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In 2015 I  became a mother.


This is Orion Augustus.  He’s been out in the world with me for 14 weeks now.  I am filled with awe, impatience, and nostalgia at every moment.  He already moves his hands with purpose, laughs when I kiss his belly, and opens his eyes wide in front of books.

The past year seems now like it was all devoted to bringing him into the world, but so much else happened.

I finished reading and writing my doctorate qualifying exams: on landscape studies, and on craft and work.

I was on the teaching team that developed a new Harvard course on Boston’s history and culture.  I lectured on my own work on Haymarket, psychogeography, and oral history (read it here: I live in three different Bostons).  I also oversaw a group of undergraduate research projects, some of the most fulfilling work I have done as a graduate student.

I began a series of interviews with artists about their relationship to place and work.  The first two, with potter Judy Motzkin and weaver Adele Stafford, are excerpted online under the title “A Kind of Silence.”  The next two, for the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard, will be available in the new year.  They were all wonderful conversations with deep thinkers about time, process, meaning, and land – and I look forward to sharing them with you.

IMG_0650Adele Stafford at work at her home studio loom.

IMG_0992materials in the home studio of Judith Motzkin

IMG_1944a boat under construction by Mare Liberum, at the Carpenter Center

I joined forces with a new friend and collaborator, Nicole Lattuca, to design, teach, and curate a summer-long creative research workshop for Cambridge teens, Our Riverside.  Our young researchers made such lovely work, all about the neighborhood I live in.  It was so rewarding to do such a local project with people who know the place where I live even better than I do.

6TBbIn7AImwa3pQJ-RFgqcI-ybrVm2TlHDeUD6y_vK0,QPFXzhsND3p0G8SE9vtBpVFAY3lnSr2OI7LaosBVOF8Me and Nicole at the opening of the exhibition, “Between the Boundaries,” where we showed student work, process materials, and a selection from the archives of the Cambridge Community Center, which hosted the program.

This summer was also the beginning of what I hope will be an ongoing practice – I hosted a retreat at my home, with a small community of women who do place-based creative work.  They are journalists, artists, educators, activists and urban planners.  It was a beautiful weekend and I was so grateful to make this new work with them.

IMG_1579A selection of wild things we gathered during our silent walk along the Charles River.

2015_07_Cultivate_Retreat_DSC01654-1.JPGOur retreat altar.  Photo by Meral Agish.

During the year I continued to develop seasonal ceremonies and rituals here in Cambridge.  I lit candles in December to remind myself of the last days of growing darkness, and I hid plastic eggs filled with spring poems for neighbors to find on Easter morning.  All of these projects are accompanied by texts, usually poems.  I shared my altar-making practice in a little essay at t.e.l.l. New England, too.IMG_2490.jpgThe first candle, December 1.

I continue to photograph and bury dead animals, and marvel at the wildness that surrounds my urban life.  I look forward to seeing how raising my son changes this perspective, as it has for many city walkers.  Someday I’ll finish the essay I’m writing about wildness, based on some of the books I read over the summer – H is for Hawk, the Buried Giant, Feral, and the Wolf Border – which all contain their own ruminations on birth, parenthood, death, and the hidden things that stalk the landscape, and our minds.

dead baby sparrow.jpg

What do I document? How should I remember? How can I stop time and also savor its motion? When do I mourn, and when celebrate?

The old year ends, a new one begins.  Join me.





The smell of cardamom

Happy New Year everyone.

Today – or sometime in the next week, depending on which Christian tradition you might come from – is the day when the Christmas season is traditionally put aside.  I got home to Cambridge last night from two weeks of celebration with friends and family, in Oakland and Berkeley, Austin and Dallas.  There were new babies and puppies to meet, old mementos to look through, and even a trip to San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, a new production that I have grown to love as much as the one I grew up with.

But, like many of you are, I’m ready for the joy of the holiday season to make way for the quiet work of resolutions and planning, new projects simmering with my weekly pot of beans.  My social media is filled with “I love this time of year” confessions, moments of solitude in the middle of white-dusted sidewalks or, in my case, the stacks of the library.  Weekend afternoons under blankets with an endless mug of something hot.  So, in keeping with tradition, for me tonight’s the night for the last lingering bit of Christmas richness, and a look ahead to a winter of nourishment instead of indulgence, silence instead of conversation, intimacy instead of celebration.

On the first night of Hanukkah I had a group of friends over, like I do to mark every seasonal transition.  I made a variation of this latke recipe.  I asked each friend to bring a branch.  After dinner we stood by the firepit on our back porch, and I asked everyone to reflect on the Hanukkah story, and think about what warmth in their lives they had been able to sustain for longer than they had expected. It could be a resolution, I said, or a reflection about the past year.  When they finished, they tossed their branches in the fire, which sizzled and smoked and smelled like pine.

What I’ve been thinking about this season is that Christmas and Hanukkah aren’t just about light in dark times — they’re about richness and luxury, as much indulgence as you can afford, and sustaining that, for as long as you can.  I like the idea of finding this richness in heavily perfumed foods that surround the senses, or with special treats laced with butter or fried in oil.  One of my favorite gifts I received this holiday season was a Ziploc bag of homemade snickerdoodles.  Its about those perfumes lingering, like the smell of latke cooking oil on our clothes, or the cardamom that hovers just out of reach, long after the baking is done.  Cardamom smells like India and Sweden to me all at once – sultry and exotic, and warming against the cold. Baking recipes were my poems this season. I felt like I was searching for smells as I slept.

I made a version of Alice Medrich’s shortbread twice – instead of aniseed, I included about 1/4-1/2 tsp coarsely crushed cardamom seeds, smashed with raw, soaked almonds into a kind of paste.  I also reduced the amount of sugar by about a tablespoon and used salted, roasted almonds on top.  It was a perfect snack with cheese, or with tea and coffee.  I’ve made the aniseed version many times – the recipe yields a nutty, caramelized tasting shortbread that is totally unique.

My other constant this season has been the herbal root chai from Steph Zabel of Flowerfolk Apothecary.  It simmers for 20 minutes on the stovetop, and makes my whole house smell of spices.  I can’t drink much alcohol these days, so it’s a welcome substitute for the mulled wine/gluhwein/glogg/wassail I usually enjoy at this time of year.  My husband smells it the moment he walks in the door.

There were lots of other recipes I didn’t get to try this winter – notably, a bunch with saffron.  They’re posted to Pinterest, along with other richly spiced treats I’ve enjoyed in previous years, like the lebkuchen from Lecklerlee (my Christmas party hostess gift one year).  Some year I will make mince pies, since I loved them so much during one Christmas in London, when the Columbia Road shops served miniature ones, mounded with powdered sugar, on little platters alongside styrofoam cups of mulled wine.

The richness of the season also came to me this year in the crafts and decorations I was drawn to – himmeli and wheat weavings, which transform harvest waste into intricate representations of brightness.  They’re displayed indoors for the winter as a promise of abundance for the coming growing season.  As with spices, the more elaborate, the better.  My little brother, who is 10, made the most elaborate Spirograph designs for me to use as ornaments and gift tags, which I hung on garlands in my doorway, with sprigs of pine.  He is also an origami master, and all of the complex paper stars, folds upon folds, of the season reminded me of him.  I, however, tried to make a simple five-point, and failed.

But all of that is gone now.  Tonight I burned some frankincense and took down the himmeli (the wheat weaving will stay on my mantel until Spring), the Santa ornaments, and the little Christmas tree that was on our dining room table.  I simmered some root chai, made compote with the remaining sweet dried fruits, settled in with the Bachelor, and awaited the quiet part of winter.

Where we lay the dead.

Happy Halloween!

I love the deep quiet that cemeteries have, even if there are leaves crunching and birds squabbling.  I get the feeling feeling that I’m able to barely brush against something eternal.  As a child I would often be taken on walks at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted.  I suspect this gave me the idea that cemeteries are places for peace and rest, whether you are living or dead.

Here are some cemetery photos I’ve taken in the past year – you may have seen them on Instagram already.  The oldest of the grave markers are from the Eliot Burying Grounds in Roxbury.  It’s usually locked behind a large wrought iron fence.  For two years I used to stand under the horse chestnut tree outside its gates to wait for the bus, and wonder what it would be like to walk inside.  Happily, on a recent walking tour in the neighborhood I got the chance.  I was told that the adjacent building was recently renovated, and when they tore up the foundation they found graves.  I wondered what other sacred places our current buildings cover.

The first images are from last fall, at Mount Auburn Cemetery, a favorite strolling place for me.  And the last images are from the other day, in Edinburgh, the Dean Village Cemetery.  Dean Village was developed in the Victorian era, along the Water of Leith.  I loved the informative turn of the century stones, especially this one:

George Herbert Tayler Swinton, d. 1923, who “at great sacrifice repurchased the lands of his ancestors.” His father, Archibald Adam Swinton, Esq., was formerly of the Bengal Civil Service, and simply “fell asleep at Trecunter Lodge, London, Jan 1894 at the age of 73. His wife, Isabella Reid Swinton, died in the same place in 1909.

George HT Swinton lost his wife Mary the same year as his father.

One wonders if he began to consider reacquiring his family lands after that year of loss.  I wonder what that took.  I wonder what each of these lives were like.


Celebrate: Halloween

“legend says there is a seam  / stitching darkness like a name.” 

(Annie Finch)

Tomorrow is Halloween.  Why not get in the mood?  I’ve never been much for costumes but I love the iconography and the old meanings of the holiday, the day of the year when this world and the next stand just next to each other, and small glimpses across the divide become easier.

I’ve been interested in watching Dia de los Muertos become more mainstream in the States, too!  When I was home in California I reflected that it felt so much more authentic to the place, so I loved seeing skull sugar candies in supermarkets next to Halloween candy, and hearing about how families and schools celebrate it now.  A holiday for celebrating ancestors, feeling the presence of the past, is a wonderful thing. It’s what this time of year is for me.

Here are some of the things that have been knocking around in my head this week as I think about the coming of Halloween.

. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe.  I have a thing for the “archival fiction” genre, in which a scholar finds or searches for something magical in an archive, which brings the past alive.  This book has all the ingredients of a great one, plus a rich potrayal of the city of Salem, MA and the main character’s family house, the nooks and crannies and overgrown garden doors of which become characters themselves.  It is about witches and making peace between mothers and daughters across generations, and about the Second Sight, something I’ve been hearing many stories about since I got to Scotland.  A perfect pick for Halloween reading.

. I’ve had a little ditty in my head all week.  “One to come, one to stay, one to dance the macabray.”  It worms into my resting mind, “all will dance the macabray…now let’s dance the macabray.”  These snips of poem come from a chapter in Neil Gaiman’s A Graveyard Book.  The chapter is self contained, a scene nestled inside a larger plot, so you don’t have to read the whole thing to find its magic.  And happily you can watch Neil Gaiman read this chapter, titled “Danse Macabre,” on YouTube. It is a great bedtime story, no matter your age.  You can accompany your listening — or your reading of Halloween poems — with Bela Fleck’s “Danse Macabre,” written for the story.

. When I was in San Francisco I picked up potions from Sister Spinster for myself and some of the important women in my life.  I gave them each a different potion that I thought might meet a need in their lives.  For myself, I picked Ghosts: “A vibrational remedy that allows us to see only truth. Sometimes our truths are dark, but we all can walk through shadow with grace; deciphering what we need to release so we can better do our work in the world.”  I have had astonishingly vivid, memorable dreams since then.

. I love Studio Arhoj’s ghosts, which keep watch over my home from my mantel.  Their ghost lamps are just the thing for Halloween.

. I have a sage bush in my backyard that just grows riotous.  We prune it back and put bunches out on our front stoop at least once a year.  In the fall I turn them into smudge sticks, wrapped tight in cotton twine.  I heard a story the other night about a family who has an outdoor booth at a sacred stone in the Highlands, and every Samhain they take it apart and bring it inside.  Halloween is a night of thresholds – between the home and the outside, as the trick or treaters go by, between this world and the next – so why not stand in your doorway with a candle, some dried herbs, a stick of incense, and mark the boundary?

. I can’t resist more Louise Glück.  Here is her “All Hallows” (from I love thinking about “the barrenness of harvest or pestilence,” especially after reflecting on the abundance of September.

all hallows-01


My October: fire and quake

for the next week I’ll be in Edinburgh, Scotland, at a storytelling festival called “Once Upon a Place.”  I’ll also be thinking about this time of year, which the Celts who created Scotland’s bardic traditions called Samhain (the predecessor of Halloween).  In many folk traditions, this is the time of the year when the boundary between this world and the next is thinnest.  There will be stories about land and I can’t wait to share them with you.

October has a whiff of calamity. As a child in the San Francisco Bay Area I lived through two natural disasters, and they both happened in late October.

In 1989, the Loma Prieta earthquake hit San Francisco on a Tuesday evening at rush hour.  I was six.  When the rumbling began, my mother gathered my sister and me under the broad wooden doorjamb in our dining room.  My sister’s little friend froze under the ceiling fan; I remember the feeling of urgency with which my mom darted out from our place of security in order to scoop her up and bring her to safety.

I don’t remember being scared of the shaking, but I remember what happened after.  My dad was supposed to have been coming home from work on the bus.  Across the Bay Bridge.  Which had split in two.

There were hours of waiting.  The jingle of the radio traffic reports playing on our silver turntable radio dial every ten minutes echo in my ear when I think about it.  Where was my Dad.  When will he be able to come home.

It turned out he’d turned back to the office and missed his bus, and missed the collapse of the bridge.  I don’t remember now if it was for a coat, or a drink, or a peek at the World Series game on a television somewhere.  I don’t remember the first phone call, or the moment he came home.  But I remember the dread that radiated from my mother, that poured out of the radio speakers into my little living room, that October night.

Two years later, my parents were driving me home from a friend’s birthday party at a bowling alley, through the fall landscape of brittle brown hills and oak trees.  The air turned black and choking.  Smoke reached towards the car and closed around us.  The hills were on fire.  They called it the Oakland Hills Firestorm.

Over the next two days my elementary school would burn.  My friends’ homes would burn.  My prized possessions burned; I was Person of the Week at school, and my vintage copy of the Wizard of Oz, pointe shoe signed by my ballet teacher, and other special objects that I no longer remember were eaten by the flames along with the good work stars on the wall and the books about Ancient Egypt.

Grownups walked around with bandanas on their mouths; we kids were kept inside.  My grandparents made plans to evacuate to our house, which was safely located in the flat part of town, where there was more asphalt than tinder grass and eucalyptus.  We prepared an evacuation box just in case.  What should we take? We asked ourselves.  Family photos.  My stuffed koala.  The things that weren’t at school.

I realize that most of my memory of these events was my perception of the emotions of the grown-ups around me.  And the lingering sense that in October, something is not right.  Anything can happen.  The Diablo Winds brought danger on those tongues of heat.

When I was home in Oakland earlier this month, these memories crackled.  October in California is about burning, and bones, not witches and pumpkins.  My skin pulled tight and dry.  And I couldn’t stop thinking about fire.

IMG_6040 IMG_6043 IMG_6046 IMG_6100 IMG_6106On my last day, the weather broke.  From my mother’s kitchen window I could see the fog march down over Pacific mountains and across the bay.

IMG_6121The next morning I wrote:

The people in the painted houses shivered

and sucked in relief with the grey

while the city glowed.






September Tomatoes

“September Tomatoes” by Karina Borowicz has become one of my touchstones this season.  
Preview of “September Tomatoes by Ka...- The Poetry Foundation”

Traditions are a way of measuring the passage of time – the day, the week, the year, the passing years – because they force us to tune into change.  Where were we during the last time we celebrated a season changing?  The last time we ate apples and honey?  Who were we with, how were we feeling?  Family traditions can be especially evocative in this way, because we feel them assemble in a kind of continuum over the course of our lives.  As adults, I feel like we live these traditions in a kind of double time: in the present, as a way to attend to the moment or the celebration in our current lives, and in our memories, as we remember our own experience as a child participating in them.  Celebrating each holiday or keeping each tradition in a way is the feeling of reliving each one that you’ve kept previously — and if it’s a cultural or family tradition, reliving all of those kept by the people before you.  It’s a burden and a joy to find a way to live traditions as an adult, when you have to keep them yourself, and make them for others.

“September Tomatoes” I think is about this feeling.  Borowicz goes from a very specific, personal meditation on the feeling of pulling up a tomato plant in her backyard, to

“My great grandmother sang with the girls of her village as the pulled the flax.  Songs so old and so tied to the season that the very sound seemed to turn the weather.”

IMG_5912The last stanza of the poem is about tradition, about how a community’s labor and its land are so in sync with the passage of time that cause and effect seem blurred. Here, tradition is about communality.  Whereas the growing of the tomato plants is such a labor of individual care —  “I’ve carefully cultivated” the tomato plants, she says — the “girls of the village” pull flax, and share songs together.  “Songs so old.”  I think the jarring relationship this stanza has with the previous three reflects how different abundance is when it’s individual rather than collective, when the requirements of the change in season come with culture and shared traditions.  I feel like there’s a plaintive tone in these lines which is in tune with the kind of searching I feel for shared practice.  Pulling up tomato plants feels cruel because it seems final, “destroying” the work of “all those months.”  Traditions, however, are cyclical; there was flax and song every year.  But not anymore.

There’s a richness in those first three stanzas, though, that’s not represented in the fourth.  It’s a sensory awareness – “whiskey stink,” a “burst of fruit flies” and “claws of tiny yellow blossoms.”  Awareness is something that I think is just as important as tradition when it comes to being a part of a place and its seasons, and I think it connects you to others who share the same sense for place and time. 

I picked up a chestnut at the same time as a woman I was walking alongside the other day. “I love how smooth they are,” she told me, “I pick one up and keep it in my pocket, and just roll it around in my fingers all day.  They remind me of growing up in England. Chestnuts say fall to me.”  Sensory awareness is very much grounded in the present moment but can also connect you to your past, like the smooth feel of chestnut under her chilly fingers.

What makes you feel like fall has come?  Chestnuts (and acorns! and mysterious seed pods hanging from unidentified trees!) say fall for me.  Mums on front porches.  When it starts to get dark during dinner.  Birds flocking in our backyard eating grass seeds.  A friend reminded me that there’s a shift in the air that says fall, too. And more tomatoes than we know what to do with.

So we shared our tomato abundance with our friends.  And we reflected individually about abundance that we have failed to share with others, abundance that we regret not taking advantage of.  This regret is part of the personal work of fall, a natural response to the experience of moving from abundance to austerity.  During the High Holy Days, after you throw your regrets in the water like we threw our seedpods, you are expected to make amends, especially with the people who you’ve affected, for this “missing the mark” (what I was taught “sin” is literally translated to in Hebrew).  This happens over the following ten days, and then you atone with a fast on Yom Kippur.  You begin with a bounty, with sweetness, then you reflect, you repair or ask forgiveness, you cleanse, and then you’re ready to start a new year.

Another thing. A “harvest” time like in the great great grandmother stanza is a time of work.  It took work to change from fat to lean, to take advantage of abundance so it does not go to waste.  Traditions can be traditions of labor.  I think too often I think of them only in terms of leisure.

Cultivating: Harvest

On the Autumnal Equinox, I put out a cutting board laden with apples and honey. I sliced an apple at its equator and left it open on the table, revealing the star of seeds. Apples and honey are a symbol of Rosh Hashanah, the first holiday of the Jewish High Holy Days and the marker of the Jewish New Year, but that core of seeds made me think of Persephone.  Seeds, the rhythms of the day and the year, the poetry and work of abundance and austerity — those are some of the things that this season means to me.

IMG_5907Persephone, the daughter of Demeter (Goddess of the land and earth), was just a girl, playing in the fields, when she was taken by her uncle Hades and brought to the underworld. While she shivered in the darkness, her mother roamed the earth, her grief shriveling crops and blackening seeds. Hades offered Persephone a pomegranate, a gesture of the summer that she had left behind aboveground. When Demeter found them, she negotiated for her daughter’s release. Hades demanded that Persephone return to him every year, one month for every pomegranate seed she had eaten. Seven seeds. When her daughter returned to the living, Demeter restored the fields and a time of warmth and growth followed. And then, when Hades came to take her back, Demeter’s grief once again turned the world to death, to follow her daughter. And so we have the seasons. Ripe fruits are the seeds of death, and a journey into darkness only brings us closer to the spring.

Persephone, for her part, never quite felt at home on the surface, in her mother’s world of abundance and nourishment. Part of her relished the damp austerity and the darkness beneath. It felt like relief, somehow.IMG_6102

Like all myths and traditions, this story contains the truth of what it feels like to slip from the fullness of summer into the stripped color of fall. And so on the equinox we shared apples and honey, and the overwhelming number of tomatoes that our garden has recently produced. We sang songs about purification and joy with hundreds of our neighbors at the Revels RiverSing, and then we walked along the Charles River, in the moonlight, and read a poem. I led a kind of hybrid tashlikh/equinox ritual: I had everyone bring a seed or seed pod to the gathering.  When we got to the river I asked, “When have you failed to share your abundance with the people you love? When have you allowed plenty to become overindulgence, waste, and guilt?” And when we’d reflected on the question, each of us, on our own time, threw our seeds into the river.

So I offer here some of my seasonal reflections, and some objects and stories that might help you with yours. As always, check my Pinterest board for more.

. Louise Glück’s Averno is a book of poems about Persephone. It’s a favorite of mine. I’ve felt the Greek myths creeping behind my thoughts many times in my life, since my grandmother read them aloud to me when I was a girl. Poetic interpretations are the best ones.

Here’s a stanza from “October,” which feels just right for this 80 degree day.

Summer after summer has ended,
balm after violence:
it does me no good
to be good to me now;
violence has changed me.

Daybreak. The low hills shine
ochre and fire, even the fields shine.
I know what I see; sun that could be
the August sun, returning
everything that was taken away –

You hear this voice? This is my mind’s voice;
you can’t touch my body now.
It has changed once, it has hardened,
don’t ask it to respond again.

A day like a day in summer.
Exceptionally still. The long shadows of the maples
nearly mauve on the gravel paths.
And in the evening, warmth. Night like a night in summer.

It does me no good; violence has changed me.
My body has grown cold like the stripped fields;
now there is only my mind, cautious and wary,
with the sense it is being tested.

Once more, the sun rises as it rose in summer;
bounty, balm after violence.
Balm after the leaves have changed, after the fields
have been harvested and turned.

Tell me this is the future,
I won’t believe you.
Tell me I’m living,
I won’t believe you.

. Another poem that’s really resonated with me this season was “September Tomatoes” by Karina Borowicz, a MA poet.  I posted my writing about this poem separately. I encourage you to sit with a poem and read it out loud – it’s the only way to get the rhythm into your body and your breath.

.Take a listen to Richard Reed Parry’s Music for Heart and Breath, which I first learned about on NPR. A meditation on rhythm that resonates with much of what I’ve been thinking about.

IMG_5692IMG_5704. I have been weaving while listening to Music for Heart and Breath, letting my hands sync to the music and my mind grow patient.  I’ve been making branch weavings lately, inspired by the women at 3191 Miles Apart (a wonderful project filled with the poetry of everyday life). The branches are from a willow tree near my house.  You can make your own cardboard loom, like I did.

. Adele Stafford is the weaver and thinker behind Voices of Industry, in San Francisco. She hand looms the most exquisite fabric from wool and cotton, and she is deeply engaged in the land that her materials come from. Take a look at the photo essays on her blog and the profiles of the farmers that she works with, who are committed to a slow, organic, mindful way of producing.poetry holds-01

. Whether poetry’s new for you or something you already love, I emphatically recommend to you the conversation between On Being’s Krista Tippett and poet Marie Howe, called, after Howe’s most recent book, “The Poetry of Ordinary Time.”  Not only does their conversation touch very much on these themes of the patient, meditative (even sacred) qualities of everyday tasks, but it’s the best discussion of poetry I’ve ever heard.  “There’s a silence at the center of a poem,” she said.

. I started this post with the image of an apple. I might have had apples on the brain because of Rosh Hashanah, or I might have been thinking about them because I had recently heard Rowan Jacobsen talk about his new book Apples of Uncommon Character. It’s filled with great stories about heirloom apples and how they traveled around the country, stories about local pride and historical accidents. And there are recipes! This might be a great gift for the apple/fall enthusiast in your life, or something that you bring out into your own kitchen every fall to reflect on this fruit’s role in our nation’s history. NPR did a great story about heirloom apples recently – they’re having a resurgence, like the heirloom cotton Adele Stafford weaves.

. Apples are actually part of this amazing plant family the rosaceae, which includes roses, crabapples, hawthorns, quinces, and even the wonderful medlar. So don’t limit yourself! Get inspired by hedgerow fruits of all kind. Make rosehip liqueur like a Scandinavian (PS that allotment gardening column is amazing), pick up a pear butter from June Taylor (who also makes some fantastic medlars preserved in brandy, available later in fall/winter – another California maker who just totally makes me swoony), or get fancy and order the totally incredible Sloe Sherry Liqueur from Demijohn in Scotland (also excellent: Somerset Pomona, an apple liqueur, and the Wild Bullace Liqueur).  Ciders are having a renaissance in the US today too – Carr’s Ciderhouse makes beautiful hard ciders and cider vinegars, and is a Martha Stewart American Made finalist, and Russell Orchards Dry Reserve is a natural on a holiday spread, and very low alcohol.  I love it when ciders are funky and dry, in the English style.  Sadly, many traditional New England cider houses have been converted to wineries in recent years.

. Last weekend my husband and I went to the Topsfield Fair, the oldest agricultural fair in America.  It shares with its descendants a love for fried food and absurdly sized pumpkins, but it contains the kernel of what all of these large fall festivals we enjoy now originally meant.  It’s about the abundance of the harvest, celebrating the work by farmers it takes to bring that abundance to market, and the work by housewives and domestic workers it takes to preserve it. And it was so much fun.

. If you’re marking this season with little ones (or even if you aren’t), may I suggest Miss Maple’s Seeds, and A Seed is Sleepy?  I selected

IMG_5931 both of these as part of my Neighborhood Explorers book collection.  Both books show the seed as both mysterious and beautiful for the hidden life inside, and might get you and your children collecting nuts and pods on your walks, whether to admire or to plant.  They have the kind of quiet wonder that I love in children’s books.  And for the seed lover in your life, I also love the exuberant color of the More & Co. Magic Seed crewneck.  

. At this time of year I can’t resist Simon and Garfunkel. They were young men obsessed with aging, and their own mortality. I can’t think of a better musical foil for the Persephone story. Try a live album – 1967 or 1969 are both on Spotify. It gives a sense of the men and how they grew.

. This is a time of year when I spend much of my time in the kitchen, for the slow but satisfying process of making the season’s abundance last and those nights when the warmth from a baking oven seems just the thing. A Rosh Hashanah tradition is honey cake, and I love this one, from Smitten Kitchen. Sometimes I mince in some apples, and I always add about 1/3 cup of sesame seeds.  When I put on my Fog Linen Square Cross Apron, I somehow feel like myself.

IMG_5913. In autumn that divide between inside labor and outside labor begins to feel more important. Your boots are wet from chilly rain. You want to keep the back door closed against the cold. Marking the threshold between home and outside is a sign of autumn. Put a wreath on your front door. And put a Vermont Wooden Doormat outside.

. After the High Holidays begins Sukkot, a harvest celebration based on the practices of building a sukkah, a three sided booth with a natural material for a roof, through which you must be able to see the sky.  This holiday invites people to share an intimate space outside, under the stars.  I’ve been smitten with this holiday for years, though I’ve never had much occasion to celebrate it in the intimate way described in this incredible article from Saveur, about Sukkot food traditions in Brooklyn.

. So, last week was the Hunter’s Moon, the full moon that represented to the Native Americans the time when the animals were fattest and the lean months were coming.  In the American calendar and the New England climate, it begins a kind of celebratory season, from harvest festivals to celebrations of death and tradition to “the holidays” – that long stretch between Thanksgiving and New Uears.

So here’s my question to leave you with – the question I’m

IMG_5906IMG_5928trying to answer for myself, and one that I discuss with many friends lately.  How do we make space for both tradition/celebration AND the mindfulness of everyday tasks, as we enter this celebratory period?  What does sharing your bounty mean to you?