Sweet irony -- we were so busy yesterday enjoying the beginnings of autumn that I never got around to writing my fall-themed Friday Five! (The photo above, by the way, is from last autumn, up in the Lake Leelanau area.)
1. Share a Fall memory.
One of my fondest recent fall memories is of two autumns ago when we took Cody, my irascible, irreplaceable 16-year-old Maltese, up to the Leelanau for the better part of a week. The Codeman was half-blinded by cataracts, largely deaf and stiff with arthritis...but he had the time of his life. We devoted one day to exploring the old farmsteads of the Port Oneida Historical Area, and I can still remember him running -- running -- with glee through the old orchards and fields. He died that Thanksgiving, and I remember my grief being blunted by the knowledge that he had literally had the time of his life just a few weeks earlier. Whenever I hear Sting's "Fields of Gold" I think of my little white dog prancing through the autumn grasses.
2. Your favorite Fall clothes--(past or present)?
I love fall colors, first of all -- browns and golds and rusts and scarlets. I love big baggy sweaters and hoodies. I love the smell of fall outerwear, which reminds me of my dad's old buffalo-plaid hunting jacket.
3. Share a campfire story, song, experience...etc.
My family was not so much into bonfires and such -- I don't think I ever experienced a fall campfire until I was in college, on a Lutheran Student Movement retreat out in rural Ohio-diana (can't remember which state). I do recall, during one such fall event, having some emotionally touched co-camper put his arm around my waist and my thinking, "Please don't put your hand there." I was so polite then.
4. What is your favorite thing about this time of year?
For me fall feels more like a new year than New Year's Day. It seems like a natural time to take stock of the previous year, to celebrate one's literal and figurative harvests, to start over again.
5. What changes are you anticipating in your life, your church, family...whatever...as the season changes and winter approaches?
A major change in our family is impending grandmotherhood...which is especially interesting since I missed that whole motherhood step. (This seems to be a trend in my family, by the way -- several of my cousins also got paired up later in life and became instant grandparents.) I'm feeling some trepidation about assuming some of the usual tasks of grandparenthood -- for instance, while I'm well acquainted with pet poopiness in all its manifestations, changing a diaper is a mystery to me -- but feeling pretty good about others: storytelling; transmitting family memories; nature hikes and kitchen projects and other fun stuff when the chitlin gets bigger. At church, I find that my ministry activities are spreading out into different directions; I care a lot about worship, and assisting is a primary responsibility as a lay minister in our congregation, but in the last month I've also expanded our church's online presence about threefold, and find myself in an increasing role as an educator as I create content for our various online projects. As far as other vocation -- well, who knows where I'll be in the next year; but I'm finding myself increasingly happy and satisfied in the realm of domesticity. I think my relationship with paid employment has changed forever, in a positive direction, in that I have finally smashed the idol of seating my identity and worth in a paying job. It's a liberating feeling. I know that the next paid employment I have will not swallow my life and loyalties the way my past jobs have, because I've tasted the fullness of life as a free agent, and it's a sweet thing. So the only constant in my life this fall seems to be change. And I'm okay with that.
Bonus question: What is a favorite fall food? Apples and squash. We are gearing up, at our house, for a major applesauce canning extravaganza in a couple of weeks. I also have a fondness for heirloom apples, and next weekend we are going to a local orchard that advertises 100 different varieties...when we go up to the Leelanau later in the fall we'll probably visit Christmas Cove Orchard, which has many more varieties; an entire pole barn filled with tantalizing crates of multicolored, multi-shaped, multi-sized apples with evocative names like Blue Sheepnose and Cox's Orange Pippin and Fameuse. I am a latecomer to the charms of winter squash -- I was in my 20's before I could easily eat a hunk of baked butternut -- but I'm now a fan; and my goal this fall is to try "one of everything" offered by our local growers. (I'm a little scared of trying to hack open the Hubbards, but I guess where there's a will there's a way.) Recipe hint: While I do like baking squash my mom's way, with generous dollops of butter and brown sugar, I've also made it with savory seasonings -- carmelized onion, sage, some Parmesan cheese -- and have enjoyed that as well. And -- for you grillers out there -- butternut squash necks cut lengthwise into strips about a quarter inch thick, then brushed with olive oil and seasonings of choice, work well on the grill; are a great accompaniment to grilled pork.
Bonus: What food says "AUTUMN" at your house?