Cookery Maven Blog

2017: Leave-takings, Regeneration, Legacy, and Bearing Witness


Work Song Part II - A Vision (Epilogue)

If we will have the wisdom to survive,
to stand like slow growing trees
on a ruined place, renewing, enriching it…
then a long time after we are dead
the lives our lives prepare will live
there, their houses strongly placed
upon the valley sides…

The river will run
clear, as we will never know it…
On the steeps where greed and ignorance cut down
the old forest, an old forest will stand,
its rich leaf-fall drifting on its roots.

The veins of forgotten springs will have opened.
Families will be singing in the fields…
native to this valley, will spread over it
like a grove, and memory will grow
into legend, legend into song, song
into sacrament. The abundance of this place,
the songs of its people and its birds,
will be health and wisdom and indwelling
light. This is no paradisal dream.
Its hardship is its reality.

~ Wendell Berry


Poetry has the power to take my breath away and Berry's poem did just that when I read it a few months ago. His words captured what I've been feeling -- that struggle and hardship are (and have always been) intricately tied to creation and redemption. 2017 was a strange brew of heart-rending and heart-opening moments and I've been struggling to find a way to wrap my arms around it -- to find peace with a year that delivered leave-takings, new beginnings, and opportunities to bear witness as the world, and our place in it, changed. 

It was a year that left me reeling in a number of ways -- good friends and a beloved family member walked on, Sadie graduated from high school, Jack graduated from college, my cookbook Life in a Northern Town was released, we hatched a plan for a cookery school in our kitchen, I settled into a fulfilling job at the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project, and the political scene at the national and state levels left me, by turns, deeply discouraged and cautiously hopeful. Talk about being shaken, stirred, and rattled -- it was a regular smorgasbord of emotions. 


To be perfectly honest, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to carry with me into 2018. Looking back, it seems almost surreal -- the goodness was nearly always softened by a bittersweet awareness that new beginnings, by their very nature, involve leaving something behind. And that was a tough one for me, the realization that as I grow older there will be more leave-takings than beginnings and there isn't a damn thing I can do about it. 

It got me thinking -- can I make peace with grief, regeneration, and change that's out of my control? Where do I fit in a world that's become deeply divided and increasingly unstable? How do I, as Berry suggested, stand in this "ruined place, renewing, enriching it…then a long time after we are dead the lives our lives prepare will live there, their houses strongly placed upon the valley sides…" without losing my mind?


On a trip to Madison, I found my answer in the form of a podcast and an Irishwoman named Mary Kate O'Flanagan on the Moth Radio Hour. Mary Kate told the story of her father's death in Carry Him Shoulder High and I was struck by the following two sentences: 

"But thank God, if there's one thing the Irish do right, it's death. English you say, 'I'm sorry for your trouble' but in Irish we say 'Táim imo sheasamh leat' (I'm standing with you) and we mean it literally."

Leave-takings, change, and the inevitable moving on can be bitter pills to swallow....even when I'm headed in the right direction. The phrase 'I'm standing with you', as opposed to 'I'm sorry', implies solidarity and companionship. It's an active phrase, one that says I'm here, I'll bear witness, I'm not going away, we'll start where we stand and make the road by walking, together. It's an anecdote to division, anger, and grief -- something we desperately need right now. 

And that's what I'm carrying into 2018. The promise that I intend to stand with my family, my friends, and my community -- no matter what happens. I've abandoned any expectations for a smooth transition though the challenging days ahead in the political arena but I wholeheartedly believe that by standing together, we have a helluva shot at bringing the last stanza of Berry's poem to life, "Memory, native to this valley, will spread over it like a grove, and memory will grow into legend, legend into song, song into sacrament. The abundance of this place, the songs of its people and its birds, will be health and wisdom and indwelling light. This is no paradisal dream. Its hardship is its reality."

So, hello 2018 -- I'm ready to roll with whatever you toss at me because I'm standing with my people...and I'm exactly where I belong. 


A Tendency to Shine


A Tendency to Shine

If you prefer smoke over fire
then get up now and leave.
For I do not intend to perfume
your mind’s clothing
with more sooty knowledge.

No, I have something else in mind.
Today I hold a flame in my left hand
and a sword in my right.
There will be no damage control today.

For God is in a mood
to plunder your riches and
fling you nakedly
into such breathtaking poverty
that all that will be left of you
will be a tendency to shine.

So don’t just sit around this flame
choking on your mind.
For this is no campfire song
to mindlessly mantra yourself to sleep with.

Jump now into the space
between thoughts
and exit this dream
before I burn the damn place down.

– Adyashanti



The birds they sing, at the break of day
Start again, I heard them say.
Don’t dwell on what has passed away
Or what is yet to be.

Yes, the wars, they will be fought again
The holy dove she will be caught again
Bought, and sold, and bought again
The dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

We asked for signs. The signs were sent
The birth betrayed. The marriage spent
Yeah, the widowhood of every government
Signs for all to see.

I can’t run no more, with that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

You can add up the parts; you won’t have the sum
You can strike up the march, there is no drum
Every heart, every heart to love will come
But like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

On December 30th, Ros sent me the following note, "Ran across this on FB. Good advice for these days when it feels that nothing we do is enough" with the refrain from Leonard Cohen's song Anthem. After reading the lyrics to Cohen's song, I realized what a gift those words were. The idea that we need to ring bells that still can be rung, that the pursuit of perfection is a fruitless endeavor and that it's the cracks that allow the light to stream in provided some solace in a time of great uncertainty. I borrowed that refrain for my toast on New Year's Eve and it's been rambling around in my head ever since. 

2017 is a mixed blessing and when I focus on the new ground that the chaos will reveal, I'm hopeful but when I think of the true cost of rending our social fabric, it gives me pause. Joseph Campbell said 'you can't make an omelette without breaking eggs' and while I'm a big fan of a properly prepared omelette, I'm not sure what we're going to end up with: a tender, delicate omelette or an overcooked pile of madly scrambled eggs....or maybe something in between like a frittata?? 

Anthem is a song about hope in the midst of darkness and I was curious about what Cohen was seeking to convey in this poem set to music. Thanks to good old Google, I ran across this quote from a Leonard Cohen fan site that illuminated the essence of his lyrics. All hearts find their way to love, there is no perfect offering, and the cracks are simply spaces for redemption and resurrection....all concepts that resonate with me as I try to figure out how to move forward in a good way. When the landscape has been altered into something that seems foreign, we must remember that while there is no perfect offering or action; we have to rise up and attempt to save the world that's within our arm's reach. 

...That is the background of the whole record, I mean if you have to come up with a philosophical ground, that is "Ring the bells that still can ring". It's no excuse...the dismal situation.. and the future is no excuse for an abdication of your own personal responsibilities towards yourself and your job and your love.

"Ring the bells that still can ring" : they're few and far between but you can find them. "Forget your perfect offering" that is the hang-up that you're gonna work this thing out. Because we confuse this idea and we've forgotten the central myth of our culture which is the expulsion from the garden of Eden.

This situation does not admit of solution of perfection. This is not the place where you make things perfect, neither in your marriage, nor in your work, nor anything, nor your love of God, nor your love of family or country. The thing is imperfect. And worse, there is a crack in everything that you can put together, physical objects, mental objects, constructions of any kind. But that's where the light gets in, and that's where the resurrection is and that's where the return, that's where the repentance is. It is with the confrontation, with the brokenness of things.

As it turns out, the business of life continues...even with President Trump. Meghan still plays volleyball, Charlie still needs rides to the ski hill, Sadie's still going to college this fall, Will found an apartment in Madison for next year, and Jack is planning his next steps after graduation. While it may seem like our nation has crossed a dark threshold (and on a macro level, we very well might have), the essence of who we are and how we deal with adversity is still very much intact. Trump is a clarion call and I intend to heed it. 

I'm choosing to believe in goodness. In the goodness that springs from standing up for what's right, from sitting down for dinner with friends and family, from keeping watch over my little corner of the world, from practicing kindness and forgiveness in the face of hate, from knowing that the Truth is never neutral, and for radically seeking common ground. I intend to be brave, truthful and compassionate in the days ahead. I intend to remember that some of my best lessons have been hand-delivered by some of the worst people/best teachers and this Trumpian reality may be exactly what our country needs. I'm not burying my head in the sand with my rose-colored glasses on, I intend to hold the line with everything I've got but I will filter my words and actions through those lenses of compassion, bravery and honesty. And like Cohen said:

"I can’t run no more, with that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places say their prayers out loud
But they’ve summoned, they’ve summoned up a thundercloud
They’re going to hear from me."

It's time to get started. 

A New Year's Benediction

Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts -- adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take "everyone on Earth" to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ... causes proper matters to catch fire.

To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these -- to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both, are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times in the midst of "success right around the corner, but as yet still unseen" when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it; I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate. The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours: They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But ...that is not what great ships are built for.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D., Letter to a Young Activist During Troubled Times

Yuletide Blessings

Remembering That It Happened Once
Remembering that it happened once,
We cannot turn away the thought,
As we go out, cold, to our barns
Toward the long night’s end, that we
Ourselves are living in the world
It happened in when it first happened,
That we ourselves, opening a stall
(A latch thrown open countless times
Before), might find them breathing there,
Foreknown: the Child bedded in straw,
The mother kneeling over Him,
The husband standing in belief
He scarcely can believe, in light
That lights them from no source we see,
An April morning’s light, the air
Around them joyful as a choir.
We stand with one hand on the door,
Looking into another world
That is this world, the pale daylight
Coming just as before, our chores
To do, the cattle all awake,
Our own frozen breath hanging
In front of us; and we are here
As we have never been before,
Sighted as not before, our place
Holy, although we knew it not.

~ Wendell Berry, A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems 1979-1997

The last words in Berry's poem, "our place Holy, although we knew it not", are guideposts for my navigation through the holiday madness that seems to be a constant companion to Christmas. This poem has become a reminder to explore the humble, ordinary aspects of Christmas (and everyday life) in order to find what's Holy right in front of me. To look for the true spirit of the holiday in Ted's favorite sausage and cheddar breakfast strata (complete with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup), in listening to the kids play Scrabble while I'm making dinner, in going for a walk on the beach or sitting around the table and catching up with my favorite people in the world.  

Don't get me wrong, I was a willing and exuberant participant in the Christmas madness when the kids were little. The hours spent trying to decipher instructions for assembling and applying stickers to hundreds of pieces of plastic are a distant but sweet memory. We tried to make sure our kids had a healthy dose of Christmas 'magic' when they were little and looking back on those Christmas mornings, I wouldn't changed a thing. It was the 'right' kind of Christmas for that time in our lives. But I've had to retool my thoughts about what that magic looks like when Santa has been debunked and the kids send me text messages with their Christmas wishlists. 

We've started to create the Dougherty 2.0 Christmas traditions and it's a collaborative effort (and another chance for me to practice my 'I'm-not-overbearing, I-just-love-you-that-much' shtick). Lord knows, I need help getting my act together as a Mom to a bunch of funny, smart, brave, compassionate, and committed young adults, and thank God they're co-creating our new Christmas magic right along with me. We play cards, make cookies, eat extravagant meals, drink wine, talk about how handsome George is, watch movies, wrap presents (and come up with creative gift tags), watch the pups while they open their presents, take saunas, make fires, play Chuck-It with George and Aldo, go on photo safaris, and a hundred other ordinary tasks that accumulate into a lifetime of cherished traditions . 

Now that Jack and Will (and soon Sadie) 'come home' for Christmas, I'm the one who is vibrating in anticipation of a Christmas surprise....except it's not a Barbie townhouse, it's our boys arriving home from Madison. When I walk in the porch and see Jack's shoes by the door, or Will's camera bag on the dining room table, I'm reminded how the space they've left behind can be, so quickly, reclaimed and reoccupied. That while our kids are growing up, they are not growing away and home will always be on Rittenhouse Avenue. When the house is full again, a deeply rooted contentment settles over me because I am " in the world It happened in when it first happened." I believe the world holds echoes of all life in its bones and the story of Mary giving birth to her son in a stable happened on the same Earth that I live on now.....that we, and our stories, are all connected. Berry's poem is about holding space for wonder and belief as we move through our lives; doing the mundane in concert with the miraclous. And that's what I carry with me as I spend this Christmas with Ted and the kids....the recognition that in the end, all moments are holy and all existence is magic. No assembly or stickers required.

Long Island On Skis & Through Snowflakes

We booked across the bay last year but this year, we decided to book it LICC-style and headed out to Long Island for a winter version of Long Island Cocktail Club. Charly, the LICC czar, decreed the ice was safe, the island was accessible and we were bad-ass enough to get ourselves, some tequila, hot dogs, brats, 5 kids and 2 dogs over to Long for an afternoon adventure.

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St. Peter's Dome On Easter Sunday


When Easter and photo safari day coincided this year, I knew exactly where to go— St Peter's Dome in the Penokee Hills. The 1600 foot red granite dome is the highest point in the Chequamegon National Forest and trust me, it's a challenging hike on snowy/icy paths. We kept reminding each other to think like mountain goats when we encountered a particularly slippery patch. I think it worked because we all walked off the trail in one piece.

What a change from Easter five or six years ago— the bunny has been unmasked, the kids sleep in until a civilized hour and they are game for a 4 mile hike instead of sorting their candy and blowing bubbles. While I enjoyed those early mornings looking for the Easter baskets, today was about as close to a perfect Easter Sunday as I could have imagined.

While it was not all wine and roses on our hike and there were plenty of comments about the cold, wind, ice and a slow-moving Mother with a camera, we all experienced moments of wonder. Wonder at the wind howling at the top of St. Peter's Dome, at lush green moss on a tree trunk, at the feeling of walking under very, very old trees or at the perfection that is the heart of any untouched forest.

St Peter's Dome 1
St Peter's Dome 1
St Peter's Dome 2
St Peter's Dome 2

Of course, I had to include a couple of pictures of George— he is just so terribly handsome.


The water was beginning to flow, it's a sight and sound I never tire of. I can only imagine the roar of rushing water during the spring thaw— there's a lot of snow on the ground.


Even under the deepest blanket of snow, green things are awakening. The early risers are such a contrast to the whites, browns and evergreens I've been surrounded by all winter.

As I was walking along, I wished I had the right words to describe what I was seeing and feeling. We got to the top and I saw Jack looking a piece of paper attached to a tree. There they were, the words I was searching for, in a poem by Marvin Bell. Places like St. Peter's Dome, the Apostle Islands or the Penokee Hills are lifelines in a noisy and too human world.

Around Us Marvin Bell

We need some pines to assuage the darkness when it blankets the mind, we need a silvery stream that banks as smoothly as a plane’s wing, and a worn bed of needles to pad the rumble that fills the mind, and a blur or two of a wild thing that sees and is not seen. We need these things between appointments, after work, and, if we keep them, then someone someday, lying down after a walk and supper, with the fire hole wet down, the whole night sky set at a particular time, without numbers or hours, will cause a little sound of thanks–a zipper or a snap– to close round the moment and the thought of whatever good we did.

Your Mother and My Mother


Your Mother and My Mother

Fear is the cheapest room in the house
I would like to see you living
in better conditions,
for your mother and my mother
were friends.

I know the Innkeeper
in this part of the universe.
Get some rest tonight,
come to my verse tomorrow.
We’ll go speak to the Friend together.

I should not make any promises right now,
but I know if you
somewhere in this world-
something good will happen.

God wants to see
more love and playfulness in your eyes
for that is your greatest witness to Him.

Your soul and my soul
once sat together in the Beloved’s womb
playing footsie.
Your heart and my heart
are very, very old

– Hafiz

Sweet George & A Full Moon

The Sweetness of Dogs (Fifteen) Mary Oliver


What do you say, Percy? I am thinking
of sitting out on the sand to watch
the moon rise. It’s full tonight.
So we go

and the moon rises, so beautiful it
makes me shudder, makes me think about
time and space, makes me take
measure of myself: one iota
pondering heaven. Thus we sit, myself

thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.

An Afternoon On Skis

Tripping over Joy


What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?

The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God

And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move

That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”

Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.


Tripping over joy (and my skis) was a pretty good description of our afternoon at Mt Ashwabay. Ted and I rented cross-country skis and took off for parts unknown on Saturday. Actually, I knew exactly where I wanted to go but had forgotten a) how far it was and b) how many hills were involved in getting there and back. There was a stump on Black Bear Cutoff near a particularly primal part of the forest I wanted to visit. I met it three years ago (on my first too long and too many hills cross-country ski adventure with the kids) and I've never forgotten it. A picture of that beautifully decorated stump with its snowy cap would remind me of an afternoon spent with snowflakes drifting down through the trees on our little ski caravan. Little did I know this trip with Ted would burn about 8,000 calories, require serious foot/hand coordination and provide us precious time to talk, laugh and marvel at the beauty surrounding us.

I'm pretty new to the whole cross-country skiing scene and going down hills proved to be problematic. Flying down a hill, in tracks with skis on, is not a good idea for me so I spent a lot of time taking off my skis, walking down the hill and then putting my skis back on. As I've mentioned before, I have less than stellar eye/hand/foot coordination and putting the skis back on was no small feat, thank God we weren't in the Birkie. Ted, on the other hand, is a fan of flying down the hills and spent a lot of time waiting for me. Luckily, he always had a smile on his face and some kind words of encouragement when I caught up with him. In between all the hills and ski removal activities, it was pure joy to ski together. Isn't it funny how joy is so much more accessible when you're not planning any one of 'a thousand serious moves' and just experience what's always around and within you?

December 31st, 2012

It was a good last day of 2012. We did it all: skiing, hiking, warming up in the hot tub and sauna, sending wish lanterns into the night sky, eating, drinking and making merry. Since the moon was void of course, we decided it would be best to hold off on any declarations of intentions until today after 11:30— it freed up a lot of time for additional eating, drinking and merriment. It was a record for me, dinner didn't hit the table until 10:52. At least it wasn't 11 o'clock, that's way too late for dinner. On the upside, we were all wide awake and full when we headed outside to light the wish lanterns in the sub-zero temperatures.

I know I've said it before but, isn't George such a handsome dog?? He had a blast running up and down the sugarbush trail and struck this pose as were headed back to the ski hill. I think in a previous life, he was definitely a movie star.

Meg is a fearless  and joyful skier (unlike her mother), she literally had a smile on her face the whole way down the hill. I can't believe how competent she has become in just a few short years.

Of course, we had sparkling wine and Rack and Riddle Blanc de Noirs is one of my favorites. It's made from primarily Pinot Noir grapes and is the most beautiful color of pink. It's more subtle (like French champagne) than most moderately priced California sparkling wine I've tasted— it's nicely balanced with citrusy and subtle wild strawberry flavors.

I was at Andy's buying snacks for the kids and saw Old Dutch puff corn was on sale. I knew exactly what to do— make a heap of caramel corn and try to restrain myself from eating the whole pile (good practice for the dietary austerity measures headed my way in 2013). While it's not the most fancy caramel corn I've eaten, it's got everything I need: sweet, salty and crunchy. I sprinkled a little Maldon sea salt on the caramel corn as it was cooling— nothing like gilding the lily, right? If your 2013 dietary plan allows some room for caramel corn, here's the recipe (link here), it's seriously good stuff.

After dinner, we bundled up and went outside to send off five (not four, I'm not a fan of even numbers) wish lanterns to welcome 2013. We couldn't have asked for a better night— it was calm, the moon was shining brightly and the stars were blanketing the night sky. At midnight, amid the fireworks a neighbor set off, a pack of coyotes welcomed in the new year with yips and howls, it was pure magic. Of course, I put the dogs inside after the serenade was over, better safe than sorry with my wild life unsavvy pack.

2012 taught me a number of lessons but the most powerful one, and one I'm carrying into 2013, was mindfulness (and conversely, mindlessness). I've learned to let what needs to go, go and to allow what needs to come in, come in. Sounds pretty simple but turning off my monkey brain has been, and continues to be, a challenge. Those moments when I'm taking my own advice and truly existing only in the present moment are enough to inspire me to keep practicing.

When I hiked to the sugarbush yesterday morning, I practiced listening to the trees, hearing the wind and watching George joyfully bound up and down the trail. It amazed me how easy it was to become an open conduit for contentment when I kept my focus soft, listened to the quiet voice inside me and felt the blessings of my life. 2013 holds such promise and I can't wait to see where it takes me.

As usual, Mary Oliver had just the right words for my hopes for 2013. She had a dog named Percy and she asked him the simple question, 'how should I live my life'? Of course, a dog would know just what to say.

I Ask Percy How I Should Live My LifeMary Oliver

Love, love, love, says Percy. And hurry as fast as you can along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.

Then, go to sleep. Give up your body heat, your beating heart. Then, trust.


It is a heavy day, indeed. I pray the families in Connecticut will walk through their grief and shock into healing. It's bound to be an unimaginable journey.

Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poets said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled—
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

Sunset On Lake Superior

Mary Oliver

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway 

into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.

A Day Of Mindful Gratitude

I'm blessed to have a life I only dreamed of— full of people I hold dear, dogs who give me untold joy, trees who stand sentry in my yard, food that feeds my body and spirit and the natural world who reminds me to live with wonderment and gratitude every day. As I head towards the meal to end all meals tonight, I'm most looking forward to sitting in my Mom's kitchen with my wild and passionate family. There is nothing like being with people who have known you since the beginning and that's what I'm most thankful for today.


I see or hear
that more or less

kills me
with delight,
that leaves me
like a needle

in the haystack
of light.
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,

to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over

in joy,
and acclamation.
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,

the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,

the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help

but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light

of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?

~ Mary Oliver

A View From The Top

I celebrated a birthday in October and we walked up to the top of Mount Ashwabay for a photo safari. It was the perfect way to usher in my 43rd year— a bird's-eye of the lake, the last russet and gold leaves, a brilliantly blue sky and of course the kids and dog (George was the only dog invited). Sadie, George and I opted for a kinder, gentler stroll up Swiss Miss but Meg, Charlie and Caroline went big and decided to head straight up the Drop. We met at the top, took a hiatus to catch our breath and take in the view. It's truly one of the best views up here and well worth the climb.

As I sit here at the kitchen table (three weeks after this beautiful afternoon), listening to the election results roll in, I can't begin to imagine the spectrum of emotions each candidate must be feeling. After months of campaigning, it comes down to the individual votes of millions of people throughout the country. I was the 75th voter in Bayfield this morning and while I'm far removed from the spotlight of Cuyahoga County in Ohio, my vote counts. Of course, I would love to wake up tomorrow with President Obama in office for another four years but it's out of my hands and into the collective hands of everyone who voted today.

One of the gifts of aging is my deep understanding of the power and sense of peace that comes with surrender and fully living in the present moment. As I move into my 43rd year (and away from a divisive and often ugly campaign season), I intend to embrace what's surrounding me every day— my raucous, loving family and friends, free thinking dogs, fantastic dinners and wine, good books and great stories, Lake Superior's water and beaches and the trees who watch over me. Lord knows, it'll be a challenge but it's enough.

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember? How sunlight creeps along a shining floor? What scent of old wood hovers, what softened sound from the outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world than the breathing respect that you carry wherever you go right now? Are you waiting for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this new glimpse that you found; carry into evening all that you want from this day. This interval you spent reading or hearing this, keep it for life —

What can anyone give you greater than now, starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

William Stafford

Morning In The Garden

It's been a marvelously rainy and foggy day. As I was walking outside, I noticed the colors were muted and much more monochromatic— winter is coming with her shades of white and gray. The garden still has a few stalwart and vibrant holdouts but it won't be long before I cut everything down and put the garden to bed.

I took these pictures in the beginning of October at sunrise. Between the kids and dogs, I've honed my 'early bird gets the worm' skills and catch my fair share of glorious sunrises (a decent consolation prize for leaving my warm bed). The garden looked so lovely on that October morning, lush and colorful in spite of the fact that in a few short weeks it would be a pale imitation of its summer splendor.

'Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.' Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451