October 21, 2014:
1. Cat purring on the couch
2. Yellow leaves on the lawn.
3. Coffee in the cup.
4. Book on lap.
5. Pear tree ripe.
6. Fire in the stove
5. Nothing more to need.
The leaves are off the silver birch and I am now in my third decade. It’s the first week of October and both of these things surprise me, even though seasons and birthdays are two rare things one can predict. I’m dreaming of third decade goals including goats, pizza ovens, and the world’s largest sunflower patch. That said, I am pleased that my nature continues to be steady: my heart is still mostly called to biking mountain passes and months spent in tents. We celebrated my birthday in the best way I could imagine- a cabin full of friends, a sky full of stars, and litres on litres of wine bag. I don’t know if it was that (or the glow stick filled piñata), but the world feels open and shimmery right now; nesting and adventure-schemes are merging into what will soon be the winter cocoon.
Basically, its my favourite time of year. Welcome October where quiet is encouraged and new ideas burst from the gift of long runs in the chilly woods and a little bit of slow! Welcome crisp leaves, cozy fires, soup, and saturdays with the pottery wheel! Welcome apples and pears! Although, I am only tentatively welcoming their friends- the bears. The other night we were out trail running in the rain and bumped into this moonlit glowing apple tree along the edge of a field. The fruit was glistening and faron and I were blissfully chomping on a tiny orb when we heard the distinct harrumph of large mammal from the bush to the left. We backed away a little, but then saw a group of horses in the distance so brushed it off. Called by the fruit, I swung my arm up towards the tree to grab another apple and my headlamp hit straight into the eyes of a bear. Baby bear. In the tree. Mama cub? Probably in the bushes. Magical, but oh nelly. Fall, in all its messy glory, is here.
Why I am telling you this? While, apples and winter are about to take-over our world, there is a realm of other cozy deserts still to explore. Don’t give up on the stone-fruit yet! December isn’t here for months. I am making it my mission to savour fall and avoid winter bum out through denial of the darkening days.
Weeks ago I picked our plum trees bare in a flurry of over-tired energy; I was proud of myself for getting ‘er done but then quite sad that plum time was over just as it started. I might have exhibited a little prudence and picked bits off the trees at a time. Oh well. I thought I would have to wait another 11 months for more plums but then yesterday noticed a branch with some over-ripe leftovers peering over the neighbours yard. I almost died climbing up our moulding collapsing fence but I was desperate enough for this one last kick at the summer fruit can that I lunged repeatedly at the high branches across the air-space. I managed ten plums and only one leg scratch as collateral damage. The fence wanted mending anyway. And, ten plums is all one needs at a time. Really, any plums are enough for this cake (which also has the generosity to double as “healthy” breakfast the next day). And, if you must, softly cooked apples would work too. Hurrah for seasons and new beginnings. Clafouti anyone?
(Also, need to note; how ridiculous is this? http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/canada-sets-lowest-standard-at-world-conference-on-indigenous-peoples-1.2779590)
There have been moments where this summer felt sponsored by the heart of a teenage romance novel: river swims; ocean-side trail runs; friend reunions on the porch; mountain peaks nabbed during precious gasps of time off-call. Its been uncharacteristically warm and dry. The hills are so parched that occasionally the salt leaches from the coastal air and my nose fills with whiffs of ponderosa from my desert upbringing. The crunchy forest scent of old wood and dry needles sends me straight towards interior lakes, the whip of an early-morning fishing lure, and my papa cooking trout over a coleman stove. Last week I found myself running down a local hill as fast as I could so I could suck the smell of pine and dust of childhood memory deep inside my panting lungs. Beautiful, pure, summer.
We used the bbq so much that it took weeks to realize the new ceramic stove really sucks for anything except coffee making. And like any good narrative brought to you by heat, solo midwifery, a tender heart, and a pause to five years of constant (allbeit stimulating) moving of cities, there have been pangs of longing for alternate life choices that keep one on the road and ridiculous but unsurprising jealousy towards normal people that don’t have pagers that go off at 3:42am and could irrationally but metaphorically be everything you can’t.
Now it is September and baby eggplants exist in the world. Baby! Eggplants! I can’t think of a better reason to settle a bit than growing a delicious purple orb. Mind you, this success story is due solely to the nice cowichan weather and the fact our place came with a set of bugs that prefer to decimate cabbage over aubergines, but its nice when things work out in your favour. The new house is slowly unravelling its boxes: the cat knows now to come home at night and nuzzles hard until you feed him, there is pleasure at new routine, pottery classes, and the familiarity of my feet on known trail. I’ve caught 12 babies since moving here and have not slept through clinic once. Win. This evening I walked in the door and poured myself a mix of beer and grapefruit juice that I will drink with bare feet on the wooden patio. Then, I will attempt to put up the peaches that I have procrastinated from tidy preserves into mushy must-now-become-jam. Messy life. Found home.
Have yourself a raddler; it will be delicious.
1 can pale ale
1 can san pelligrino grapefruit
Mix the above together. Yumm.
I was there:
And now I am here:
In between there and now was a wedding, a somewhat crazy (and totally worth it) flight home from Nunavut via San Francisco, a giant move and house-paint, and then a mad dash to run a mountain race. and sneak in a summer garden before the work-baby storm rallies its inevitable head. Its been a crazy month! Adding to the insanity is learning that kebabs are not prounced “ke-bobs” but “ke-babs.” Is this true people? Its breaking my heart.
Its a bit strange to have peas sprouting in July, but the off kilter time warp of out-of-season vegetable gardening matches how ridiculous it is to go from the arctic to a bustling new start in the unending green of the Cowichan Valley. Except, this migration south is a good thing. This beginning comes with mature apple trees, plums, a cow-share, a badminton court, and a fresh outlook on love. So, I am trying not to complain that my head felt a little spin-full for a few weeks there and I was tempted to crawl my way back to the tundra where it was peaceful and quiet and I wasn’t a little scared to be embarking as a solo midwife. I also had a minor incident in Tofino where a surfboard and I lost connection and the board hurtled towards my tender head. Fat lip parties are terrible for eating! Hence, I disappeared from here for awhile. But then I remembered that while the south doesn’t have caribou or siksik marmots; it does have this: the power of the sea to woo one’s heart home.
(At least for now. Too bad you can’t cure itchy travel lusty feet with calcium magnesium supplements like you can jumpy-itchy-legs!)
To compensate for silence, here are some delicious summer kebabs AND the most amazing carrots you have ever had. Its a two-in-one! Deal! I am not beyond bribery to keep you entertained.
The kebabs are an easy summer stable, but adding smoked tofu and fresh herbs keeps them vegetarian, light, and perfect for long summer evenings where wine is passed many times across the backyard picnic table. The carrots will blow your mind. Za’atar, sea-salt, and a dash of pomegranate molasses make them heady and bright all at once, and roasting them in foil on the bbq provides the perfect connection between sweet and crunchy. Enjoy! Go seek summer! Get off that internet and find yourself a lake. At least that’s my plan to (finally) grant myself some peace.
Thanks for sticking around.
(recipe after the jump)
I have so many stories of people and took pictures of rock and ice. Oops. The story of catching a 34 week old on an airplane last week where the mother was desperately worried her baby will be a wandering soul because we didn’t know the exact GPS coordinates of his birth place. Not so fussed that I gave it mouth to mouth because of a misplaced bag and mask. Oh the North when the problem is not a resuscitation at 1000 feet but that I let the pilots know we had a baby present a little too late. Damn. All turned out ok- its geese season up here so we settled for the name “hunter” feeling that the baby’s choice of early birth probably meant he wanted to spy on the ways of migratory birds. Only once that was settled could we load her into the waiting ambulance on the ground. The way you are born is important. Can’t rush things.
The story of my office geese pool where the first person to spot the arrival of more than 5 snow-geese won $50 bucks and the right to take an afternoon off to go shoot something. The smokers definitely had the advantage with all the breaks they take on the deck. I just sit at my computer (sometimes I wonder what is healthier) and I definitely lost. Failure at bingo. Winning at lunchtime crib. Daily potluck snack hour with my co-workers where Cas, one of the local midwives, is working hard to integrate the concept of “grapes” and cut down the concept of “chips.” How everyone brings baking on payday. How many of my co-workers took my “eat all the country food project” seriously and brought me chunks of meat from their freezer to share. How new friends fed me whale (muktaaq) and muskox (umingmak) not once, but twice! Stories of laughing my guts out because when the crazy arrives and the shit hits the fan, you might as well giggle. How inuk people say yes and no with their eyebrows and I can’t get it right and the response is just utter hilarity instead of judgement. Its been a good month.
Then, there are the stories I hold but are not mine to tell: of people struggling, of hurt hearts, of suicide, of the nasty intergenerational effects of colonialism that are impossible to fix even though one really wants to try. The tender ones are there too: that sunset run at midnight where so many people are still out on the road it could easily be 5:00. Potlucks and soccer tournaments. The country music on the radio interrupted by announcements to sell prom dresses, aeroplan points or to get someone to visit their relative at the health center; dance tunes in the gym; frozen pizza and blizzards on a lazy holiday afternoon. The bumpy honda rides across the tundra with emerging arctic willow buds to hunt for geese. Yet, instead of a food-prize, I got to quietly revel in the return of magical child-sized cranes (that no one else seems to love because you can’t shoot them from the sky). The fact that there are eskers (ESKERS people!) and 5000 year old tent rings just down the road. No big deal. The fact that when you say “down the road” everyone knows what you mean because there is only one road out of town. I leave on Tuesday and still haven’t figured out where it goes.
I have no recipe today, even though I tried. The pork-apple I was going to share just doesn’t seem to fit. All I can muster is a full heart and a bucketfull of new stories (some I don’t know how to tell) to bough me up next time I get cold inside.
Two amazing things happened last night. Three. The first is this broccoli. Quality groceries are hard to come by up here and this combo of (mc-cain) orange juice and eighty year-old pepper from a long-left transient roommate is something I normally avoid like the plague. But, even with my arctic variations it was really delicious. You should try it. I had mine with butter chicken from a spice mix which I won’t share because its silly to call processed paste and canned tomatoes fine home cooking. But, I am definitely giving the fancy dining label to the broccoli. With orange juice. From a can. Its the north: what can I say?
The second is that I got to try to drill the sea-ice eight feet deep with a giant power augre to set a new hole for the fishing derby. I didn’t catch a fish. I could barely hold the giant drill. I didn’t wear my thick mittens so had to leave early before I got frostbite or the winning arctic char. But, on my walk home from my ice-fishing fail I ended up talking to a dozen happy people hanging out around their weekend fishing camps. Everyone stopped me to chat about bait choices (bacon, pepperoni, and klick were favourites); the size of their cousin’s trout down the ice road; or if we knew anyone in common at the birth center. One random lady offered me a piece of bannock; her teenage daughters and I laughed at their measly catch. Her toddlers were running around in the most adorable snow suits and some other kid was asleep in the back of the kammatik. On Friday night I had a fantastic feast of muqtaa (beluga) and caribou followed by a silly night at the legion with new friends who were easy to pin down and uncomplicated to find. Why is it that this doesn’t happen down South? Such generalized familiarity and friendlieness. No one wants anything from you: up here the next person in line at the coffee shop (ahem, tim’s at the northern store) is never going to be a millionare who wants to pitch you his newest app. Up here you are not going to get rich, or a better job, or chance exquisite conversation with beautiful people in a bar. It might feel a little redneck, unhip, or politically incorrect. Yet, there is something nice about living with people simply being people wanting to chat about their fish, their cousins and their day.
The third thing is this poem. This magic moment actually happened a week ago when I spotted it on my work bulletin board, but I copied it out last night and think it says what I am trying to say better than I can express with thousands of finely typed words. Even though the produce is terrible quality and reeks of pesticides from surviving its long journey in the truck from California to Winnipeg – by train to Thompson, Manitoba- and cargo-plane to me on the Hudson’s Bay; I feel lucky to eat it. Feel wealthy for the chance for a simple meal and the luxury of something green amongst all the fish (and snow). Happy Monday. Have a poem -and some broccoli- on me.
Wealthy (Bruce Dethlefsen)
after my reading
a very serious sixth grade girl
asked me if I was wealthy
well I said I have twenty-two
dollars in my wallet right now
my purple truck has two hundred
and thirty-five thousand miles on it
I’m wearing clean and mended clothes
I’ll sleep in a warm bed tonight
I’ve got my health my hands my eyes
My family and friends who love me
and I can come here to sennett middle school
to read poetry to you guys for free
so yes I’m very wealthy
(Recipe after the jump…)