Saturday, November 30, 2013

Farewell, November

November 30th, the last day of "my" autumn.
Tomorrow, December 1st 
will be the beginning of the Christmas season in my house.
I'm looking forward to lots of Christmas decorating,
tree trimming, wreath hanging, and cookie baking--but not today, not yet.

Today, I say good-bye to November
with this quote by the writer Lin Yutang (1895-1976):

"I like spring, but it is too young. 
I like summer, but it is too proud. 
So I like best of all autumn, 
because its tone is mellower, 
its colours are richer, and it is tinged with a little sorrow. 
Its golden richness speaks not of the innocence of spring, 
nor the power of summer, 
but of the mellowness and kindly wisdom of approaching age. 
It knows the limitations of life and it's content."

And so it is with the striking of the midnight hour here in the Shire,
I'll say good-bye to warm  russet reds and golds,
bright oranges and  deep yellows
and I will say hello to red and green, silver and gold.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Interval

Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah behind us,
Christmas and Kwanzaa ahead.
Once the calendar shows December,
I concede that autumn is almost officially over and winter about to begin.

But in the interval between Thanksgiving and December 1st,
I cling to the colors and pleasures of autumn.
I figure a month for the Christmas holidays is enough,
so why rush so quickly away from autumn?

Bittersweet is one of the things I love about Fall.
When I was a kid, bittersweet grew wild over the old fences and hedgerows.
I have always loved its rich red-orange berries and vining habit.

Another part of autumn that brings me pleasure:
the last few leaves clinging to the trees
and the intense brightness of the daylight 
that spills through the bare branches:

And sumac berries, how could one think of autumn
without thinking of them?

And the sumac's leaves in autumn ignite fire in the landscape:

Lao Tzu said, "Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."
A good thing to remember this time of year.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving 2013

Our rainy and windy weather moved out overnight
in time for Thanksgiving to arrive with crisp temperatures and bright sunshine.
As we have the last few years, we drove to the country for dinner.

Thanksgiving is late this year,
so all the cotton fields had been picked except for a couple 
that appeared to have fallen victim to the excessive rain.
And the soybean fields lining the road were a deep rich ocher color.

Michael W. Twitty,

I love driving out through Isle of Wight county in the fall.
Here and there, old vine-covered houses and shacks with tin roofs
settle back into the overgrowth.
This is old plantation country, and large expanses of fields 
still sweep toward the horizon on either side of the road,
stopping only when they reach a thick forest of trees.

I saw wild turkeys picking their way across the stubble of a corn field,
and there were 5 deer: one was a buck with big antlers and a white tail.
Swarms of black birds filled the sky, 
and Canadian geese lounged around a pond,
while a lone seagull pretended to blend in.

We drove home as the shadows were lengthening
and everything glowed golden from the setting sun.
Really beautiful.
Hope your day was as lovely as ours.

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving Turkey Vulture?

I don't know when the turkey vultures
decided that my neighborhood looked like a good place
for them to set up housekeeping,
but they are here and show no signs of departing.

Today as I drove out of the neighborhood,
I noticed that two of the light poles 
were covered with several turkey vultures each.
The vultures were all facing the same direction 
(the same way I was going) 
but oddly, each one of them  had their wings spread wide.
I don't know if they were trying to dry them off
or if they were just pretending to be eagles.

The trees at the north end of the lake 
were black with turkey vultures--none with wings spread.

AP file photo.

Later, when I returned home, 
I noticed the light poles and the trees
were vulture-free.
But then I turned onto the avenue that leads to my house.
OMG as they say nowadays.

There were almost two dozen turkey vultures lining both sides of the street,
so I had to drive right through them.
Two turkey vultures in the middle of the street 
picked at a carcass while others watched for a chance to take their turn.
An early Thanksgiving treat for them.
More like Halloween for me.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Squirrel Stew for Thanksgiving?

Most people who follow tradition roast a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.
Other people may serve ham or venison.
One of my sisters follows a tradition in her family
for Thanksgiving dinner; they always serve a pork and green salsa chili.
Some folks prepare a squirrel stew.
I'm not one of them.
In my house, since I'm a vegetarian, I prepare all the side dishes
like mashed potatoes, candied yams, green bean casserole, and stuffing.
No turkey. No ham. No squirrel.

I was thinking of such things today as I watched a squirrel
on one of our bird feeders.
It turned very cold yesterday, 
so when I saw Mr. Squirrel perched on the arch of the shepherd's hook
that holds our "squirrel proof" feeder, I wondered what he was up to.

His tail was fluffed and curled over his back and rested between his ears.
I figured he was trying to keep warm, 
and I admired the muscles outlined in his legs and the power and grace 
with which he moves.

But then he moved on to the roof of the house-shaped feeder, 
the one with a bar that closes the seed tray when his weight settles down on the lever.
He leaned over, stretched out his long back,
grabbed the lever with both of his tiny paws
and pulled the lever up, exposing the seed tray. 
He stuck his snout in and supped.

I'm sure this week, Mr. Squirrel is thankful
that he is still smarter than most humans.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Tips and Recipes for Creative People

Preparation for Thanksgiving dinner
includes a lot of meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.
Not to mention house cleaning, decorations and place settings.
Taken all together, it's a lot of work but
there is an abundance of tips and recipes for making your Thanksgiving memorable,
courtesy of the Internet.

I can't say this ever occurred to me, 
but I guess if you're having that many people to dinner,
you might need a short cut like this:

While the potatoes are cooking and people are milling around hungry,
serve up a turducken cheeseball. 
Fortunately, you can make this in advance. ;-)

Before folks fill up on the turducken cheese ball,
remind them that dinner will be ready soon 
and they won't want to ruin their appetites.
After all, there is the stuffing to look forward to.
You can get creative there also. What about a little "stuffin"? 
That's stuffing baked into individual muffin pans.
Too conventional?
Then how about stuffing pizza?

thanksgiving pizza

I think I would have to decline an invitation for that kind of pizza.

So often at the end of a Thanksgiving meal, 
we have to decide between the pumpkin and the apple pie.
Solve that problem this year by baking a cherpumple pie cake.

I don't even want to see what some people are going to do with the turkey.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shadows on the Wall

This time of year, as more and  more of the autumn leaves bid farewell
to the trees in the Shire, something that I call "the light show"
begins on the inside walls of my house.
When the sunlight is just so, and the wind catches the branches just right,
 the remaining leaves begin to dance in shadows across the walls.
Like reflections on water, like glitter on gold,
they glimmer in arabesques and jetés of light.
It never gets old.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Thanksgiving Decorations Inside and Out

I love the holidays:
the food, the fun, the time off from work, the decorations.
Since well before Halloween, Christmas products and decorations
have been in the stores,
but I'm one of those people who likes to observe my holidays one at a time.
And that means I'm still looking forward to Thanksgiving and the harvest decor.

I love the warmth and simplicity of this Thanksgiving table:

I saw these next decorations
and remembered I have some of the little orange berry arrangements around here.
I'm going to have to look for those, but I don't have a clue where I might have put them.

Glass gives naturals a sophisticated air:

I think this autumn leaf arrangement is beautiful:

But you can't beat this: pumpking pie under the warm glow of  twinkle lights:


Friday, November 22, 2013

Reflections on Falling Leaves

This morning for the first time in a long time,
I had time to look out the window 
and watch the breeze blowing through the trees.
It's funny the way the wind can make the leaves 
seem to boil and bubble.

Attached to their branches, the leaves dangle or rock or sway.
Sometimes they wiggle just a little 
or jump up and down,
or twist and turn.
If they were weren't so soft, they would rattle.
What a symphony that would be.

I noticed that depending on the type of leaf,
they all fall differently.
Some drift,
some waft,
some spiral and spin.

Sometimes one leaf takes off alone,
other times they come down in twos or tens or more.


If I were a leaf, I think I would hang on tight to my branch
until the last possible moment.
I'd watch as my companions drifted away.
But I would wait.
I'd wait until I heard a whisper saying
let go now,
let go.
And then I would fly away on invisible wings
and feel the sunshine.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

World Hello Day

I ran across a couple of interesting observances 
that take place November 21st each year;
No Music Day, established in 2005 to protest bad music 
being played in public places, and World Hello Day,
an annual global event created in 1973 to promote world peace.

The objective of No Music Day is to observe a day without "consuming"
the background music being played in so many public buildings.
Bill Drummond, the creator of No Music Day,
says that music has become cheapened through its overuse in commercial spaces.
So the observance is focused on refusing to listen to music
others have selected in order to manipulate you into buying more products.

On the other hand, World Hello Day
hopes to bring the world a bit closer
by inviting people to connect with one another.
To observe World Hello Day,
one has only to say hello to 10 people they meet.
With or without music.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Gaggle of Geese

Yesterday morning I drove to work along a local parkway
that winds through neighborhoods and passes by a lake --
the same lake where I saw all the snowy egrets evenly spaced along the shore.
Suddenly all the traffic on both sides of the parkway came to a full stop.
That in itself isn't unusual in an area with more than its share of traffic jams,
but traffic rarely stalls on the parkway at that time of day.

When I got closer, I could see what everyone was sitting and waiting for:
a gaggle of Canadian geese who had decided to cross the road
at their own sloooooow pace.
And when I say gaggle I mean not a few 
but dozens of geese streaming from the lake to a green space on the far side of the road.
Cars idling, drivers waiting, geese sauntering in the autumn sunshine.
Sometimes, that's all it takes.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

And then the Cold...

From warm summer-like days 
to the frigid chill of late autumn, 
our weather has been on a roller coaster this week.
On the warm days, I lamented all the leaves that had fallen
on my freshly cleaned deck and sidewalks.
Now that the temperature is in the mid-40s,
I don't care at all.
I'm only thinking of ways to avoid going outside.

Marcel Proust said: 
A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves.
I'm not so certain he was speaking literally,
but when the weather gets colder, I do recreate my world:
I turn my house into a little nest 
and try to stay warm.
And if I could, I  might just stay inside until the first warm day of spring.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The Wind, the Rain, and the Leaves

After all of my work cleaning up pine straw and fallen leaves on Sunday,
I was looking forward to opening the back door this morning
and stepping out onto a clean deck.
But it seems my work was for naught.
Overnight, there was a little breeze, a little rain,
and a lot of fallen leaves all over every surface.

The leaf cover was more than this:

But not as much as this:

It was a little more like this:

Even so, it was more than I wanted to see.
But that's why they call it "Fall."

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Indian Summer

One of the things I have always liked about living in the Shire
is our long growing season.
Often we can get all the way to Thanksgiving without a killing frost.
And because our average winter temperatures are usually above freezing,
it's possible to see roses blooming in January. 

And today was one of those gems: 
a gorgeous late autumn day full of sunshine and temperatures in the 70s.
Lots of people worked outside doing the rest of the autumn clean up--
me included. 
I also planted hydrangeas that I had rooted earlier this spring
and some sedum that has been waiting patiently for planting.
At one point, I looked up from what I was doing
and was startled at how beautiful the trees were in the sunlight:
so many different shades of orange and yellow and red.
The light glowed.

Ironic that it's the cooler fall temperatures that cause the leaves to turn 
from cool to warm.
Sometimes things are perfect just the way they are,
especially when a summer day pops up in November.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Turkey Decorations

Talking Turkey

I was thinking about Thanksgiving today 
and the different ways Americans decorate for the holiday.
More and more, a lot of people skip from Halloween to Christmas.
Yet there remains a steadfast handful who insist on giving Thanksgiving
its due as an important day of celebration.

I'm sure those of us a certain age can recall
placing our hands on a piece of construction paper
and then tracing around our fingers to create a basic turkey shape
for further decorating.
So I was wondering what kind of turkey decorations are out there nowadays.

You can't go wrong with one of these old-fashioned folding paper turkeys:

Felt and ribbons? I'm pretty sure my pekes would make this a chew toy:

I like these turkeys made from naturals:

These "cup" turkeys from Family Holiday
are cute and very clever,
but I think it would be a cuter idea to use small terracotta pots

Leave it to Martha Stewart to cast her own turkeys from dyed cement:

Most of us aren't as ambitious as Martha,  
preferring instead to keep it a bit more simple:

Yarn ball, anyone?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Oak Trees

Contemplating Oak Trees and their Leaves in November

It occurred to me the other day as I was looking out the window
at the tiny stand of trees behind my house,
that I have lived near oak trees my entire life.
The bounty of acorns, the rough gray bark, the lobed leaves
have been a constant no matter where I have lived.

The place I grew up hosted part of an historic stand of trees called Winfrey Grove.
My mom told me once that the oak trees in Winfrey Grove, 
which overlapped the south part of our property,
provided a common meeting place for residents of the township.
I always thought that was pretty cool.
I've long indulged in what I call "tree gazing."
No matter how busy I am,
I always find a few moments to stare at the trees 
and study their unique features.
It's nice to know that oaks are always near me,
standing and watching the world go by.

Oak leaves are tenacious and abiding.
Most of the leaves have already departed other trees,
but the oak leaves stay till spring.
Right now they are yellow, green, and a dull copper brown.
Tomorrow, who knows?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thanksgiving Table Decorating Ideas

I love holidays. For me, decorating for a holiday
is always one of the most enjoyable parts of the celebration.
So with Thanksgiving just two weeks from now,
I thought I'd share some Thanksgiving table ideas.

Isn't this one cute? It's got autumn leaves and pumpkins,
and a little surprise:  pheasant feathers.

This is a novel idea: pillar candles that spell out "giving thanks."
The simple autumn arrangement, construction paper leaves, and Windsor chairs
at the table give this tablescape an old-fashioned feel:

I love this idea: pumpkins filled with dried autumn flowers and naturals.
I like that the color scheme is orange, gold, and brown.
I've seen some tables decorated all in ivory and gold only, 
or all purple--neither has the warm and festive feel that you get with earth colors:

There are lots of ideas for decorating the holiday table,
but candles and flowers are must-haves.
These orange ranunculus are breathtaking:

Aren't Thanksgiving dinners best when enjoyed in the glow of candles?

I'm pretty sure all the Martha Stewarts out there would agree.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Norfolk Harbor

This time of year, darkness falls early.
And this fall, my work schedule
 is such that I drive home  long after twilight. 
On Monday and Wednesday, I work in Norfolk and
drive home over the Berkley Bridge, which spans the Elizabeth River.
Even after all these years, I never get tired of the view from that bridge.

You can see the Berkley Bridge in the upper right of this day-time photo 
from Destination 360 on the web:

On clear November nights, the water in the harbor is black, the sky inky.
But there are lights everywhere, all reflected in the dark water.
This photo by "Wind Warrior" is taken from the Portsmouth side of the harbor. 
The Berkley Bridge isn't visible in this photo, 
but you can see how beautiful the lights are. 

Visit Wind Warrior's web site for more photos of Norfolk.

From the Bridge, the Norfolk skyline is at my right; the view ahead of  me 
is the Portsmouth waterfront and, near the bottom of the bridge, a small shipyard. 
In the shipyard, all the brick buildings, the ships, and the massive cranes are lighted.
Red lights shine in the water, and green ones,  blue ones, gold, and white.
A rainbow by night.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen

Today brings an interesting phenomenon:
it is 11/12/13. 
When I saw the date on my calendar, 
I thought there must be something significant about today.
It turned out to be the weather.

The wind whistled at my office window, 
a small tree outside whipped to and fro from the gusts,
the sky was dark and ominous.

Then about 5 o'clock this evening, 
it started to snow!
In mid-November...
in Tidewater!

Fortunately, the air is dry and warm, 
so the snow came straight down in tiny white flecks.
I could hear it "fleck-ing" against everything outside.
If speckle were a sound, this would have been it.
Since it's all melting as soon as it hits a surface,
we don't have to worry about accumulation.
At least not yet.
Maybe it will come later, or maybe not at all.
In Tidewater, you have to be prepared for both possibilities.