Last night the rain came down so hard that it was almost as loud on the roof of the house upstairs as it is on a tent. Amazing downpour. And I mourned for my tomatoes, still green and so little chance of those beautiful fruits ripening and then I remembered that rain brings mushrooms and a good rain this time of year brings a wonderful and earlier flush of delicious treasures I get to search out. So as I mourn, I rejoice.
I look forward to walking through the moist lush forests as the season changes from summer to fall. The dripping of water from the trees, the falling of bright colored leaves. The glistening of water droplets on the needles of the evergreens. The glow of the golden leaves of the maples and alders like a sun themselves in the forest. The smell of moist crisp air and then the distinct smell of mushrooms popping up out of the forest floor. Sometimes faint, sometimes pungent. The strong scent of a lobster mushroom can stop me as I walk along the trail and I start sniffing about, searching for where that treasure might be hidden. All the shapes that start to emmerge again in the trees as the leaves fall. Bare branches against the darker green backdrop of the firs and ceders. The mixed flocks of birds flitting together from branch to branch. Watching 20 or more bushtits descend on the ocean spray seed heads, joining the chickaddes that dangle upside down from the tips of the branches, gobbling up seeds and insects while cheerily chatting away. And I chat right back, talking to my cheery featherd friends, basket on my arm, full of fall fungal treasures and an autumn leaf or two or three....
I'm having a new tea on this overcast Monday morning. There's always several boxes of Numi Organic Tea in the house, but usually the same three. I have to have the Gunpowder Green - Temple of Heaven and the Breakfast Blend - Morning Rise is our standard black tea these days. Then there's always a box of the Ruby Chai -Spiced Rooibas on hand. When I was at the store yesterday, and was stocking back up, the teas were on sale so I decided to get one of their variety boxes and try a few new ones. Today it's the White Rose - Velvet Garden and it's a success. I love rose in my tea and have several herbal blends that I mix up myself that have rose petals in them, both for the flavor and their medicinal and magical benefits. The Numi White Rose Tea has a good amount of rose to it but the white tea still comes through as well. Nicely balanced. A winner on this grey late summer day.
As I look out the window I am seeing more and more color show up on the trees in the neighborhood. One cluster of chloroplasts at a time, the green disappears and the yellows, golds, reds, oranges and browns begin to appear. Soon leaves will be littering the ground and then my bookshelves and tables and counter tops and vases as I collect them and bring them into my home. I can't resist a pretty leaf or three or thousand. Already I've been tempted by the few that have been tossed to the ground early by recent winds. I'm attempting to refrain until after the autumn equinox. Let summer linger a little before I eagerly embrace fall. Though, I have slipped a bit. Three mums came home last week and now adorn my front porch, lighting it up with bright gold, deep rich orange and an even deeper richer red. They stand out against the lime green of their companion Lime Cypress that came home as well. A plant I've always admired but never had for my own until now. Two of the mums and the cypress are planted in the ultimate treasure - a lovely large glazed pot that had a little wobble to it, so was marked down 40%! I've been wanting a nice glazed pot for my front porch since we moved into this house last fall. And I've wanted one off and on forever - whenever I had a spot for one, and sometimes when I didn't. Tucked in between the mums and cypress are treasures for spring - a few miniature daffodils awaiting the return of the sun to start them growing. Just knowing they are there will help get me through the long wet winter that awaits. But first there is fall.
The change in the season became more apparent to me while up at a mountain lake last weekend, when the temperatures dropped fairly low and there was an obvious crispness in the air that hasn't yet reached the lowlands. Our first backpacking trip in four years took us up to Janus Lake along the Pacific Crest Trail north of Hwy 2. We found the perfect site right near the lake in the midst of a small cluster of trees. A marshy meadow on one side and more trees and huckleberry bushes on the other. Very few insects were still about, color was more apparent, though many of the huckleberries had more than just begun to set. I can only hope for all the critters' sake that they get a chance before winter really sets in. Autumn is short in the mountains. The birds were in mixed flocks feeding along the trail and the lake's edges. Chestnut-backed Chickadees, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Chipping Sparrows, Townsend Warblers, Brown Creepers, and both Red-breasted and White-breasted Nuthatches chattered and flitted among the trees and shrubs near our camp and along the trails. Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels came to check out our camp, one being so bold to try and climb into my backpack shortly after arriving. Pikas posed on rocks and called out. One came to check me out up close while I sat having a snack along the trail near a large rock slide. Its round eyes in its round head on its round body with cute little round ears - all focused on me, or rather the granola bar I was holding. Ravens were talkative with their loud "cronking" echoing between the mountainsides that the lake was settled between. A White-tailed Ptarmigan, just starting to have more of its winter whites showing among the more mottled summer browns and grays, made its way through the meadow, stopping to gobble the leaves off certain lime colored meadow plants and then grabbing up an insect or two as well, popping its head up from time to time and cocking it just right to look at the lady watching it from among the trees. A lady with a big grin on her face, always happy to have the rare treat of seeing a Ptarmigan. A treat that had become rarer over the last few years as she - I - got to the high elevations less frequently. That backpacking trip was a reminder to get out there more often again, a necessary thing for my wellbeing, for my soul to be refreshed by crisp mountain air far from a road and all the distractions and to-do lists that await back at home.
To-do lists that I've been slowly working my way through since returning home. Many things on the list are things that can only be done this time of year. All the preserving, that comes at harvest time - each in its season. Now all lined up on the shelves we set up in the basement - strawberry, raspberry and blackberry jams, peaches and apricots. A little space left on the shelves for the applesauce yet to be made. Maybe some green beans if I break down and deal with my pressure canner again. Then there are the refrigerator pickles we line the back of our fridge with each year. Twenty quarts of fresh picked pickling cucumbers sitting in a brine with plenty of garlic, hot red pepper flakes, dill and onion. Cucumbers and dill we picked from a farm not to far away near a little town called Snohomish. The same farm I'll most likely visit again if I decide to do the home canned green beans I love so much but dread doing because of the more complicated processing they take and the pressure canner that for some reason I have to manually adjust the pressure on. But I know they are worth it. So I'll most likely be adding that to my to do list. The to do list I had best get back to now, no more long blog posting to procrastinate all the baking that needs to be done and the house cleaning and the.... oy.
I'll end this post by sharing the Refrigerator Pickle recipe I use, in case any one else wants to line up the back of their fridge with the worlds most delicious pickles ever.
Refrigerator Pickles - this makes approximately nine quart jars
For the brine:
13 cups water
3 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup sea or kosher salt
For the pickles:
Onions, cut into wedges, a wedge or two for each jar
Garlic, pealed, several for each jar
Red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon per jar (heaping if you like them nice and spicy!)
Fresh dill heads, 2-3 per jar depending on the size
8 pounds pickling cucumbers, washed and cut into spears.
Wash your quart jars and then place the onions, garlic, red-pepper flakes, and dill in each jar. Then pack the cucumbers into the jar nice and tight.
Heat the brine till it just starts to boil. Remove from the heat and using a funnel to pour into the jars, completely cover the cucumbers. Place fresh canning lids on each jar and screw down with canning rings. Place the pickles into the back of the refrigerator and let sit for at least one month before starting to eat. The longer they sit the better they get.
I make about twenty jars and they barely last till the next pickling season. But then we do love us some pickles!
A friend recently sent me what she calls "fun money" and I'm to use it for something fun - no necessity purchases, but honest to goodness fun. I like that. It makes me not have to be the practical penny pinching girl of most every other day. So in honor of that and the friend who sent the gift I headed out to find myself a fun new Tarot deck and when I saw the Halloween Tarot I knew it had to be. This friend is also a late October birthday girl and has a love for Halloween and all the crazy fun stuff that goes with it. I just know I'll be getting her a set of these cards in a month or so.
The traditional suits of the Tarot have been changed from pentacles to pumpkins, cups to ghosts, wands to imps and swords to bats. At first the deck seems whimsical, not too serious. But when you look closely all the traditional elements are still there but with enough of a twist in most of the cards to give a fresh new opportunity to explore the meanings of the cards, possibly find new ways of seeing them and applying them and as I looked through it carefully last night I started seeing that it indeed has some incredible depth. Perfect for personal meditation, which is what I like to use tarot for. I like to use the symbolism to open up my mind and dig deeper. So I pulled one card from the deck last night and started contemplating it. It started on simple enough, little observations, then a few surprising ones and then a flood gate opened up and suddenly I was writing deep personal reflection and when I was done, I was amazed. Who would have thought such a silly seeming deck could unlock so much. But it did and I am making myself be brave and actually post my reflections here. So with out further ado, I present the Page of Pumpkins and a bit of the inner me.
The page here, reminds me of Wednesday from the Adams Family, with her long dark hair and her black and white striped socks. She's stopped along the path she's walking for a moment, sat down her school books and takes the time to contemplate where she's going and what it means. She's picked up the pumpkin/jack-o-lantern - looking into the face of it, studying it - there's even a feeling of scrying as she looks long and hard at it. I see in this card an idea of pondering what you want to be when you grow up, where you want your life to go. What will her studies manifest into in the future? How will they effect her practical everyday life - her livelihood, her home, all those physical, tangible aspects? I'm reminded of the kay sera song, the questions that were asked. It's a clear starry night, a perfect time to see things clearly, at least what can be seen in the dark. The bright things, the things that stand out. There's the smiling moon looking down on her, a friendly ghost hovering nearby, watching and the black cat that is in every card is at her feet, looking up at her. There's no expectations from the others in this card, just warm companionship, watching the page,waiting to see what she might decide, what she might become. I love how everyone else in this card seems to be joyfully, eagerly watching the page. Kind of like how it's easy to watch a child as they discover new things and by watching you can get just as much delight and joy from the discovery as the child has. There's a freshness about this card in that way. Where all the curiosity, hope and excitement for life and the future is expressed and it makes those around the page joyful to watch it. I recall how Mark once told me, when we had only been together a short time, that he enjoyed seeing me enjoy things even more than just enjoying them himself. He enjoyed my excitement and exuberance about life (in spite of all that that life had dealt me) and that being around that brought him joy. Great joy. I had been so happy when he said that and have always held it close to my heart, a shield, a form of protection. Because not everyone who has come into my life has responded that way to who I am. They've judged those qualities in me and even tried to squash them. Something that hurt so deeply each time it happened because my heart was pure, I had shared myself openly, giving of my heart and energy freely, and was met with far less enthusiasm than my loving husband had expressed to me that day. It is interesting that this card came up. I had a moment or two tonight where I almost felt I should pull back, not just be myself in all my enthusiastic expressiveness because of fear of being hurt again the way I had been in the past. I kept telling myself that I need to just be myself, but that can be hard when doing so in the past seems to have caused people to react in negative ways and brought them onto me, trying to make me something I wasn't, something they were more comfortable with or had more control of or whatever other notions that were in there minds. So opening up again, especially in groups is a scary thing for me. I meet people that I enjoy their company, we have fascinating conversations and I let myself enjoy it only to find out that the others were not being open and truthful, but were judging - my intentions, my heart, my personality - me, everything about me. It's hard to open yourself up over and over to that, taking that risk of it happening again - knowing you might get burned and hurt deeply yet again. But a flower that never opens has little to offer the world and never gets to put its face to the sun and is a dark and dreary and somewhat pointless existence and that is not what I want my life to be. So I'm trying again and hoping for the best. And in this card I can see myself as that page, though not just starting out in life, but in a new direction with new possibilities and new people. The Moon like that Universal Spirit that I am a part of, the ghost like an ancestor - my mom - who stays near, and the cat like my spirit and physical companions who have chosen to walk with me on this journey. A journey of learning and pausing to ponder and getting to wear cool striped socks!
Some of the Things I Might Blog About:
Northwest Places, Yoga, Natural Health,
Herbs, My Personal Outings and Adventures, Tarot, Earth Based Spirituality, Eastern Spiritual Practices, Observations and Ramblings of a Naturalist, Birds,
Plants, Trees, Wildlife, Sea Creatures,
Insects, Organic Whole Foods, Vegetarian Cooking, Preserving, Gardening, Personal Reflections, Walking, Cycling, Hiking,
Backpacking, Kayaking, Art, Photography, Writing, Poetry, Books, My Cats, Sustainable Living, And Whatever Else That Makes Up This Rich and Eclectic Northwest Life.