October 5, 2010

Celebration Time: Part Two

Fall always seems to me a time of renewal and a natural time for celebration.  There is the change of seasons with cooler nights gradually transforming the landscape into one rich in gold, deep red and burnt orange, and the settling in to welcome routines after the transitional nature of September.  When I was in school I looked forward to fall with great excitement, like my eldest daughter does now:  "I can't wait until it gets colder. Then I can wear hats and cozy sweaters and my new down vest, and cuddle up in blankets with a book!"  I think she has a wee twinge of her mother's romantic inclinations; she was also born in the fall like her little sister and me.

This past weekend we were invited to a friend's nut picking party.  Our friend has a few acres just outside of town, with a grove of several hazelnut trees, the produce of which she was happy to share this year.  This is hazelnut growing territory and we use several pounds a year in homemade granola and other baking.  My husband works on Saturdays so we didn't arrive at the party until almost twilight.  As I performed the necessary social rituals with various guests, my husband and youngest daughter took their pails to the grove and combed the ground for nuts.  When our daughter tired of harvesting I joined my husband and picked out the small brown smooth-shelled nuts plentiful among the leaves and mushrooms.  We gathered two pailsful before it became too dark to see the ground.  After the delicious potluck meal of spicy chile and focaccia bread, various salads, home grown pears, cheese, and moist pumpkin cake enjoyed out of doors, a large bonfire was made by our hosts down in an open part of the property.  Marshmallows were roasted with the longest sticks ever seen for that purpose, and later on our hosts brought out a pot of hot apple cider that had been simmering away with whole nutmeg.  I think my husband and I enjoyed the evening even more since we had both endured a long, tough day with our noses to the grindstone, and we both felt released from cares which had, just an hour or two before, seemed all-consuming.

The next day a small group of us went for a hike to Whipoorwill Point, a spot where a local river meets a local lake.  All along the trail leaves fell with increasing determination and we knew it was now fall in earnest.  We found several kinds of mushrooms, even some that looked almost like chanterelles, a delicious, buttery fungi we occasionally enjoyed on Vancouver Island, but we didn't know enough to risk a taste test.  We had always received the chanterelles as a gift from some friends who kept their source a secret. 

Next weekend is Canadian Thanksgiving, and a time for further celebration.  We hope the weather will be fine as we will go to the farm of some dear friends and stuff ourselves with roasted turkey, scalloped potatoes, the last of the garden veggies and pumpkin pie and then go for a long walk all around the fields, just like we did last year. 

I suppose it may seem a bit odd to talk about renewal when the year is waning and my part of the world is tucking itself in for its winter sleep. As a parent with school aged children who enjoy a long summer holiday,  the fall is a time of new beginnings - a new school year with all its activities, a new year of music lessons, concerts and recitals, the count down to Christmas, and the count up to Easter and my son Ian's high school graduation.  As one year fades, another rises up to take its place, and there is great hopefulness in that. I suppose that is the reason I chose to start my blog in September of last year.

My friend Alistair, in his comment to my last post, asked me to list the top five posts of which I was the most proud.  Since I knew Al's assignment would take me some time, I thought I would make it part of my next post:  this one.  I scrolled down through my seventy posts of the past year and narrowed my list down to about fifteen.  I let that list 'sit' for a few days and now I look at it trying to choose just five.  It's difficult because I am enough of an amateur to feel rather attached to all fifteen posts and to not want to deny any of them the spotlight.  They are like my little children after all, and having created them I don't want to play favourites.  However, I have decided to get on with the job and just select a cross-section of posts to highlight. 

1. "I Had a Farm in Africa..." was one of my first posts and written from notes and thoughts I had about the family of my friend, author Antonia Banyard, who did and does have a farm in Africa.  Toni and I grew up together and her family seemed incredibly exotic to me, and incredibly classy.

2.  The Turning Point is the story of how I woke up one day to the fact that my children needed more from me than just 'survival' parenting.  It's also the story of my family living and growing together for five years at a rustic outdoor education lodge on Vancouver Island.

3.  Bridges and Tunnels is about the geography of my province of British Columbia, about a favourite spot we like to visit, and on a particular day, how that place made me think of some difficult times we were going through as a family.

4.  A Child's Christmas in the Kootenays is a post about my childhood in Nelson.  My family did not have a car.  We walked and hiked and biked everywhere and were incredibly fit, and I tell of one Christmas when we went out in the deep snow, on Christmas night, to go sledding.

5.  A Trip from Bountiful is a sort of journalistic piece about two Fundamentalist Mormon girls I met at college.  This post garnered the most comments I've ever received and the most attention overall.  I try not to judge the young women, who were training to be teachers for their polygamist community of Bountiful, but simply present them in relation to my own experience back then of being a young college student with all the choices in the world and a future of bright possiblilities before me.

Happy Fall!


  1. I love your Fall celebrations. What great, rustic fun.

    I approve of your five. I remember them all well, except the first one, which may have been before I got here. I remember one Antonia post, I just don't think this is the one. I will go check it out now.

    Congrats on starting your second year.

  2. It is amasing that the fruiting bodies of the fungi know it's now or never.
    This weekend I intend to visit Cnoc Samhna "Hill of Samhain" and the stone circle at Loch Gur.

    I hadn't realised I'd been commenting on your blog for almost a year now.

  3. It's great how a few hours doing something manual, in connection with nature or the land, or even just a hike or photography can let burdens drop from your shoulders,draw you closer to others and give space for perspective.

    I didn't realise that you had included your 5 favourites here either so with your permission - it's late and for once I'm tired {children's panel today was a toughie} so I'll come back in the morning to read them, although I recognise a few already.

    I know exactly what you mean about feeling protective over them too. I feel the same.


  4. Yes, Tracey, I think we discovered each other just after the Africa post. Antonia sent it to all her family and they thought it was hilarious. She said my family seemed pretty exotic to her, too!

    Vince: Almost a year, yes. I think you saw the word Zambia in my labels of interest, which led you the Africa Post, too. Enjoy your weekend outings!

    Alistair: You are so right about a bit of manual labour. Even just yesterday I left my daughter, who was home with a cough, in the house with the tv and I went outside and did some soothing yard work in the sunshine.

  5. I have to say that Fall is my favorite season of the year as well. I'm in total agreement with you about how the colors of the leaves and the crispness of the air makes me feel kindof more alive, if you will. I know everyone else feels that way about spring...but perhaps that's why I feel so comfortable when I pull up a chair to read your posts? We are kindred spirits? :-)

    And I have to admit, I'm jealous.
    Your evening out sounded positively delightful!!!!

  6. Nut picking and hiking along a leaf-strewn trail - sounds like a perfect way to celebrate this wonderful time of year. And I think October is a perfect time to celebrate Thanksgiving - have a great one!

  7. f8hasit: I like spring, too, especially after a wet winter, but fall has that special something, and we both know what that is!

    Diane: You too, Diane. Happy Thanksgiving!

  8. You are in very good spirits! Glad you and the husband are hanging out together, enjoying the fall landscape and socializing with your friends. You're very good at "painting a picture."

    Here's you more fulfilling blog posts!)

  9. This is the perfect fall post...the colors, the warmth; the hazelnut harvesting party and Thanksgiving soon to arrive; and, perhaps what resonated most for me, was the strange paradox of fall as a beginning and an ending. So true.
    Happy blogging anniversary! I remember several of your top 5 and will visit the couple I am unsure about (like Tracy, I think I am remembering Antonia's story in a later post). I especially loved the bridges and tunnels post. I look forward to reading another year of your writing.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!