December 13, 2007

Hemlock needles

Suspended

When Beautiful Smart Wonderful Daughter moved back home this week, she brought a laundry basket of clothes and — of course — her laptop computer. Almost as soon as she walked in the door, she claimed a spot on the comfy couch in front of the fire and opened her laptop to begin editing a magazine article due this week. Boy in Black isn't done with his semester either: he has several final exams. After I put another log on the fire and sat down next to my daughter with my laptop, he said, "Hey, if we're having a laptop party, I'll bring down mine."

And that's where we've been this week, cosily settled in front of the fire, getting our work done while we eat and talk. With-a-Why and Shaggy Hair have joined us with their homework or sometimes provided background music on the piano, since they've got their Christmas concert on Saturday. (They are playing a four-hand version of the Tchaikovsky's Russian Dance from The Nutcracker Suite.)

In an unusual surge of domestic activity spurred on by the fact that I had papers to grade, I made hot lentil stew, a big pot of homemade vegetable soup, vegan chocolate cake, and a type of cinnamon oatmeal bread that we all call "Healthy Bread" because it is relentlessly healthy. Spouse has been at work, furiously getting his stuff done so he can enjoy ten days home with us at Christmas. The roads have been icy and snow-covered, but inside, the house smells of cinnamon and woodsmoke and chocolate.

I've taken the time to work on some big cleaning projects, mostly downstairs where I can hang out with the kids and clean at the same time. I'm a binge cleaner, and the end of a semester is when I tackle projects: cleaning out the refrigerator and freezer, tossing anything that is still there from last year, emptying the cupboards, going through the bookshelves behind the kitchen table, sorting through the stacks of books and papers that accumulate everywhere. Billie talked on her blog about the concept of osoji, a ritual of cleaning and purification that comes at the end of a year, and that fits with my mood as we approach the Solstice.

This morning, though, after several days of lounging by the fire, I got a facebook message from Often Erotic Sometimes Blogging Friend: "Perfect day for winter photos. Get out there, girl." She was right. The house was empty. My younger kids had gone off to school, Spouse was at work, Boy in Black had left to take a Physical Chemistry exam, and my daughter had gone with him to hand in a final project. So I pulled on my winter coat and boots, and trudged out in the snowy, windy woods behind my house.

White snow was drifting and clinging to every surface in the woods: branches, trees stumps, mossy logs. The ground was frozen, but the ice still thin on the puddles. Since I had worn my tall rubber boots, I crashed happily through the puddles, stomping through the ice, breaking white into jagged pieces that drifted crazily on muddy water. I am far too noisy in the woods to see much wildlife, but snowy ground was criss-crossed with the tracks of white-tailed deer.

A few times, I stopped to take off my gloves and take out my camera, but really, it's not easy to take photos when the wind is blowing snow onto your eyelashes and camera lens. Mostly, I just tromped around, enjoying the cold, pure air, and admiring the way the white snowflakes clung to green mosses and the gold-brown leaves of young beech trees. I walked east, following an old logging trail until I came to the hemlock grove where the deer bed down sometimes. Here, in this sheltered spot, snow was balanced on the green branches of the hemlocks, waiting only for a careless hiker to brush against the needles and send it whirling down to the ground.

By the time I returned to the warm house, my feet and hands were cold, and my lungs were full of fresh, clean air. I poured myself a cup of hot tea, cut myself a slice of chocolate cake, and sat back down on the comfy couch to write a blog post.

16 comments:

Propter Doc said...

The notion of ritual cleaning appeals to me right now. Not sure why, but I like the idea of entering the new year with none of this year's grime around ;)

The laptops around the open fire sound wonderful, I am very jealous.

Rev. Dulce said...

"Healthy Bread" sounds very neat. Please post the recipe.

Cathy said...

I needed to read this to confirm that it is indeed December in the Northern Hemisphere. We are running the air conditioning and it was in the 80s today.

I would like some cold weather.

Meg said...

Every time you mention your vegan chocolate cake I want to drive around the Great Lakes region trying to find your house so I can steal said cake. The only thing stopping me is the fact that your family and extras probably have it devoured before I can find my car keys.

I've lurked here for a long time, but I can't remember you posting the recipe--have you? If not, please share!

susan said...

Sounds wonderful! And I am most amused at your reference to Often Erotic Sometimes Bogging Friend. A good bogging friend is hard to find!

east village idiot said...

Once again you are living another chapter out of my fantasy life!

Magpie said...

That photo is stunning - the *pop* of the needles is terrific.

jo(e) said...

Meg: The vegan chocolate cake recipe comes from the Moosewood Cookbook. You can find it online here.

Rev. Dulce: I'm going to have to write a post about the healthy bread. That recipe isn't online anywhere.

jo(e) said...

Susan: Eh, I was typing fast so I could get back to the chocolate cake.

But really, I do love bogs, so it's not that crazy that I would have a bogging friend ....

sheepish said...

I really love this photo. Short-needled conifers are my favorites, and I love the snow and focus on this one.

liz said...

Recipes please.

Everything sounds sooooo cozy.

Meg said...

Yum, thanks!

Rana said...

I shall have to have a purge, since I always like coming back to a clean house after traveling. (And then, perhaps, I can get around to purging things like old clothes and outdated computer manuals.)

We have no snow here now, but early this morning, as I was walking to campus, there was a lovely misty fog.

kathy a. said...

daughter is home from college, and she got her wisdom teeth out the other day, so i have been on a cooking binge with concentration on the soft foods. except for the cookie bars meant for an event tomorrow.

that sounds like the way to clean! when we lived in japan, i worked with a japanese couple hoping to improve their conversational english skills -- their daughter's birthday was on 12/31, and they told me they never celebrated that day, because everything had to be totally clean by the new year! felt bad for their daughter.

Yankee T said...

Sounds great. Looking forward to the couch time with my college kids, too.

julieunplugged said...

Ha ha about the laptops and fire. The other night there were four of us in the family room, each on his or her own computer, watching Friends reruns, the fire and typing. I got such a kick out of it! A new era in family togetherness.

Now my college daughter and I have taken to playing a silly online game called Fruits and she keeps beating me. We sit next to each other while playing. Too fun.