Tuesday, November 7, 2017
Late Fall Harvest
This year’s long, extended summery autumn has given way at last to what Edgar Allan Poe justifiably called “bleak November.” Two weeks ago friends (a few brave souls) were swimming in Lake Michigan under blue sky. Since then cold winds and rains have moved in – heavy wet snow one morning, but it didn’t last long this close to the lakeshore – so that, on Sunday morning, with temperatures in the 40s rather than 30s and the wind died down for a few hours, I hurried out in the quiet stillness to harvest the remaining apples from my two little trees. Good, big, lovely red apples they are, and I’m peeling and slicing and drying fruit for winter but will keep cold apples in their skins, too. Paradigmatic fruit of temperate climates, apples keep well in any form.
In the kitchen I fall back on familiar, cold weather favorites: hearty oatmeal with apples and raisins for breakfast, muffins to go with afternoon tea, thick bean soup, polenta, and stews for lunches and suppers. At the end of the day I set aside my no-sugar resolution and chase the damp chill of outdoors away with thick mugs of dark cocoa. I leaf through cookbooks, contemplate replacing turkey with rabbit for Thanksgiving dinner, and wonder if there’s the slightest chance I could get away with it.
Time cannot be saved and stored in the pantry like apples. Still, with yard work season coming to an end, along with porch living, the edges of my world after each day’s light fades draw in closer to the fire. No more bookstore events to plan, no more summer visitors. Drying laundry with electricity instead of sun and wind gains in time what it loses in delight. I stockpile books and jealously hoard reading time. Two Norwegian women authors are on my table this month – but more of those books another time.
It can be difficult to muster up energy for a trip to town when home is so cozy and evenings so dark, but we resolutely made a recent expedition for a concert of Cajun music by BeauSoleil, led by the incomparable Michael Doucet. We had front row center seats, and I was in heaven! All these years I’ve wanted to see and hear this group, since at least as far back as the late 1980s, and as I had the wonderful good fortune of speaking to Michael Doucet himself after the performance, I told him I had not been disappointed. Pas déçue! It was more than worth the wait.
Heading back out into the wet dark, on the way to the parking lot, we were not the only audience members exclaiming over the band’s energy. Energized was another word I kept hearing: it’s what we all felt. And here’s something else I loved about the evening: the sound was not ear-shatteringly loud, and there was nothing of spectacle in the staging or in the musicians’ dress. It was all about the music. My face hurt from smiling helplessly, and I am still humming the songs, days later.
Together for over 40 years, those musicians shared their harvest of work with all of us on Saturday night. Merci mille fois, BeauSoleil! Je vous salue!