Aaron Stander comes to Dog Ears Books in Northport today to sign his latest Sheriff Ray Elkins mystery, The Cruelest Month, and wouldn’t you know that while the power was back on this morning, the phone was still out? No internet at home! Well, plans can be changed with the weather and its exigencies, as the last few days have plainly demonstrated. Weather today in Northport? Power? Phone? Time will tell!
Let’s start with the morning of Thanksgiving Day. Beautiful sunrise! Oatmeal or waffles for holiday breakfast? Hardly a question, is it? A friend and I had divided up the items to be prepared for dinner, and she would be bringing dressing and dessert, along with yams, so my part of the feast did not require a pre-dawn start. Instead, my holiday morning was waffles with David, a walk with Sarah, a little radio with David, a dog bath for Sarah (she is so good about baths!), and then the dive into cleaning!
After settling Sarah out on the front walk, drying in warm sunshine and enjoying a beef bone reward, David dove into cleaning along with me, which always makes for a more thorough and more interesting and surprising job. Lots of surprises! It was good to get so much done. I just had not planned on doing quite so much.
We had the door to the front porch open to the outdoors. It felt like September! At David’s urging and on his inspiration, we moved the indoor dining table and chairs moved out onto the porch, and took the leaves out of the big porch table so that it became a small square and could move to the indoor dining area with the smaller captain’s chairs. (Should it be captains’ chairs, as there are two of them, because doesn’t that indicate two captains? Hardly the case at my house, or I would not be moving all this furniture!) The change in tables necessitated a change in lighting, with various lamps tried here and there until Goldilocks herself would have had to agree that it was “just right!”
Meanwhile, as David kept having ideas for more and more changes, I had been wielding vacuum, broom, dustpan, rags, and an array of cleaning products. Piles of discard items, from clothing to kitchen pans, were growing on the walk outside the front door. And somewhere in the course of all this madness a couple loads of laundry had gotten done and hung out on the line, too, and the first load brought in, wet laundry having dried quickly in the sun and breeze of the unseasonably warm day. Oh, let me rake leaves for a while! Attend to my compost!
At last I called “Enough!” and announced an intention to wash my hair and rest my back. The porch had grown ever more appealing, sun-warm and newly arranged and swept clean. A sofa bed down at the south end was calling my name, and I answered the call. For a while my reading was interrupted periodically, as David had decided the porch closet needed to be cleaned out, too, and kept asking me if I wanted to keep this or that. “I’m reading philosophy!” I finally cried out pitifully. At that he disappeared down into Man’s World (basement), where he could putter in peace. Sarah took up her windowseat post, and I was left with my book. My book was so interesting.... At last, quiet....
It was only a short nap, I swear! And after the refreshing break, I had plenty of time to chop red onions, white mushrooms, and morels to be sauteed and added to red quinoa. Cream sauce for the creamed onions was a snap. Cranberry-orange relish had been made the night before. The turkey breast would not go in the oven until shortly before Laura arrived, to give us time for a walk and leisurely conversation on the porch.
“Can you believe we’re sitting out here on November twenty-second?” David couldn’t help remarking as the three of us tucked into almonds, black olives, and smoked oysters, toasting to friendship with glasses of red wine. This was after Laura and I had gone with Sarah for a walk up Claudia’s hill, but outdoors or on the porch, the balmy sweetness of the day continued to thrill. It was a little unexpectedly extra something to add to things for which we were all grateful. Laura and I met first 42 years ago, David and I and then David and Laura in the mid-1970s, and many is the Thanksgiving dinner we have enjoyed together. Once, long, long ago, Laura made duck à l’orange! Her dessert this year was Julia Child’s apple tarte! Lovely, lovely, lovely....
After dinner and a movie, the dark sky was strangely mottled with clouds as we bid Laura goodnight, and during the night the wind picked up speed and the temperature dropped. Friday morning—snow! Bitter, fierce wind! Tall meadow grass bending horizontal and penitential. Barn doors flapping! The front porch issued no invitation to relax on Friday morning!
What next? It was hardly surprising: the power went out. David came home first late Friday afternoon and got the oil lamps filled and the fireplace going. My contribution shortly afterward was fresh candles (from the Pennington Collection in Northport). We had leftover turkey and dressing and cranberry relish by fire-, candle-, and lamplight, and after dinner I read nearly all of A Small Farm in Maine, completely lost in that other world, without the distractions of radio or movie in the background. Then David and I went to bed in caps and robes, entertaining each other with our respective reminiscences of childhood dream hours spent over Sears Roebuck catalogs until we were too sleepy to talk any more. That was nice.
Sometime in the middle of the night the power came back on. The phone, as I say, was still out come morning.
What are the roads like between Interlochen, where Aaron lives, and Northport? What will today bring, and tomorrow? The forecast had something like a 40% probability of more snow both days.
Seasons change as the year cycles around, and then there are stretches where one season is surprisingly tucked into another for a few days. We had a little extra September leading up to and going through Thanksgiving Day, and now November is back. But what does that mean? It hardly gives certainty about any specific day or how plans may have to be altered at a moment’s notice. Is it Michigan? Well, yes, and it’s life, too. Life is change, and change is surprising as often or oftener than it is expected, and it’s good to have jugs of water and candles and matches on hand.