Friday, December 17, 2010

Summer in the Midst of Winter

Winter seems to be settled in for a nice, long visit in Birdland. Winter changes my perspective, and 30 degrees seems warm to me, but we haven't seen 30 degrees for awhile. The snow covers the yard with tight little crystals that squeak when I walk out to fill the woodbox.

My pile of firewood is melting away. I love the cozy feel of a wood fire in the winter, and keep a kettle on top of the stove for tea. I usually have a pot of soup or stew cooking, too. My stovetop gets crowded when I have a hot fire.

I bundle up in sweaters and throws and woolen slippers, but I keep warm another way too. The taste of summer is distilled in my pear butter and apple sauce. I pull it out of the freezer to spread on toast, to pour over chicken, and it brings back a little of the sunshine that went into it. Before the freeze I pulled out my tomato vines--some volunteer yellow cherry tomatoes that come up every year in the garden coop whether I invite them or not. They kind of take over the coop, growing like a true vine, not a bush. In the summer I forsake them for the varieties I actually planted--big, beefy red ones, and the Romas.

But I brought the vines to the basement and laid them across my laundry rack. The leaves withered and dried, of course, but the little green tomatoes quietly turned yellowy-orange, even though I forgot all about them. I happened to glance at them while pulling clothes from the drier, and saw them hanging like bright Christmas tree lights—or maybe it’s the Christmas lights that hang like ripe fruit. They, too, have distilled the summer sunshine, and seem to be lit from within. They're a little wrinkled, but tasty. As I pull them from the vine and pop a few in my mouth, I remember the summer sun spilling down as I weeded in the garden coop. I close my eyes for a moment and call up that summer heat to get me through this cold snap.

The winter is hard on old ladies, and Isis, my yellow dog, sleeps later and more soundly these days. She has a more difficult time getting up to go out, but once she’s stretched out the stiffness, she’s happy to walk even in the worst weather, her yellow tail wagging slowly back and forth like a flag. In the mornings, she’s not quite sure she wants to go out until Ursula nudges her with her soft, black nose. Still, Isis doesn’t want to go far on our walks, so I’m glad that Ellis discovered the lazy person’s method of dog exercise—leave it to my fourteen-year-old son to come up with a techie plan for virtual exercise. At night, he lets Ursa out on the porch and stands in the doorway, shining a tiny laser beam through the window onto the snow. Ursula never tires of chasing the red light around the yard, over the snow, around the tree, into the field. In fact, once she’s started, it’s hard to get her back inside, but once she comes in, she sleeps like a baby.

We all find ways to keep warm in the winter, to savor a little bit of summer sunshine until the Earth turns us around to face the sun again.

Savor Beauty; Remember Peace; Blessed Be.

We still have kittens to give away in Birdland. Email Mary if you'd like to adopt one.

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