By CATE GABLE
It’s a good day when all your socks match coming out of the dryer, when you get a sweet phone message from your sister, when the squirrels and the little birds are sharing the bird feeder. Though these windy, rainy, gloomy days have propelled me into dark-season mode, I’m reminded about the joys of turning the corner to winter — the maple leaves changing and falling, sitting by the fire with friends, mushrooms!
A quick stop by the home of David Campiche and Laurie Anderson ended with a beautiful early dinner of porcini sauce with pasta and a tour of David’s recent ceramic firing. His tall vases — more like totems — feature blues, silvers, tones of red with thumb prints, textured glazes, micro eruption-like petals or letter sealings. They’re adorned with brush strokes in waves and rivulets. I have one on the ledge by my bay window expressing for me the epitome of the season.
Late autumn conversations with friends can bring us to interior spaces that we seldom find in the summer months when we’re all out and about under the sun or dashing around in the garden. These are the months to savor a robust cabernet, swirl it around on our tongues, and mull over the earlier part of the year that seems to have gone by in a flash of gold. Winter is a time of reflection. I’ve started my reading list.
I keep the window in my bedroom open — I like to snuggle under a down comforter, warm inside, with cool all around — so these storms have made their way into my dreams. Rain pounding on the skylight in the bathroom is even better in combination with a hot soak of Epsom salt and lavender oil.
Even so, there were a couple short sun-windows for sitting on the patio with coffee (you gotta be quick though!). The sudden warmth brought out a swarm of lacey-winged ants to accompany my wispy morning musings. As Kathleen Sayce writes, “Like bees, ants are social, and only the virgin males and females fly, briefly, to mate — the nuptial flight — after which the males die. The females go on to found social colonies, producing years of young sterile female workers from that one flight.”
I’m reminded in so many ways that we’re in the season of transitions.
Some of these transitions involve loss. I got word that another good friend died last week, James G. Davis, an extraordinary painter and a member of my Oracle, Arizona art tribe (tinyurl.com/JamesDavisArticle). I spoke with his devoted wife Mary Anne — 54 years together — last week and we shed a few tears. Jim, a giant in the art world, had wizened to a miniature version of his former self; though we could still rouse him to bring out his harmonica on the best of days. A big-hearted “You Are My Sunshine” or the “Yellow Rose of Texas,” followed by a fried chicken dinner could still solicit a smile from him. A glass of red wine always warmed us, even last winter when there was snow on the cactus and the Catalina Mountains in the distance. (My column this week is named after one of Jim’s paintings.)
And my mother’s death anniversary, Oct. 12, 2014, is this week. One thinks grief has an expiration, a pull-by date; but, no, it sails around, swings like a kite in the wind, surprising us again and again with its somber face.
I have a few orchids blooming on my writing table thanks to Kris Jones, opera singer and vibrant member of the Peninsula Williams clan. She left flowers for me when she moved from Ocean Park to Eugene where she’ll find a bit more cultural stimulation. (“I’m coaching young singers and helping them with dramatic stage technique,” she says. “I miss you all but…”)
Running too fast in the fast lane, I must apologize to Reverend Dick Loop, vicar of the
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, who blessed the animals last weekend. (I not only misspelled his name but created an entirely new persona for him.) Spelling correctly the names of people is one of the biggest bugaboos for a journalist; and, more often than I like, I get things wrong. Such is the nature of “Truthiness” — though we often think if we see it in print it must be right. But, oh dear, how many of us have time to fact-check. (Have you ever noticed how many corrections even The New York Times prints in every issue?)
Ann Gaddy made plum jam from the overload of fruit harvested from my tree. I can’t wait to stop by and pick up the jar she’s promised me; or trade her for the plum butter I made. A booster harvest of Liberty Apples are still waiting in my fridge to become sauce or butter or pies.
Farmer Fred Johnson delivered Home Grown’s last batch of organic veggies this past Friday. I’ve been eating his mixed greens for days, tossing in steamed broccoli, snippings of chiffonade basil and heirloom tomatoes. Fred even brought me a bouquet of chrysanthemums.
Now Fred and other gardeners move into winter preparation for our gardens: trimming off blooms, cutting back, mulching down. It’s time to empty those lawnmower gas tanks — I don’t think we’ll need another trim any time soon — time to make sure the woodpile is stocked.
It might be time to get out, or purchase if you haven’t got it, Maggie Stuckey’s Soup Night. Feeding each other something hot and hearty is one way to get through these dark months ahead. These are the times when living in our small communities can be most beneficial. We know each other. It’s time to make contact with friends we’ve been missing; to check out the musical offerings at the Pacific Performing Arts Center in Long Beach (and don’t forget Water Music this coming weekend); to stop by the library.
It’s time to create reasons to get together and enjoy each other’s company. Make some cookies or a loaf of bread. Knock on a few doors and call out “Hello, anybody home?”