose recipe I learned from some high quality individuals.  And I think of them as I prepare it and as I eat it.  Here is to Spike and Liz, for sharing, for teaching me, and for making the world a better place.

Happy pie!  May you have such meals as this.

What’s Up, Winter?

It was so in the twenties today.  And windier than a room full of bean eaters.  Except it was a cold wind.  It was like way too January.  What happened to Thanksgiving?  We haven’t gotten there yet and it feels like Christmas is long past.

My grandmother used to talk about ice skating on Thanksgiving when she was a kid.  Granted that was in the 1920’s, not exactly a long time ago in geologic time, but most people alive today were not around then.  It is pretty much never that cold at Thanksgiving here in Vermont.  And she lived in Connecticut.  Is this a freak year?  Or are we on the way to another “mini ice age?”

I have been reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower.  He mentions how the first winter that the Pilgrims spent in North America was relatively mild, even though most of the winters they would experience in their new home would be much colder than they are now.  And they didn’t have central heating.  Or, really, enough food.

What do I have to complain about?  Winter seems to be here already, but we wood stacked and beans in the pantry.  Plus popcorn ready for melted butter.  The only corn the Pilgrims had was what they stole during their first week ashore.  And that weren’t for popping.

The ground is frozen.  Up the road someone plowed the field today.  I’m not sure what that is about.  Frozen chunks of earth are splayed in a line up once and back.  I’m no farmer, clearly.  I just want to get the strawberries mulched, but they are now covered in snow.

We are headed down to Connecticut for Thanksgiving.  Maybe we will get a chance to go ice skating.  Or maybe we will have to be content to hang out inside, with central heating, enjoying a fine meal and, later, maybe lounging on the couch relaxing and listening to the wind.

Cold Lately

It has been below freezing for a few days now.  Cold.  The wind chill was eleven degrees yesterday afternoon.  It has been chilly waiting for the bus.  We have it down so we do not have to wait long, but still, the wind cuts through the cotton pants.

i have been wearing my down jacket and it has been a good move.  The first day I wore it I forgot that wearing it while driving feels good for a short time but then I roast.  Luckily it is easy to slide off at a stop light.

Snow still clings to the ground from a couple of days ago.  The temperature will likely stay in the twenties until next week.  Even then it will get, at least as predicted, just above freezing.

I busted out my boots the other day.  The mud boots have been great for kicking around and walking as far as the end of the driveway in the rain, but they have no insulation.  Too cold for the toes.  The warm boots are the winner in that contest.

I never got to mulching the garden with the leaves that fell from the silver maple.  It may still be possible but at this point it may be moot.  I do need to toss something on top of the strawberries before the ground freezes too deeply.  Soon.

Our compost pile is starting to freeze at the edges.  It was still warm in the middle when I added to it tonight but soon it will freeze through.  I will add to it all winter but the freeze thaw cycle will do more to break things down than any bacteria.  At least until spring.

The wood stove is humming now.  I need to pull more wood in for tomorrow.  And it is dark early.  Winter is basically here.  I was remembering with my son how it was just a few months ago when we felt too hot in shorts and bare feet.  He fell asleep smiling about that.  Soon he will be smiling about sledding and tunneling through snow.

As long as the cold keeps up.  And at least for the next week, I expect it will.