Sunday, November 21, 2010

Winter Spirit

The weather has turned unbelievably cold. North Wind has set up shop; the temperatures hover around -20C and silent Snow covers the ground.

The Wind chimes sometimes catch in a wee draught from North Wind.  The sound is crystalline tunes heard in a dream...

One cannot walk anywhere outside in the Snow in silence. It sounds very like shards of glass breaking underfoot; the crunching of footfalls in the dry Snow travels far.

I dreamt, early this morning, of Snow and Ice...and dance. The Snow and Ice cannot be deemed unusual, what with every Tree, Shrub and Field covered with the white stuff. But the dance...

In my dream, I am walking through a silent, ghostly forested area. Snow hangs low from Cedar branches which look as if they could break and shatter from the weight and cold.

I feel a sense of urgency...and yet, I do not know where my destination lies.

It is night time, but the path I follow is lit by the silvery light of a full Moon. Snow lies everywhere, reflecting Moon's twinkling rays in crystals of Ice.

I'm not aware of the beauty here; I am completely intent on reaching a wee Log cabin situated in the far distance. Smoke issues forth from a small chimney...a welcoming sight, indeed. 

The cold does not bother me, although it appears I have very little clothing covering my body. I notice, as I quickly near the end of the forested path, a necklace of Feathers hanging from a long, icy Cedar Branch.

I snatch these off the branch...and in so doing, I release a shower of Snowflakes, which twinkle and glisten in the ivory light as they descend, like dancing Fairies, ever so soft and slow, to the ground.

I do not comprehend, in my hurried state, why the Feather necklace is so important, yet I know it is.

As if the path had never been, as if the cottage was never there, I am abruptly catapulted onto an expansive, Snow-white Plateau, completely surrounded by Mountain ranges.

I am wearing the necklace now.

People...figures, at least...are dancing, more and more of them appear, as I stare across the vast Plateau. They are like shadows, like mist, swirling here and there, sometimes with ferocity and sometimes swaying softly, as a mother might with a child in her arms.

There is no colour anywhere. All is white, even the figures. The only spot of colour...vibrant, in some cases...are the necklaces of Feathers, which swirl and sway, as fluffy and light as the Snowflakes falling unabated.

I glance down at the Feathers around my neck. They are brown, a deeply, intensely rich brown.

From somewhere else, another plane, I watch myself join the dance.  The necklace of brown Feathers floats and flies along with the swaying of my body, just as they do on the rest of the dancing figures.

I am the watcher and the participant, all at the same time. I watch and sense myself experiencing joy...happiness and freedom, I dance. And then, oh, wonder! I actually allow myself to feel it, to open the arcane, mysterious well become as one with the Winter Spirit.

I dance hard, in my dream. Hard and fast and furious and long...and then finally, gently swaying, like a soft breeze swirling through a stand of Willows.

And then, I hear a song. It begins as a quiet hum, builds in intensity, until it seems to consume me, originating from a magical, mystifying spot deep inside me.

I dance and sing, there on the wide, white Plateau, with the surrounding Mountains as my audience.

I am awakened by a cold nose pressed against my cheek. It is 4:30 AM; Lucky must have been concerned hearing and seeing me thrashing about in the bed. The bed covers are completely tangled.

It feels as if I am still dreaming, as I open the door and let both Dogs out into the freezing cold. It is utterly still...not even the traffic on the highway far below shatters the hush.

But, as in my dream, it is bright white outside. I would have no trouble walking about and finding my way.

I look towards the path at the bottom of the hill. It is so like the one I followed in my dream. I wonder what would happen should I choose to follow it, now, when the magic of the dream still seems a distinct part of me.

Would I find the Winter Spirit dancers? I want to dance in the cold once again. It appears, however, I would have to be dreaming, since it is unlikely my body would be able to dance as wildly and freely as it did on the Snow-blanketed Plateau.

There was no pain in my dream dance.

The song has not left me. I find myself humming it throughout the day. It has no real tune; at least, it is not a song I've remembered hearing...

Winter has arrived. The Winter Spirit does not care about dates; he comes on his own time. Being early or late really doesn't figure into things.

And I have choices. I can dither and complain about Winter's cold, I can dread it with every fibre of my being.

Or I can focus on the beauty of Winter, marvel at the crystalline cold, have anticipation filled with joy for the Christmas season...

And if I can't dance as well as I did in my dream, I can sway.

And I can sing my song... 

The song given to me, in a dream, by the Winter Spirit.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apples, Muffins and Cold, Misty Weather

I'm looking outside at a chilly, grey November day. The low-hanging, dark grey Clouds alternately spit Snow or a grizzling Drizzle.

It is time to place the cosy, furry hood on my  warmest yard jacket, freshly washed yesterday. I'm grateful for this dark brown quilted and furred coat, aged and tired as it is, when I take the old boys for their usual walk this morning.

I've been outside in much colder temperatures, but when moisture is added to the mix, it's dreadfully cold...the kind of chill which enters one's bones and lingers there.

The Dogs considered the idea of a longer walk for a few minutes and then turned back to the warmth inside the house. Even the Pheasant which crossed their path did not entice them to chase. Only the tips of their ears perked up a little, as they watched the Bird trundle into the bush.

It's too bad, really, that their ageing bones are beginning to dislike chilly weather because, when they're inside, they insist on being attached to me. Everywhere...the bathroom, the office where I write, the kitchen...I cannot escape. And let me tell they grow older, they have grown very gassy.

They don't mind letting those little puffs go, either. There is no embarrassment on the Dogs' part, although sometimes they will raise their heads from the floor after a particularly noisome phhhht has escaped. It's almost as if they are apologizing, when I gag and leave the room as if I was being pursued by devils incarnate...

It promises to be a long and smelly Winter.

During dark, grey days such as this, I turn to the well-lit kitchen and feel inspired to bake...something warm and very spicy...the scent of which will waft throughout the home, dispelling the scent of smelly Dog.

I don't like baking stuff which takes a long, convoluted amount of time to make. My preferences are muffins, pies, some cookies, bars and bread. And the recipes usually only include one bowl, a sure sign of a simple receipt.

Recently, I found a magazine which promised new recipes for cookies and bars and muffins. I found one for  Carrot muffins which included Apple sauce. Since I had none, it was obvious, if I intended to make the muffins, I would have to make it first.

Apples are inexpensive these Autumn days. During my last shopping expedition, I bought bags and bags...a collection of colourful Apples, intending to use them in decorative bowls as centrepieces. But within only days, the Apples became soft, mushy...and many actually split.

They were all ready for saucing.

The thought of making Apple sauce brought back a long distant memory. I was very young and pregnant with my first child. My then husband and I lived in the middle of an orchard in Naramata, a small village situated a few miles from Penticton in BC.

I was besieged with Apples of all kinds...I was beginning to dream about being buried alive by the immense crop I was expected to do something with.

As young as I was, I had little experience with cooking. It was truly by gosh and by golly that there was food on the table at mealtimes at all. I don't recall if I had any was early in my married life and we had little money for frivolous things like cookbooks. But I was told by relatives and friends if one has a surfeit of Apples one can freeze them or make Apple sauce or...

Since we had no freezer, I was left with the canner, canning jars and Apples. But I had no idea how to go about doing it. How did one make Apple sauce? How did the hard Fruit become like the sauce that came in cans?

I look back at that time and am stunned at how very ignorant and young I was. It doesn't take a whole lot to figure out that Apples become soft when cooked. So why did I not just do that?

No. I convinced myself that Apples must be grated first, in order to become sauce. I can only think my brain was befogged by my pregnancy, since I didn't realize that Apples must be peeled, either.

Of course, the grated Apples turned a disgustingly mushy brown, with red bits of peel, very soon after they were grated. I had no idea about Lemons or citric acid...Lemons and Apples? It never crossed my mind.

And then...oh, and then! I filled the canning jars with the grated, brownish mess, placed the sealing lids on them and processed them. Without sugar.

I was quite familiar with the canning procedure, since not long before this episode, I had helped a family member when they were canning Peaches. I was sure I was doing it correctly and I was just I had not prepared the food properly.

My canned Apple sauce did not turn out like the ones I'd previously bought in the store.

After the processing time (I don't recall how long I left them in the water bath) and the cooling period, I opened one of the jars and proudly sampled my homemade rusty-looking Apple sauce.

I cannot begin to tell you how sour it tasted. And the Apples had a strange, stale flavour. There was more juice than Apple sauce. Even sugar added to the mix did not help.

I remember tears, I remember feeling terrible resentment towards all those Apples I had grated. I remember vowing never to make Apple sauce again.

Of course, I learned to cook, and in so doing, I learned how to make Apple sauce. But on looking back, had I taken my pride, shoved it out the window, and called someone, anyone, for some advice on Apple sauce, I would have done much better. Being so young, so immature, I was sure asking for advice would prove to everyone how unintelligent I really was.

I would have been ousted. 

As I cooked the peeled Apples on the stove top, I wondered when, through the course of my life, I learned to ask for advice. I cannot remember. I'm not sure it was that long ago...

I only recall how much easier life becomes once I master my pride, become more comfortable within myself, and actually let others know how inexperienced I am at any given thing.

Inexperience does not equal stupidity.

And sometimes, one does not have to take the long road, when a shorter one will do.

After all that effort, I thought for sure those muffins would be lovely, moist and spicy. They weren't the best muffins I had ever made, but the scent of cinnamon and nutmeg and cardamom did indeed dispel the gas the Dogs insisted on expelling with regularity...

Baking muffins and cold misty weather are made for each other, don't you think?

PS...I'll be travelling to the Island to visit my daughter, her husband, my stepson and his significant other and my beloved grandkids. I may be a little slow answering comments...but I will answer, at some point, heh.

Please remember our veterans and the troops still fighting conflicts on Remembrance Day.