Stopping by the woods…

The first snow of the year is most certainly the best — and it looks like this one may not melt before the next one arrives. We are lucky enough to live near a network of trails, that are often highly used for commuting as well as general meandering. Yesterday’s journal to the trail, brought Robert Frost’s poem to mind, “Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening” as I had just taught this last fall — and it would’ve been so wonderful to do a reading live in the snow.

Snow is meant to give pause and as Frost notes, “He will not see me stopping here/ To watch his woods fill up with snow.” Those moments when no one is watching us take a breath – how delicious it truly can be, palatable, just a small break to savor beauty or silence or even chaos unfolding. Most often we believe the “snowy evening” to be ethereal when in fact it is really precisely, figure skater-like, chaos — from the careful landing of each flake to the swirling of miniature ground-touching wind, snow — while generally silent, makes its presence known in crevices we did not know existed just moments before. The jaggedy, often long cracks in the rock face often mirror that of the soul — where oh where, will the soft flakes land, and will we have eyes to see them?

Frost carefully notes, and repeats that his journey must continue — as every journey must. His horse has naturally, as a staid and true worker, questioned Frost’s pause to ponder and wonder — with the not so subtle reminder of his harness bells — harkening Frost back to the path ahead. “And miles to go before I sleep / And miles to go before I sleep.” The path, the promises — it’s all the same, and often feels never-ending. But the snow, glorious snow, offers those moments of reprise — the opportunity to observe peace and chaos existing side-by-side in simultaneous fashion and that loveliness exists within that chaos. Top the journey off with a short pour of Bailey’s after, and the day is near perfection.

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Snow Scones

For the last several Januaries, my daughter and I have made a list of items to conquer in the kitchen over the next year — our list is not long, and it often includes basic items that had elluded us in the past (okay, mostly me, she’s too young to have a long list of kitchen failures). This year scones and flaky (not hockey puck) biscuits are tops on the list. With our weekend snow storm, and a new pastry blender, time was on our side to dive into blueberry scones.

As an English teacher, part of what I help students to understand, I hope, is that writing is 50% process and 50% action and that actual writing takes up only 20-30% of that action time. So, this is my new approach to cooking — goal, objective, method. The idea of making a homemade scone, with the merging of the butter to flour for the perfect crumble was a real stumbling block because the “idea” of it was daunting. I’ve made scone for years from using Fisher Scone Mix, that of my childhood and the Puyallup Fair — this mix only requires water. So the resolution? Spend the most time finding a recipe that is not overwhelming, easy to follow steps that actually make sense, and no rushing. Using my 50% process, 50% action scenario I assumed the most time would be spent on finding the recipe and securing a non-wimpy pastry blender, and ingredient gathering is easy (we take an elevator downstairs to the grocery, which helps with the amount of time spent on action items). The real boon of this project — a snowstorm — and I’d already gathered the critical items of blender and recipe.

After scouring around the internet, I went to my go-to baking site King Arthur and located a blueberry scone recipe. Now if you follow this link, be sure to compare their photo and my non-stylized photo — I think we ended up with a pretty good match and really, I was convinced this was the right recipe based on one line of the instructions, “Use a muffin scoop, jumbo cookie scoop, or 1/4-cup measure to scoop the dough onto the prepared sheet in scant 1/4-cupfuls, leaving about 2″ between each.” Muffin scoop! No needing on a floured surface, folding or cutting in perfect angles. And if no muffin scoop is available, two other regular cooking utensil items are offered as alternatives. Looping back to my goal/objective/method process — here we have a method for scone prep that is accessible and understandable that accommodates just about any home baker. Breaking down any project into digestible and accomplishable bits rests solely on methods that make sense and lead to results that the writer/baker/plumber/painter can parlay into results that lead a reader/eater/viewer/person with clogged pipes to understanding. 

For this scone experiment — the results are gone. Our little family devoured nine scones (that may sound like excess, but reminder: snow day) by mid-morning. Taste — just like the photo in the recipe — a slight crunch on the outside, soft inside, blueberries in-tact, just enough butter for a smooth crumb, the salt rises to meet the outside crunch. There is still snow, loads of it, so today may lead to a blackberry or raspberry version. Thank you King Arthur Flour!

Snow Angels

IMG_20180117_104226.jpgYet another snow event has blanketed the near-South, in winter wonder — this time not so much powder as last time, a little more wet and without a doubt this morning will be an icey mess. My family is struggling through a new health diagnosis for one member of our small team; and it is into this snow that I walked as I pondered the angels among us. While I am not the person of the strongest faith (in anything), I do try to take my time in nature as a gift from above and I regularly see the messages — not always the best messages, but clear interventions nonetheless. When I see a bluebird, I know it’s my gram sending a direct dispatch to me to either wake-up, or get moving — metaphorically, intellectually or physically — as standing still was just not her thing.

Yesterday, as I headed out into this scene the wind was starting its whip and froth — having just driven home a few nights before in a severe storm (in which a tornado touched down, too much to think about digesting that right now) I was a bit tentative as the first stings of wet snow scratched my cheeks. But as I walked on, the most glorious circular wind grasped the top of a rather overgrown tropical tree on the corner, and down plopped powdery-marshamallow like snow-drops all over the street. It was as if, a leaf full of snow gathered itself into a froth and joined the circular wind, and down came the goblins — or angels to smatter and splatter the pavement — and our coats.

For every frosty landscape, of mind or time, perhaps there really are angels, or breaths of air that buoy and comfort us. Perhaps not naturally, and maybe it is just wishful thinking. For today, I will be on the hunt for the wind to see if might just produce another angelic moment.

These boots, downtown?

IMG_20180104_151735.jpgThese boots are size 10 Keens — purchased at REI several years ago when we still lived in the often damp Pacific Northwest. At the time I was trying to replace nearly 20 year old hiking boots that I’d purchased in the Northwest, hiked parts of the Pacific Crest Trail in, taken these same boots east and hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail in. But those old boots, just could never be replaced and when the sales staff that day in REI told me these new Keens were so stylish I could wear them downtown, all I could wonder is, where on earth are these boots downtown appropriate? While these Keens fit well and seemed to fill a rain/snow need (at the same time making my feet look monstrously huge), in no way were these “downtown” much the same as my aged hikers were not “downtown” — I’m no slave to fashion, but I do have my boundaries.

It’s odd what can be wrapped up in footwear, aside from feet and socks. For me, shoes are m go-to purchase for a seratonin rush that covers all sorts of ailments — from the need for beauty in my life, to the times when current clothing styles and my body don’t match — I can always find shoes. While my style has changed over the years (walking in heels on escalators isn’t happening in 2018 or beyond), my shoes are where my memories rest. So the thought of wearing rugged, somewhat nondescript Keen black boots downtown — unless there is a major snowstorm — was unfathomable. Downtown is lights, work, ready, look great — not slothic, cumbersome (albeit lightweight) and clunky. Even in bad weather, it took awhile for me to transition to these Keens from my sportier (and prettier) hikers of yore. I went so far as to purchase high quality insoles for those oldsters, and hot glue them into the shoe bed (not recommended) to somehow extend their life. Hot glue and socks don’t mix, just an FYI.

But now during Bombogenesis, cyclonic snowstorm of the decade, I have a new appreciation for my Keens — hours in low digit temps combined with bamboo socks and I’m nothing but toasty. Keens are the workhorse of boots — these boots will not let you down, will not leak, will not allow you to suffer when you are the sole shoveler of snow in your household because your working-at-home husband is on a day-long conference call. You can sweep off those cars, sprinkle that snow-melt and tromp to the open coffee shop for hot chocolates with your kiddo, no problem. Downtown these boots will never be, and these shall never replace my old hikers, but they are the future…the workboots for work I didn’t anticipate.

Those old hikers? Yes, I’ve moved them again. And I want to build a shadowbox for them — my love for these laces, swoops and divits will never die. Five cross country moves, and counting…

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Bombogenesis! The first snow of 2018

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I called my dad yesterday to let him know the Governor had declared a state of emergency in advance of the pending Bombogenesis — to which he naturally asked, “What on earth is that? Is it similar to snowmageddon? Snowpocalypse? Why is there a bomb in it?” All good questions, for which I had no answers — but the real thrill of it is…my dad and I both love to completely succumb to the Weather Channel, when the big ones are coming. He neglected to mention that in our home state, multiple earthquakes around Mt. St Helens and a rapidly shifting ridge to the east of the mountain should be equal cause for concern.

Defined: a bongenesis = a cyclonic snowstorm, where Arctic air (that generally builds the more famous Nor’Easter) meets topicla air like a brick wall, the air swirls in a centrifugal manner (severe) and creates the “bomb” effect of blasting everything in its path..leaving strong, possibly hurricane force winds and plunging temperatures in its wake. The upside: schools are delayed or cancelled well ahead of mother nature’s fury leaving folks some time to plan ahead — since I work from home, this also allows time to do some early morning meal pondering (pondering is better than planning) and a little daydreaming — what about baked potatoes — for lunch! Fresh banana bread with chocolate (thank you Molly from Orangette, I’ve never been able to make regular banana bread since your first book) for breakfast! Almond butter cookies (trying this one today, three ingredients – sounds simply perfect) by mid-afternoon! And dinner — no one will need dinner, though there is a bag-o-salad from last week’s Trader Joe’s pilgrimmage in the fridge. But, who eats salad in a snowstorm?

Snow’s meditative and silencing qualities are my buoys of comfort — many adults hate the white stuff, and I’ll admit I am no fan of the ice storm so should our “bomb” friend turn that direction, our loving relationship is officially cancelled. Snow is candles, wool socks and a chance to stay inside — willingly (I am not usually a fan of the indoors or staying at home and all its laundry implications). While snow allows the mind to rest and the gaze to settle evenly — is also energizing in all its light reflective gloriousness. The peace that snow provides as it coats the landscape, allows new ideas to sprout — snow is the incubation that is needed by the soul and the heart. My yoga instructor says each time our class teeters in tree-pose that there is always movement in balance. So it goes with the snowfall — in peace, there is always endeavor.

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