But hey, at least we had the weekend.
My actual days are buzzing with all that fall brings. Did I mention that the holiday decorating insanity has begun? I have already completed week one? Will soon begin week three? These Halloween start dates always catch me off guard. Still, it feels good, today, to have a foothold in the festivities. I have spent these past weeks re-orienting myself to the weekday/weekend division. Re-acquainting myself with the end of daylight savings. Adjusting to dark at dinner, new routines, rigamarole. Re-learning how to create my own sunshine. and ideally, acquire lunches, cleaning and laundry along the way. Remembering to brush what needs brushing. My evenings are thick with planning. afternoons, a field study in de-compression. My calendar is suddenly as dense with graffiti as the side of a New York City abandoned building. Though what it shares in over-crowding, it lacks in character. I'm considering switching up my chicken scratches to digital digits. Shopping is still mostly in the planning stages, but it won't be long now.
Storage rooms have been cleared. Closets, exhumed. Rooms have been buried in boxes, more times than I can count. Entire day's have been given over to the excavation. Another two (or twelve) evenings are still owed. The piles remain fierce. And deeply unkempt. And so it is that these last seasonal snaps will have to do. For while I haven't seen white glove in weeks, haven't walked a straight line since mid-September, haven't had a day of rest invade my frame in recent memory, they're all more appealing than untamed hours and neatly filed folders. Besides, determination's got me off on the right decorating foot more than once. I see no reason not to let it work its magic, once more, then I'll work on settling a little calm over my chock-a-block days. They'll settle down, soon enough. This life will not. It's full-to-bursting by design, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
You might imagine all these bits are the best part, a party in a storage box. You would be close. Also, wrong. Because while the doing is nice, it's the sharing that is grand.
I know, I know. Thanksgiving's right around the corner. This is not the time for foisting off new ideas. Don't worry. I'm not. I know you all have your own menus and traditions. I don't want you to run around, adding or editing. That would be silly. Not to mention thankless. But I guess I'm getting ahead of myself. about that feast. Vegetarians are often cornered at Thanksgiving, what with the big bird of a centerpiece and all. I, however, believe we've got it made, at least based on my own meatless years. it's the sides that make my knees weak, the mushroom-studded stuffing and tarragon leeks, full hit parade of fall vegetables, cranberry chutney. No turkey for me ma! Whoot Woo! More room for cream braised Brussels sprouts, I say! The hubs, however, does not say this so much. Some people, and I'm not going to name names, burst into the kitchen around November 21st, announcing "I have a great idea! I've thought of a new holiday! It's called Thankful for Meat Day, and on it we can have chicken and turkey and duck for dinner. As much as we want. 'Kay? How 'bout tonight?" Yeah! this is the same guy who calls dibs on the drumstick. In August.
Me, not so much. Nor do I prefer only potatoes. White or Sweet. or any which way. Or just cranberry sauce. or, for that matter, anything else on the traditional groaning board. Really, nothing. Nada, zip, zilch. a.n.d., I'm not even going near that gaping green bean casserole can of worms, except to say I've made it too, followed the recipe to the letter and it works brilliantly and not at all. Depends on the person. Enough about that.
But the immediate excitement is directed toward all things holiday. Thus begins weeks of tangled lights, glued back together ornaments and appropriately-themed duct taped repairs. (You didn't think I was all snowmen and snowflakes, did you? When there is outrageous duct tape to be had? Oh, c'mon.) And, this year's haul includes new out door decor, we hung ten new flakes out front, and welcomed a new snowman, polar bear and penguin! I adore decorating for the season, and I can tell you few things rarely deliver such fun. This is when I riffle through red, white and green. When trees are decorated in 3-D. When Santa and little elves appear, everywhere. It is the first batch of everyday cocoa. with mini marshmallows. pink ones. And ruling twenty mini-marshmallow per cup, reasonable. Then re-considering. Twelve marshmallows? Really? Yeah, no.
This time of the year I am full of two kinds of excitement, three-shots-of-expresso-on an empty stomach excited and tea-with-milk-and-honey-on-the couch excited. I am excited about the coming months. preparing for winter, holidays, enjoying some of my favorite traditions. I want to be the latter. Calm enthusiasm. Content to just be. I am trying. I think I knew all along, in spite of these pesky fears that snake around my ankles, that this was where I would be. It is what I keep coming back to.
They call it grief. I call it being grateful. for every day. every moment. every memory.
Having been a girl who was at times forlorn and broken, sometimes forgotten and scarred by mistakes, I know the potential for happiness when I see it. I know gratitude. Still, I momentarily balked (internally) about the whole thing. It didn't make a lick of sense. I've never been a balking kind of girl. But, sometimes, things are done backwards. That's something that I'm learning. Lessons are created in our hearts then we are nudged towards something entirely different. It's not really a test, just learning new things. revelations, shiny new possibilities. It's a chance to shake the dust off my feet and it gets me riled up. Leaves me shaking my head, and not in a bad way, kinda more like a life is crazy and I like it that way, way.
This is, the root of everything, because there was a time when I might have thought the same thing. That it goes on forever. I don't think that anymore. I know better. I understand the pull toward what feels most comfortable. I understand the deep desire to keep safe and protected. But what I feel even stronger is the hope that comes with every passing moment. To see the beauty in everything and feel my faith grow as I look at the world around me with each new day.
It took me many tears to start to understand some of this. My hope is that I won't waste as much time getting around to the truth. I won't automatically go down the pipes because I did not test well. I won't lose my faith because others don't believe the way I do. I wish I could say that I came to these conclusions overnight, but I didn't. They came slow and painful over the course of my life. It hurt to realize that some of the things I hinged my faith on were false.
All of this, all of the wrestling and the arguing and the "I'll be good if you just....," have been part of my journey. I tried to be prepared, always, for what came next. I reeled my heart toward exactly where it needed to be and planted joy and excitement way down deep. So, maybe life is upside-down and maybe not, but it sure is good, and the sun coming up every morning still makes me cry.
This life, this adventure? I wouldn't wish a moment away. Thank you for riding with me. for playing along while I write it down here. I want to remember all of it. I want to remember the fear and the doubts, the laughter and the love because that's what makes life beam down ever-brighter.
Cranberry Chutney with Crystallized Ginger and Dried Cherries
This chutney is, of course, delicious with turkey, but it also takes kindly to being heaped onto a buttered biscuit. Try some in a bowl of sweet potato soup. And it also makes a lovely, wintry appetizer atop a crostini smeared with fresh goat cheese.
24 ounces apricot preserves
¾ cup raspberry vinegar
A pinch of salt
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ cup Grand Marnier
2 bags fresh cranberries, nasty ones discarded
½ cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 ¼ cups dried tart cherries
In a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the apricot preserves, raspberry vinegar (or vinegar and raspberry preserves), salt, cloves, and Grand Marnier. Stir to mix, and place over medium-high heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, and continue to cook – it will bubble aggressively, and you should stir regularly to keep it from scorching – for about 10-15 minutes, or until it has thickened slightly. Reduce the heat to medium, add the cranberries, and cook until they are soft but not popped. [I know that they’re ready when I hear one or two of them pop; that’s a good indicator that most of them must be getting pretty soft.] Add the ginger and cherries, stir well, and remove from the heat. Cool completely before serving. The chutney will thicken considerably as it cools.