Thursday, October 27, 2016


Before we can blink, November will be here.  Already, blustery days impel us to turn on our furnaces.

A puff of enveloping warmth greets us as we come in the door after a walk with the dog in the park.  Although I always grieve the end of summer--no more flowers, warm feet, birds feasting on the feeders in the backyard--still, there is a splendid coziness to autumn.

Today I have a lovely roast in the crockpot with vegetables, and I baked a country apple cake, chock full of buttery, delectable MacIntosh apple slices surrounded by walnuts, cinnamon and a tender, gluten-free batter.  The house smells divine.  Well, perhaps not divine.  The divine probably smells of fresh air, lilies, soapsuds and crushed ice.  My house smells homey: cinnamon, vanilla and apple with a light undercurrent of roasting meat and savory vegetables.  Warm, crusty brown scents, not fresh, airy white ones.

I sit here in my kitchen on a laptop--not my favorite computer, but a perfectly serviceable one--drinking decaf chai tea and listening to my furry brown dog growl low and menacing at the leaves blowing outside the front door.

I am content.

Sitting on the table next to me is a long list of things to do.  I will do some of them today, some another time, and perhaps there are some I will never tackle.  It's okay.  I am content.

They say that Socrates said, "He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature."

Raffi used to sing, "All I really need is a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family."

When Shawn and I were on a trip back in the spring, we found the incredible comfort of a simple cup of hot tea with a small piece of chocolate.  These are things you can usually procure even when you are far from home.  The warmth of the tea and the sweet richness of the chocolate provide a comfortable sense of being at home, even when you are not, especially if you can find a a nice place to enjoy them, a hotel bed where you sit side-by-side, backs against the headboard, shoulders touching, feet tucked snug under the blankets.

One of my happiest memories from childhood is a strangely simple one.  We were out playing, the neighborhood kids.  I don't know what we were playing, or where the other kids had gone, exactly, but I was left in the row of pine trees between Reifenbergers and Pearsons, stirring mud soup in a plastic bucket.  It was dirt, rocks, water, pine cones and pine needles.  I stirred with a stick, something torn from one of the pine trees and oozing with sticky pine sap.  It was twilight, and the sun was fading, the air cooling as it so often does in Minnesota.  Usually, in the world of children, I was not the one who would get to have control of something as interesting as the stew pot in a game of make believe, so that twilight evening, I felt blessed beyond measure.  Little Timmy Reifenberger may have been bringing me pine cones and rare crushed weeds to thicken the soup, but most of the others had gone off to scale greater heights, climbing tall trees and strategizing battles.

Alone, I knelt over the bucket of mud soup, engrossed with the rhythm of stirring, the texture of the thick, sloppy mixture, the sharp scents of pine and wet dirt and crushed grass. I felt the light dimming around me, yet I continued pumping the branch through the solution, almost in a hypnotic trance, grateful, content, at peace.  Eventually, my arm tired and my fingers chilled, so I went home.  When I think of my childhood, growing up in Anoka, Minnesota, this is always the first memory that pops into my mind, so insignificant, yet so deeply etched.

Contentment.  Gratitude.

November is coming, when I aspire to complete the discipline of celebrating one simple thing for which I am thankful, each day.  November posts are usually short, which is another good discipline to practice:  thankfulness and brevity.

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