Friday, November 16, 2007

Fall Harvest Dinner

I know I've been slacking terribly lately. I'm going to pick it up again after Thanksgiving. I've been cleaning, reorganizing, and writing a lot on paper. I've also spent some time cooking. Most notably yesterday, when I prepared a seven-course dinner for Johanna's birthday. It was one of those meals that was perfect in every way - slow, mindful eating, gratitude in every bite. Good company, good food harvested from the earth. A long, comfortable, blessed meal. This is what I'm working toward - the time when meals become blessings, when to sit down and eat is the greatest comfort, when we can breath deeply and thankfully and linger over our meals and find in them a way to open ourselves toward wonder.

The menu

butternut squash soup with sage, roasted garlic, and cream, sage shortbread, kale chips

arugula, clementines, toasted pumpkin seeds, parmesan, garlic-lemon vinaigrette

curried lamb turnovers with apples, onions, and walnuts

wild rice pilaf with shittake mushrooms, pine nuts, toasted fennel seeds and broccoli on a bed of wilted winter greens

baked delicata squash stuffed with farmhouse cheddar, apples and walnuts sautéed with thyme, and wilted spinach

pumpkin gnocchi with roasted garlic herbed cream sauce, cider-glazed roasted carrots, red cabbage stewed with wine and apples, wilted broccoli rabe

gingerbread muffins, baked spiced apples with caraway, coriander and cardamom, bitter hot chocolate with maple syrup, cinnamon and cayenne

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Daily Prayer

Grey wind and ginger tea. The way the sun falls off the edge of the earth every night, the light on radishes and winter squash. Standing in the driveway of the Melone House, watching winter-pink gold-rimmed clouds soar across the sky like sailboats, wondering about the mechanism of wind. Sunsets at the farm. The way a shock of nameless birds shattered across the sky this morning, a mass of small pebbles dancing. Harvesting chard alone in the back field, the voice of the hillside, the bank of clouds on the horizon, wall-solid and brick-blue. The weight of a pumpkin. The scent of apples, the early mornings, the dark tea. The light everywhere, everywhere, the way it shines through a day and changes the shapes of wind and oak and crates of spinach. The scent of fall brushing my back, the hard line of the sun sinking behind the side garden, the way it silences the farm, the way it silences my heart, the texture of wind moving through darkness, belonging to a place.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Broccoli Prayer (Wednesday, October 16, 2007)

This morning first thing we drove up north, to the field we call Greenpower, to harvest broccoli. The first miracle is that the name of the field is Greenpower. Most of our fields are simply numbered, and so our talk runs something like, “I’m going out to eight to get the beets, but I can meet you in four afterwards if you want help with the greens.” Going “up north to Greenpower” is something entirely different. It’s about a mile across town from the main farm. There’s no people up there, and from the middle of the field, you can’t see any houses. There’s just the wide sky, the circle of trees, the earth. It is always silent, in the way that the deep woods are silent: punctured with the voice of the wind, the cries of black crows, the scampering of mice and snakes trying to keep warm and avoid the gaze of hawks. Every time I pull in to Greenpower off the long dirt road, something in me settles and quiets. My breathing stills to the rhythm of the field. Places are sneaky. They can slip inside your heart unexpectedly, though you never meant to fall in love with them.

After the familiar sound of the name Greenpower in my mouth, the miracles were countless. That’s one way, I believe, to define a prayer: countless miracles. We got a frost last night and there was ice shining on the green heads of broccoli as we bent down toward them with our knives. It was so cold our hands went numb and we had to pause every few feet, banging them against our thighs to warm them up. It was a true morning up there, cold and frosted and silent. The sun was a hard golden line behind a bank of dark fall clouds, the bluest most pine-hard wall you’ve ever seen. The frost netted the broccoli like fine-veined crystal, layered in patterns of blue and silver like new lace. The ice on the bright green heads shook and quivered each time I put my warm hand on a cold stalk and cut. As the sun slowly worked its way out from behind the clouds the ice dripped and cracked away. Once the light was on the plants the whole field erupted white and brilliant. On our left was a stand of winter rye pushing its way up out of the dark, just-tilled soil, and on our right was a row of dead cornstalks Erik left when he ploughed up the field. The cornstalks were a hard, blazing brown, bent and broken, as a dead a thing as you’ve ever seen. The winter rye was still small, and standing in the field among all the brown and white and grey it looked like someone started a fire of needles in the soil. The young shoots were sharp and when the sun and wind passed over them they glistened like waves.

Harvesting at Greenpower in the early morning, I was surrounded by things scared and solid. Broccoli dazzled with ice, the sky a contrast of sharp and hard, soft and vast, the young rye that keeps the field healthy through the long winter. There were the dark clouds and then the sun breaking over everything, sending a waterfall of light over the broccoli, deepening its leaves into the brightest, smoky blue. There was the ice that sizzled into water when it met the heat of my hands, and the sound of the knife slicing through the flesh of a plant.

I am still trying to figure out what it is about farming that opens these windows in my heart. Maybe it is the sound of ice crystals sliding down the heavy green leaves of the broccoli, leaves as big as a child’s head. Maybe it’s waking up and being out in the world first thing in the morning. Maybe it’s the sky over my head all day and what that tells me about love and loneliness. Maybe it’s the way I follow the sun with the curve of my back as it crosses the sky, as it changes color from soft pink to brilliant white to the saddest gold I’ve ever known. I don’t know what it is about being out in the fields that makes me feel this way, that makes me want to keep singing and weeding until there are no more prayers to speak. I only know that it changes something in my bones and the hollow of my throat and the skin behind my knees. I only know that this work opens me and opens me and opens me. It expands my capacity for joy, it mellows me out toward tenderness.

I want you to know what it was like this morning at Greenpower harvesting broccoli. I want you to know every detail. The white frost, the hard curtain of the sky, the angle of my back bent toward the earth, the weight of my full buckets as I carried them back down the bed, the one-armed movement I used to swing them up into the truck and how good it felt, how good it felt to use my muscles first thing in the morning. I want you to know these details because they are the only way I know how to love, the only way I know how to forgive, the only way I know how to be grateful. I want you to know what happened in my gut as I watched the fall sun slide out from behind the clouds, releasing the field into a circle of light. I want you to know how it felt to watch that light spread across the leaves of two hundred feet of broccoli plants. I want you to know how big a space that can open in a heart. I want you to feel the way my muscles softened under the sunlight, the way the whole world in that moment seemed to enter me.

I need you to know these things. I need you to know about the endless poems written in the way the dead cornstalks and the young winter rye moved against the sky. I need you to know that I fell in love again this morning. I fell in love with the movement of my body, with the ability of my legs to walk through the cold frosted rows and the ability of my arms to hold buckets and the ability of my heart to let these things touch it, to be changed by colors and seasons. I fell in love again this morning with the blessed dance of life and death that happens every day in farming, with the endless blessings in the colors blue and green and white. I fell in love with morning again, the kind of cold hard morning that dazzles your eyes and sharpens your heart, that stands up and announces that it’s another day in the world and you’d better notice all the blessings because each one of us has a finite number of days. I need you to know these things. I need you to know how small the ice crystals were, how every time they slid off the plants they made a sound like rain. I need you to know about the black cut of a crow as he flew crying over the clouds. I need you to know about the burning in my hands and the frigid footprints my boots made as I walked and harvested and wondered. I need you to know these things because it is the only way I know how to give away wonder.

This morning was cold and bitter. Harvesting broccoli, I loved the frost, the sky, the death of the corn. I need you to know how that love widened inside me, how I’ve been holding it in my muscles all day, how it inhabits my mouth and my fingers. I want that love to change you too. I want you to feel it on your eyelashes and in the breath that leaves your mouth. This is all I have to offer the world: frost on broccoli and sunlight on winter rye and the way a morning can speak a prayer that fills a body to overflowing.


At the end of the season the contrasts I love about the day-to-day work of farming are more defined. They’re sharper and harder, like the wind and the sunsets that grace our days in fall. There is always life and death in one day on a farm. But at the end of the season the dance is faster and brighter. I spent one golden afternoon this week laying row-cover over a field of tender greens to keep them warm as the sun wanes and the days get colder. I hooped and covered seven longs beds of baby spinach, mustard greens, kale, and arugula. When the wind blows through those tunnels of fabric it dances like a rodent running. In the fall we work hard to save what we can. We’re tender toward the crops. We cover the basil every night, the way a mother puts her child to sleep. Someone goes out there at sunset after we’ve closed the stand and puts the white blanket back over the long green stand of that fragrant herb. We’ll harvest what’s left of it and then till it in at the end of the week, but until then, we cover it up each night before we turn away to our own beds.

The other half of our work in the fall is destruction. Yesterday we spent all afternoon taking down the tomatoes. First we cut the twine away from the stakes. As soon as the support is gone, the dead vines fall into the earth. Then we pull out each neat row of stakes, one by one, until the field is left desolate and without order. I love taking down tomatoes. I seeded those in the greenhouse one late morning in the spring when the sunshine was just starting to warm my blood and my muscles were aching for the blessing of long days outside. I planted them in the hot sun of early summer. I weeded them more than once. I staked them and tied them. I spent hours harvesting them on countless afternoons and endless mornings. All summer I put the work of my hands and my heart into those tomatoes. I ate them raw in the field and simmered them down into a mess of red and golden sauce that tasted like soil and rain, like the sweet fragrance of morning and the warmth of home. All summer those vines have been producing their red and green and orange fruit. It is the middle of October. This morning there was ice draped over the broccoli. The tomatoes are done. We’ve got a few trays of mostly green ones back at the stand. Customers look at them and say, “This is the end of the tomatoes, isn’t it? It’s so sad, I just don’t know what I’m going to do!” They pout at me like I’ve broken their heart and I don’t have any sympathy. I know how they feel. It’s the end of the season and I’m sad too. I hate the day when I have to go back to the grocery store to buy kale and beets. But it’s the middle of October. This is what happens in the world. There’s life and there’s death. I’ve been eating those juicy red orbs for more than three months. Summer ends, and plants die. That’s the way it goes. Daylight fades into night and the moon waxes and wanes and waxes again. Tomatoes need heat but broccoli loves the cold. I’ve been eating tomatoes for three months. I’ll go almost nine without them. Yes, I’m sad, but this is what happens every year. It’s the middle of October and I’ve earned the right to tear town that tomato twine and yank those stakes out of the ground.

The fall hardens something in me. There is sadness in the falling leaves and the early darkness, but there is also relief. It’s been a long season and farming is hard work. We take longer breaks in the morning and the sunset forces us away from the farm at six. The house is warm. I’ve been eating a lot of soup. I love covering up the young mustards and spinach with row-cover to keep them warm. I love the way it feels walking back from the far field, the sun a bleeding golden line behind heavy clouds that might mean rain in the summer but in the fall merely mean, heaviness, knowing that the basil is tucked snug into the white fabric, knowing that the frost that is sure to come with the cold, clear night will only nip the few plants peeking out from under that net of safety.

I also love watching the dead tomato vines fall helpless to the spent field. I love the way the row of dead cornstalks up at Greenpower speaks its own language of sadness and necessity. I love the feeling of working a weathered tomato stake out of the ground, of the coarse wood grating on my hands and the movement of the wind along my arms as I toss it onto the growing pile of stakes atop the mess of rotting tomatoes and blackened plants. We live in a world where things live and die. It is not comfortable. I do not know what to do with death. I don’t want to leave the sunlight and the way my breath goes out of my body in the morning and takes its own shape against the cold air. I don’t want to leave the voices of the people I love and the movement of my legs and my shoulders as I walk down a bed, shoveling compost. But I love this world anyway, death and all. Tomato plants have lives, and so do the hornworms that eat them, and so do people.

Recently I’ve been thinking about the colors that define the cycles of seasons, about the openings and closings and cuttings of sorrow and joy that define the way we move through our lives, about how far we’ve cut ourselves off from the truth of how things grow and go back into the ground. I don’t want to love anything in pieces anymore. If you want to be a farmer you have to learn to walk with death. There is a silence that grows in me with the fall, a silence made of the toppled tomato plants and the young mustards struggling to live despite the dark days and the cold mornings. Broccoli loves the cold and frost makes carrots sweeter. Everything on this earth is stitched together with miracle. There are birds that overwinter in New England so small they have to move and eat constantly in order to stay alive. The tomatoes are gone now, but I have harvested Brussels sprouts on days so cold they burned our hands through our thick gloves and frosted our exposed eyebrows. Everything on this earth is stitched together with miracle. Everything we plant in the spring on the hard back of promise eventually dries up, hardens, dies. This is the world we live in. It isn’t comfortable. But I don’t want to love anything in pieces anymore. There isn’t space or time for broken love in this aching, tired world.

I only want to love what is whole, and things that are whole are born, and live, and die. Things that are whole have faces and tell stories. Things that are whole can weather storms, they’re built to last. I love red onions and broccoli made brighter by the ice crystals that shone on my hands as I harvested it in the cold morning. I love wet ink that dries on the page and spells out poems. I love the space between my two shoulder blades as I toss a shovelful of compost onto the field, compost stitched together with death. All day as I go about my work I toss things onto the compost pile: wilted carrot tops, rotten tomatoes, cornhusks. Those things decompose. The carrot tops and the flimsy eggplants break down, fall apart, become one. This morning we moved down the field tossing that rich, dark blessing onto the bed where we’re planting garlic. I don’t want to love things in pieces anymore. The hope in planting is obvious. Putting a seed into the ground is the ultimate act of faith. But that hope begins long before I bend over in the field and drop that garlic clove into the earth. It’s the death of something else that nurtures that seed and makes it grow. I loved the smell of the compost we shoveled onto the beds this morning, and the texture of it, dark and crumbling and of the earth. It was warm under the sun and my muscles were working fast, and later, alone under the blue arc of the sky, I bent down and planted pink-edged cloves of garlic into that dark, nutritious earth.

There isn’t any other prayer I know how to pray. I only want to love things that are whole. Everything in the world breaks down, crumbles, gets so small it wants to curl inside itself and disappear. Nothing in the world lasts unhinged and untarnished. Being whole is not the same as being brand new and never broken. Farming is just one big, complicated mess. Whole, dark, fragrant compost is only the broken ribs and seeds of dead vegetables. There is death everywhere in the fields these days, and there is also the sweetest, tenderest push for life. There cover crops that overwinter blue and shining, that sing their plant song all winter to the snow and the lonely wind. When the trees lose their leaves their nakedness opens up the forest into shapes you never knew where there. Everything that is whole is stitched together with the broken bits of something else.

I don’t want to love things in pieces anymore. The fall hardens my heartbones, opens my face, sets my hands singing. It’s the middle of October and I’ve earned the right to love the simple pleasure of watching those tomatoes topple as I slash through their support with a sharp knife. The season is curling up, tightening, getting smaller. I’m loving the tender mustard greens with all my muscle. I’m loving them whole and young. I’m loving the frost on the broccoli and the way the sunlight blasts over the fields just before it disappears at dusk. I’m loving these things with my whole and chipped-off body, with the nicks in my fingers from the harvest knife and the scars on my heart and the palms of my hands. I’m loving the kale and the butternut squash and the death that sits heavy and whole in their dark centers. Everything in this world is stitched together with miracle and death. I’m loving the blazing red leaves and the decaying tomatoes and the brown cornstalks strung like signposts to winter against the hard blue sky. I’m loving these things with my whole, broken body and the weight of it is an ache to too deep and too blue and too stained with the stories of bone and muscle to write down in ink.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Meditations on Winter

Winter is coming and what we have to be grateful for is warmth and fire. What we have to be grateful for is that we live in a place where the darkness reminds us that light is a blessing. The sun sets at six o’clock these days. It’s dusky as I throw burlap over the peppers and tomatoes and lock the stand. Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for is the sharp line of gold on the horizon and the pale mark of the moon in the sky. We live in a place where the light changes from day to day and the shape of the days change with each season. This is no small thing. The place where two seasons come together is a sacred place. The edges of things are what make them whole. It is hard for me to remember this. I want to be close to everything. I want to reach out into the world, touch the water, touch the maple and the beech, touch the dirt and the sunlight. I want to watch my hands disappear into the hearts of the things I love. I write and farm because I am always trying to get closer to the earth. The separation between me and the waves and the movement of the clouds at sunset and the life of a beet is an ache in my gut.

But winter is coming, and I am grateful for edges. The edge of the sky in the morning when I wake up and watch the light ink its way across the sky. The edges of my fingers where they touch the skins of potatoes and pumpkins. The dark edges of Walden Pond, the coastline where the waves bless the sand. The edges of my house, which keep the darkness outside for a little while, which draw a line of warmth and light and scent that spells home. The place where two seasons touch is a sacred place. I am starting to realize, as the wind blows heavier and the air swells with the wings of migrating geese, that the edges of things as important as their hearts. Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for is the cold that teaches us that warmth is a blessing. What we have to be grateful for, as the darkness approaches and the night comes earlier and colder, is what the darkness reminds us of: that the earth is always turning, that even though we are small our lives matter.

It was a long, grey week, and at the end of it, the clouds blew off and fall came in on a cold, dark wind. Johanna and I canned tomatoes, and halfway through I walked out of the kitchen into the driveway. The night was silent and absolute. I could feel the darkness on my skin and the way the wind had cleared the air and sharpened the stars. Fall was everywhere, the scent of it bringing memories of snow and fire. Night is lonely at this time of year, and even standing in the driveway twenty feet from the house, I could feel the immensity of the night.

Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for are the edges that remind us of how much it means to have a home, to belong to a place. Walking back into the house on Friday night, the scent of the kitchen slammed against the night like lightning. There was the darkness, and then there was the scent of tomatoes and basil simmering on the stove, the steam rising off the pots, the table laden with mason jars, the kitchen smelling of garlic and parsley, the heat and the light and the solid walls that keep us whole through the night.

Winter is coming what we have to be grateful for is that we get to walk through doorways out into darkness, and back through them into warmth. The loneliness of the night is sacred, and so is the companionship of putting up enough tomatoes to last us through the winter. Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for are the season that run through the center of our lives, forcing us to pay attention to the way time passes in the world: the soft turning over of day into night, the waning and waxing of the moon, the time of strawberries and the time of apples. Darkness and loneliness are always hard, but they remind us to pay attention to the sun. The cold stings our eyes and redraws our faces and reminds us how lucky we are to have the sensation of touch, to be awake in our lives.

Winter is coming, and what we have to be grateful for are the yellow circles of light in the windows, the feeling of hot tomato soup as it travels from our lips deep into our bellies, the darkness that carves the moon a brighter white. What we have to be grateful for are the edges of ponds and fields, the skins of butternut squash and dear friends, the way the cold that seeps into our guts makes the voices of the people we love calling our names warmer and truer. Winter is coming. Darkness gives meaning to warmth. Loneliness gives meaning to touch. We have everything to be grateful for.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

A Moment.

Pepper Prayer

Harvesting peppers this morning beneath fall’s grey-cloaked sky, I noticed the silver water on the green fruits and the way it pooled cold on my skin as I plucked each pepper from the vine. I noticed how the faded tones of the sky brightened the red leaves of a maple on the edge of the field. I noticed the grey everywhere, weaving itself around the day, leaving threads of mist on the sedge grass and pigweed and eggplants. It was dark and shadowed in the field this morning, and I noticed how the absence of light is an illumination of its own. The clouds brought out the red in the maple tree and the tomatoes strung along the vine, in the skins of peppers and the plaid of Erik’s shirt. Colors blossomed everywhere out of the field: the gloss of a yellow pepper, the deep orange of Johanna’s sweater, the green stripes on my boots, the brown seeds heads of foxtail millet.

This morning in the peppers I noticed the grey sky, the way it held everything so gently: the carpet of red leaves on the ground and the shape of the truck parked in the dirt, the geometrical edges of the field, the yellow peppers, the water on the ribs of the fruit, the dead tomato plants blackening the soil. This morning in the peppers the world was so grey it burnt and I wanted to keep those people and that harvest close to me, to keep moving down those beds forever, listening to my muscles bending and reaching. What I’m trying to say is that this morning in the field there was enough beauty for me for a life time.

This morning in the peppers I loved the sky that washed the fields with a shade of grey so old and whole it rubbed off on everything it touches. I loved the shape of it, and everything it held – the black wings of migrating geese and the cuts of lightning and the moisture that weeps out of it and soaks the earth and makes things grow. It was a cold, quiet morning in the peppers. We played tomato baseball and talked about everything we want to can and dry. Every time I bent over to put a pepper in my bucket I noticed the water hanging on the fruit and I thought about the way a drop of water from a hard night rain will last into morning, will sing its cold song into the hands that come near it. I loved the truck this morning, parked on a carpet of orange maple leaves, its familiar bed filled with crates of peppers and tomatoes. I loved the names of the fruits I was harvesting, and my body moving, and the way our voices carried across the field and the way the sky held it all and kept us with its infinite greyness. I loved the weight of the peppers in my hand, the deep purple of eggplants, the smoky blue of the beds of cabbages on the edges of the field. How do you describe the blue of a cabbage plant? Such a slate-hard, rocky blue. I loved those cabbages this morning, and I loved the smell of rot and dirt and rain and my hand around a weathered tomato stake as I raised my arms to blast a rotten red fruit into the air. I loved the wheels of flesh that flew into the sky like fireworks, and the way my body moved in my rain boots and my vest.

This morning harvesting peppers there was the water and the plants at the end of their lives, there were dear friends who speak the language of tractors and seeds, a language of wonder that I am slowly starting to learn, there were my hands and the muscles in my arms and the familiar body of the truck, there was a maple tree so red it made a mark on the field, there was the shape of the peppers and the scent of rain and the grey sky over everything, the feathered grey sky, old as bone, rock honest, the grey sky spreading itself over the trees and the geese and the peppers and us.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Recipe for Apple Pie

Apple Pie

For the crust:
2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp. salt
1 ¼ sticks butter, cubed and chilled
3-4 Tbs. water

You don’t need very much to make a good crust. Crust is basic, like stone and bread. It has been with us as long as language, as long as bone. You need muscles in your arms. You need love – any kind will do. Love for the afternoon you’re cooking in, for the texture of the flour, for the shape of your hands, the warmth of the kitchen, the wind blowing in from the open window. You don’t need big love. Just enough to keep the dough from getting too sticky, enough to roll out the crust smooth and true.

Mix the flour and the salt. Cut in the chilled butter and use your hands to blend it with the flour. It might take a long time. Use your muscles. Squeeze the soft butter between your fingers until it crumbles into pebbles and the whole mixture resembles coarse seed, oatmeal-colored and pleasant to the touch. Notice the way the flour sticks to your hands, and changes their color. Even flour has a smell.

One tablespoon at a time, add the water, mixing constantly, until you can collect all the dough into a rough ball. This is the magic of flour and fat: they cling to each other. You are making shape out of formlessness. It is no small act. Go slowly. Collect each pebble of dough from the sides of the bowl. Take them between your hands. Bring them closer and closer until they disappear into each other.

Chill the dough before you roll it out. It doesn’t matter how long – an hour or the length of an afternoon or the amount of time it takes you to peel the apples. Do not chill it overnight. The long darkness will make it sticky and brittle.

On a smooth, lightly floured surface, flatten the dough with your hands into a smooth, round oval. Like everything else, dough needs to be touched. You have to pamper it with your flesh and blood, with the warmth of your skin. You have to let it feel the life flowing through you. Let it guide you. Follow its cracks and knit them together with the clean wood of the rolling pin. Lean into the counter with all your gentle strength. Give yourself up to it. Cooking is a love affair with flour and fruit and seeds, with conversation, with warmth, with scent. To roll out a crust you need to be bold and tender. You have to love the flour and the water and the texture of what they make together. You have to love the time it takes to put your hands into something whole, something that will sustain.

Lay the crust into a 9-inch pie pan. Patch up the sides with leftover bits of dough. It probably won’t be perfect, but if your handprints and your heart prints are there, it will be delicious.

For the filling:
7 fresh apples with hard red skins and crisp, sweet-tart flesh that tastes like fall and home. Make sure you can feel their weight against your skin when you hold them in the palm of your hand.
1 cup honey (to taste). Bees collect pollen from flowers and turn it into thick, dark honey. Bees are small and fly together in swarms during the winter to keep warm. Bees need water like everything else. It was so dry this summer they hovered over the buckets full of lettuce, clamoring with thirst. If you have been to the place where the hives are kept, if you have walked the meadows full of clover and buckthorn, think of the bees as you measure out one cup of the golden liquid.
1-2 Tbs. cinnamon. Cinnamon is the bark of a tree that grows on the other side of the world. Use it with a reverence for distance. Say a blessing for the shapes of trees that bind us together.
1 Tbs. ginger.
1-2 sp. freshly grated nutmeg. When you grate whole nutmeg, you open a small brown star in the middle of the seed and the scent of explodes outward from its dark skin, staining your hands and your breath.

Peel and core the apples and slice them thinly. While you’re slicing them, notice the sound the knife makes as you ease it through the flesh. Notice the way you have to first pierce the skin, the way a little water seeps out onto the counter every time you make a cut. Apple seeds are like humans; every seed is unique. There as many kinds of apples as there are seeds. Notice the way they feel in your hands. Notice the movement of your muscles as you peel the skin away. It is important to use your muscles. It is important to be slow, to love each gesture of your hands. Pies have a memory. More goes into them that fruit and spices. To make a good pie, you have to mix in a little of the day – the sunlight or the cold rain, the murmur of the sparrows or the shadow of a hawk that cut across the sky as you grated nutmeg. Pies are small enough to fit in an oven but you can fill them endlessly with details.

In a large bowl, toss the apples with the honey, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and a little flour. Toss them with the miracle that flavors blend together, with a prayer for fire, with the smell of decaying leaves and the whisper of the first frost on the evening wind. Mix well with a long-handled wooden spoon. You can put anything you want in a pie, but you have to mean it. Forgiveness is sweet and love burns. Sadness adds a dark and bitter aftertaste. Never pour anything untrue into your pie. Whatever honesty is yours in the hour that you make it is enough.

Pour the apples into the rolled out crust. Bake for an hour and 15 minutes at 425°. While the pie bakes, open your windows so the scent of it wafts into the street. Wash the dishes slowly, with hot water. Sit at the kitchen table and drink a cup of tea. Cooking is the most basic act, the most forgiving act, the most generous act. To make a pie is to offer sustenance to the world.

Eat the pie hot with gratitude. Bless it. Let each bite roll slowly off your fork and into your mouth. Share. Close your eyes and let the flavors of apple and ginger linger in your mouth. This is one way to say a prayer. With apples baked with cinnamon and awe in a kitchen that smells of rain and fresh warmth, with each movement of hands over flour, with the scent of something baking. This is one way to say a prayer. To slice apples and mix them with honey and loneliness, to use the muscle of your hands to shape dough into something infinite and solid, to fill a pie to the brim with wonder.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Corn and Cod Chowder

You can’t make this chowder in a rush. The trick is to do everything slowly and pay attention to all the fragrant details that go into it. It is full of subtle, wonderful flavors and varied textures. Flakey cod, tender sweet potatoes, thick cream, crunchy fresh corn, toasted cumin, bay. Start the onions cooking in the late afternoon when the light is at its most beautiful. Listen to familiar music. Move quietly about the kitchen. The soup will soak up everything you do, your movements, your laughter, the muscles you use to chop and stir. This recipe makes a big pot, so make sure to invite a lot of folks over. And remember that recipes are merely templates. I am only writing down exactly what I did, which made one of the most delicious chowders I’ve ever had. You can follow this recipe exactly and see if it works for you, but always trust your instincts.

4 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
3 cups chopped onions
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. paprika
1 fresh cayenne pepper
2 small to medium heads garlic, minced, plus 5 cloves, minced
3 Tbs. white flour
2 cups heavy cream, plus 2 Tbs.
4-5 cups water, plus ½ cup
2 bay leaves
2 large sweet potatoes, diced
kernels from 6 ears corn and 3 of the shaved cobs
2 large leeks, sliced
1 tsp. dried sage
1 ½ pounds fresh cod, cut in large chunks
salt and pepper to taste

1. Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry skillet until they are lightly browned and releasing a wonderful aroma. Grind them in a coffee or spice grinder. Add the paprika to the ground spice and set aside.

2. In a dry skillet, char the cayenne pepper until its skin is blackened. Let cool and the peel of the skin. Mince the pepper, including the ribs and seeds, and add to the spice mixture. Be sure to wash your hands afterwards!

3. Heat 2 Tbs. butter in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet. Add the chopped onions and the spices. Cook over medium to low heat until the onions begin to soften and turn translucent. Add the garlic and cook another 10-15 minutes. If the onions are sticking and burning, add some olive oil to the pan.

4. Whisk in 2 Tbs. of flour and cook for a few seconds, making sure to constantly whisk so the flour doesn’t form lumps. Add the cream, a little at a time, whisking as you pour. Then add the water, a cup at a time. How much you add depends on how thick you like the broth.

5. Add 1 bay leaf, the sweet potatoes, and the three shaved corn cobs, broken in half. Simmer over low heat for 20-30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.

6. While the soup is cooking, heat the remaining 2 Tbs. of butter in a medium skillet. Add the leeks, the second bay leaf, the sage, and the remaining 5 cloves garlic. Cook 5-8 minutes until the leeks begin to soften. Add 1 Tbs. flour and 2 Tbs. cream, whisking as you go to make a thick sauce. Add ½ cup water, mix well, and cover the pan. Let the leeks steam over medium heat until tender. Add them to the soup.

7. When the sweet potatoes are just tender, add the cod and cook for ten more minutes, until the fish is tender and flakes apart in the soup. 2 minutes before the soup is done, add the corn kernels. Remove the shaved cobs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

8. Ladle into bowls and serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro, with cheese biscuits or good bread.

The Instinct to Feed Everyone

As the nights get colder and the leaves turn, my instinct is cook for everyone I know. I want to feed people. My kitchen is small but I have a blue enamel pot that can hold the fragrance of bay and cinnamon and home. I have a cast-iron skillet seasoned with the memories of the charred skins of hot chilies, of sweet onions simmering into a golden mess, of crispy fried potatoes and bitter greens, of hot garlic broth and cornbread rising in the oven. My kitchen is small but it holds an endless amount of love. It is scented with the fragrance of summer rain misting the open windows, of eggs sizzling at sunrise, of long conversations over black tea, of pies made with hands that have known the earth.

My instinct is to feed people. I want to pour all my love and gratitude into simmering soup and rising bread. All day, as I bend over in the fields, harvesting and weeding and taking down trellises, I am thinking of what I will cook for dinner. We harvested the first of the cauliflower and broccoli this week. I think: curried cauliflower soup, fried rice with broccoli and soy sauce, braised cauliflower with cabbage and cumin. The stand is stocked with winter squash and pumpkins and all day as I sell them, I think: roasted kabocha with apples and onions, butternut soup with sage and chipoltes, baked acorn with maple syrup, curried pumpkin soup, walnut pumpkin bread, delicata stuffed with fennel, apples and cheddar.

I’ve always loved to cook, but recently it has become something more than the need for a good dinner after a day at work. It has become a prayer. My instinct is to cook slowly and deliberately, to notice every distinct flavor before I blend them together into something whole and unique. Everything that goes into a soup pot is its own miracle. It seems important to me to remember this, to add each ingredient the way you compose the lines of a poem, with reverence and wonder. It is important to bow to the dark, spicy scent of cumin seeds toasting in a dry skillet, to notice the texture of them, freshly ground, as I stir them into the thick broth of beans and tomatoes It is important to watch the swirls the wooden spoon makes as I glide it through the pot. My instinct is to cook slowly, to chop with precision, to listen to the sound of my knife slicing through onions, to bend my head close to the steam rising from pot and let the fragrance of bay and oregano cleanse me. There is a prayer in each thing done deliberately, in each remembered act. Food is the most basic element of our lives. My instinct is to gather all my gratitude into big pots of stew and soup, into long-rising bread and slow-roasted vegetables, to make each bite a prayer for everyone who eats at my table.

Everything on this earth is fragile, and nothing lasts. The sun is setting now, and I have been sitting outside, watching as the light changes on the leaves. I am about to go into the kitchen to make corn chowder with the last of the fresh, sweet corn. I will set the onions sizzling, shuck the corn, simmer sweet potatoes and a bay leaf with a little cinnamon and cream. I will bless the walls of my house with the fragrance of garlic and coriander. Food is the most basic, the most solid. Cooking is one of the few prayers I know how to speak. I can work with soil, harvest vegetables, and cook food that warms the tips of your fingers and the edges of your heart. Gratitude isn’t worth anything if you keep it to yourself.

Good food opens our hearts and widens our capacity for tenderness. It brings out our laugher and reaches down inside us to the dark places where we keep our tears. It eases our aches and makes us whole. This is what I have to offer the world in this season of bountiful endings: white beans with kale, potato pizza, mulled cider, cornbread with honey. The leaves are turning and the nights are lengthening and under the cold white moon and the waning winter sun, I will be in the kitchen, making of it a sacred place, saying my prayers with a wooden spoon, speaking love with the scents of bay and cardamom, singing my gratitude with chilies and tomatoes, simmering my blessings into pots of potatoes and corn, kneading my wonder into oatmeal bread, pouring my joy into pumpkin muffins, baked apples, and black bean soup.

Monday, October 1, 2007


What I want to remember at the end of each day are the moments that name themselves as blessings. There is a finite amount of work you can do in a day, but blessings are infinite and free. I don’t know how to say it any other way. I’m always stumbling over the words, because how can I possibly describe how it feels to bend down in the dirt and harvest flat leaves of deep green spinach, wrinkled and springy? I don’t know why this is so important. I only know that doing this is what I love. I don’t know what to give back to the world except for its own wonders reflected in my eyes. I don’t know what to write down except the same sentence, over and over. Sunlight on spinach and kale and mustard greens. Walden Pond. Waking up to the blue ridge of sky lightening in my window. Wind shaking the three aspen trees by the washtub at the farm. They are all the same sentence, all different names for the same thing. It’s all the same wonder, the same plea, the same prayer. I just want us to wake up every day and look around and bow to what we see that is whole and beautiful.

What I want to remember at the end of each day are the moments that name themselves as blessings. Harvesting spinach under the wide morning sky. Cold water burning my hands as I washed beets and radishes. The papery yellow leaves of soybean plants as I walked down the row at sunset, gathering dinner. The white back of the moon hanging over the field. The sound of each stem of chard as I snapped it from the plant.

Blessings are infinite and free. I only want us all to take as many as we can find, to walk into the world with our arms open, ready to collect what simple wonder we can from the world, ready to gather it up and hold it close and give it away.

A Moment.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

At Walden Pond, Sunset, September 30, 2007

I came to the pond at the end of a day to say my evening prayers. When I think of prayer I think of the moon, who is always whole but shows herself in pieces. I think of the stillness in the dark water at the center of the pond, of my body moving through that smooth wetness, of the muscle of the water gliding along my skin. When I think of prayer I think of the shape of my skin in the pond, of the precision of each movement of my arm. I swim toward the sun, which is setting over the woods at the edge of Walden. My arms make bubbles that glitter underwater and as I swim a strong line through the middle of the pond, I think: this is what I want to be swimming toward always, the golden track of the sun on this dark, shadowed water on an ordinary day in the fall.

I came to the pond to say my evening prayers. I dive into the water and let it coat me, let my body disappear into the arms of the pond. This is the place I want to write from, speak from, love from. This is what I think of when I think of prayer.

This is fall’s pond, now. The sun is harder as it sets, the water sharper on the skin. The light is sadder, the air scented with endings. Prayers are plentiful here. There is the light on the beach trees and the evergreens, the deepening circle of the sky, my body moving. There is a bird whose name I do not know speaking in the woods. There are shadows on the surface of the pond and smooth stones at its bottom and an endless darkness in its middle where the world around you narrows to the shape of the water and widens to include the breath of every stone and creature you can see.

Geese are flying south and I am swimming toward the sun. Prayers are plentiful here. When I think of prayer I think of details that take my breath away.

This morning I harvested spinach and sorted tomatoes. I separated heads of garlic into cloves that we’ll plant later in the fall. As the afternoon waned to evening I walked down a row of hot peppers, filling my bucket with oranges, reds, yellows, greens. Working in the earth is one way I know how to pray. Swimming to the center of a beloved pond is another. Every work of hands is its own prayer. Every seed, every sunset, every curve of water over skin.

Prayers are plentiful here and words are elusive. What I’m trying to say, with wet hair and dirt-stained hands, is that giving is part of asking, that to truly see a stone or a hawk or a pond is to say its prayer, that prayer is how the earth and I forgive each other. Prayer is the ache in my gut and my muscles after a day spent outside. It is the geese flying south and coming back year after year, buds that overwinter and seeds that produce fruit. Prayer is one of the ways I love this pond. It is the feeling that spreads through your body when you eat a bowl of hot potato soup. It is every simple thing that opens a window of gratitude inside your heart: a ripe tomato, a beloved song, a pond at sunset.


It’s time for a new list of meals for the coming week, so I’ve decided to record everything I ate last week in a new post. I’ll include the recipes here, too, so you can make these yummy things! The trick of it is just throwing whatever looks good into a skillet, listening to good music, and loving the food while it cooks.

Savory Spinach Pie

I’m obsessed with making pies, savory and sweet. I just want to spend all day rolling out flakey, buttery crusts, and fill them with apples and pumpkins and tomatoes.

For the crust:
2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
1 ¼ sticks butter
½ tsp. salt
3-5 Tbs. water.

Combine the salt and flour. Cut in the chilled butter and mix by hand or with a pastry cutter until the dough resembles coarse meal. Gently add the water a little at a time, mixing as you go, just until the dough holds together. If you add too much water the crust will be too hard. Form into a ball, chill, and roll out to fit a 9-inch pie pan. Pre-bake for 20-25 minutes at 350°.

For the filling:
2 red onions, chopped
lots of garlic, minced
2 red peppers, chopped
2-3 bunches spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
3 ears corn, shucked
1 block feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup goat cheese, crumbled

In a medium skillet, cook the onions until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and red peppers and cook a few minute more. When the peppers are tender, add the spinach and cook until the leaves are just wilted. Turn off the heat and stir in the corn, salt and pepper.

Layer the bottom of the pie crust with feta cheese. Spoon half of the filling on top. Crumble the rest of the feta on next, then add the rest of the filling. Cover the top with crumbled goat cheese. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Serve hot.

Farm Sandwich

This is what we eat every day for lunch at the farm during high tomato season. Olive oil and balsamic live on the shelves behind the stand. We take turns providing bread and cheese. We never get tired of it.

1 really good tomato – my two favorites are Aunt Ruby’s and Aunt Lillian’s.
a few leaves of fresh, fragrant basil
1 ball fresh mozzarella
olive oil
good bread

You know what to do.

Harvest Pasta

This is my classic fall-back dinner during harvest time. I grab whatever looks good from the farm on my way home, throw it in a skillet with a lot of basil, and toss it with pasta, parmesan and olive oil.

This is the combination of stuff I dumped into the skillet last week, but really, any pile of vegetables will be delicious, as long as they’ve been grown with love.

a few onions, red and yellow, sliced thinly
lots of fresh garlic, minced
tomatoes – whatever kinds you like best, chopped
1 bunch of chard or any other green, chopped coarsely
a few red peppers, chopped
1 or 2 zucchini or other summer squash, cubed
lots of basil, chopped

Cook everything in olive oil in a well-oiled skillet in the following order: onions, garlic, red peppers, tomatoes, zucchini, chard, basil. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Toss with hot pasta and lots of parmesan cheese.

Fall Pasta with Bitter Greens and Red Wine Cream Sauce

I had my brother over for dinner and we opened a lovely bottle of red wine. The next day I had about a glass and a half leftover. This is what I did with it.

2 red onions, chopped
garlic, minced
2 apples, minced
2-3 bunches beet greens, washed and chopped
a few leaves fresh sage, chopped
½ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup cream
2 Tbs. flour
1 cup red wine
salt and pepper

In a medium skillet, cook the onions until they begin to glow translucent. Add the garlic, apples, and ¼ cup wine, and cook 10-12 minutes more, until the apple are soft and most of the liquid is gone. Add the beet greens, the fresh sage and a bit more wine, cover the pan, and let steam, stirring often, until the greens are tender and the liquid is gone again. Add the pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in small saucepan, heat the remaining wine until just below boiling. Stir in the cream and flour and cook until thick. Add salt to taste.

Toss the hot pasta (I think penne or any of the penne-length curly kinds work best) with the greens, cream sauce, and freshly grated parmesan.

Coming soon: applesauce and pumpkin bread,

Friday, September 28, 2007

How to Love a Place

This is a rather long essay which I originally wrote for my application to Sterling. It also feels to me like my current credo. Everything I believe in right now is written here. It seems fitting to post it, since everything I write these days seems to be, in one way or another, about what it means to love a place.

How to Love a Place

1. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.”

I am walking home from the Power Ridge, an outcropping of glacial granite and glittery quartz in the woods of Grafton County, New Hampshire. It is four o’clock, and already the sun is setting, a pink and golden slash on the western horizon. The only sound is the soft fall of my snowshoes as they slide through the snow, and the evening whispering of the naked trees. I am walking slowly, pacing myself to the rhythm of the sinking sun as it spreads its golden across the sharp world of winter whites and grays and blues.

We discovered the Power Ridge by accident, its rocky back unearthed due to some logging on the land adjacent to ours. Unable to resist the call of open spaces, we followed the logging cut one year until we stumbled across this ridge. “There’s something scared about this place,” my mother said. She named it the Power Ridge and the name stuck, though it is not marked on any official map. It is not especially high or dramatic – just a granite ledge with a few spruces growing along its edges. In the winter it boasts a sweeping view of Mt. Cardigan, but in the summer the path through the logging cut is overrun with wild blackberries, and the view obstructed by the racket of green. But it is one of those rare places that, once you’ve been there, never lets you go. Standing on the ridge, I get a sense of endless space, as if the thousands of years that have shaped these woods are very close, listening and watching. On a cold afternoon in December, looking out across the forest toward white-tipped Cardigan, I feel as if I am standing in the very heart, the very essence of winter. Here the wind and the silence are king, and each time I make the journey through the snowy woods toward the sky, I am refreshed and renewed.

Walking home along the familiar trail, at that scared hour on the edge of dusk, when the day and the night meet and bow to each other in a beautiful dance and all the trees bend close together in prayer, I am suddenly overcome with the weight of how much I love this place. My grandparents’ bought this parcel of hilly woodlands in the fifties, when land was cheap and abundant. I grew up catching newts in its streams and rambling on secret paths among its pine and maple. But what does it mean to own a place? If I have any right to these woods, it is not because of any paper that my parents have tucked away in a drawer. Ownership is more complex and sacred than any deed or human law. If I own these woods, it is only because they, too, own me. If these trees and this ridgeline and this snowy path belong to me, it is only because I, too, belong to them. “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine,” writes the poet of the Song of Songs. Love, it turns out, is the only ownership, love and wonder and hard work.

I am almost home, and I pause at the edge of a meadow to look back at the trail through the woods from which I’ve come. The sun has disappeared behind the bulk of Braley Hill and the sky is hardening into a cold winter blue. The distant ridges are outlined in shadow. As darkness settles over the meadow, with the mountains as my witness, I make a pact to own this land and in return, to be owned by it.

2. Falling In Wonder

I love winter. I love the slow decent into darkness as the days quicken and the nights lengthen. I love it when bone-hard Orion first rises over the November hills. I love the cold mornings that shock me awake, the harsh colors and sharp contrasts of the landscape, and the white emptiness of the forest. So each year, in late April, when the ground begins to thaw, and the woods are fragrant with mud, I am always astounded at my own happiness. I am surprised, again and again, by my own reaction to the return of the light and the budding earth. Spring awakes a quickness in me. It sets me singing with possibility. It is impossible to walk among cascades of cherry blossoms and patches of daffodils without sensing something of their easy joy and hard-earned playfulness. Spring opens in my heart a renewed wonder, a wonder that, though it happens each season, grows and grows, like the new buds that open daily into leaf.

Spring is the unexpected season. Everywhere, the voices of the young green shoots cry out about survival. After the long, cold winter, the world emerges triumphant. Buds that have been waiting since September, shaken and broken by blizzards, erupt proudly into new life. The hard earth softens and opens to receive seed after seed. Colors once again throw their finery over the landscape – the sweet red of young sugar maples, the shy pink of the dogwoods, wildflowers bursting purple and blue across the fields. Everywhere the woods are a raucous of greenery. The mere fact of these things, of colors and sunshine, of the ability of oak and lily and cattail to survive and blossom, is enough to stop me mid-step in wonder. We take so much for granted in this world: the land and its resources, and even the cycles of loss and renewal that are the basis of all life. Spring reminds me that there is no miracle too small, that every bud that opens is a testament to the unbelievable tenacity of the earth. Everywhere I go, I am stunned with wonder. It is my breath and my speech, and even in sleep, it doesn’t leave me.

Four hundred feet below the Power Ridge, in a small glade of spruce and beech, I am sitting at the edge of a small, mossy bog. It is early evening, and the air is loud with peppers. I am sheltered by a lacy canopy of young leaves, bright and delicate as feathers. The first lady slippers and trilliums are blooming, and the bog is teeming with life after its icy sleep. Frogs and salamanders are waking up and the forest is heavy with a sense of excitement. Leaning against an old oak, watching the patterns the wind makes on the water, I am falling in wonder. It is not like falling in love. I have loved this place my whole life and I know what it feels like. Falling in wonder is different. It is the realization that though I am merely a shadow in the life of this bog, I want it to last, beyond me and beyond my children. Wonder has its own scent: freshly cut hay and rich, dark soil, a clean wind blowing through the budding trees. It is something palpable, something I can hold in my hands. It is the desire to be a part of something bigger than myself, the knowledge that without the land, in all its specifics, I am nothing.

3. Hot Sun and Hard Work

It is early morning, and though it is August, it is still cool. A thin silver mist is rising off the fields, the moon is setting on the western horizon, and I am kneeling in the dirt, harvesting carrots. There are four beds of them, their feathery green tops stretching out in a lush carpet to either side of me. I feel small and clunky when I am out in these fields, among the simple elegance of vegetables.

Summer is the season of hands. It is the season of planting and hoeing, weeding and pruning and harvesting. In the summer I rise at dawn and come to these fields, where, all day, I tend to the earth. I move slowly among rows of turnips and beets, meticulously searching out the young pursline and pigsweed among them. I walk the fields just after dawn, harvesting spinach and arugula in the quiet morning before the full heat of the day settles over the farm. In the summer my body adjusts to the rhythms of the land. A permanent layer of dirt settles under my fingernails. My hands grow calluses in the places where the hoe touches my skin. My world narrows and widens to the cycles of the land: the smell just before a rain, the lengthening days, the heat and the sunshine, the wind, and always, the knowledge of the first frost that will, inevitably, come.

Farming is hard, rhythmic work, and each year, it is more of the same. The tomatoes have to be staked and tied, the cukes have to be harvested every other day, the late planting of lettuce has to go in, the summer raspberries have to be pruned, the kale has to be weeded, the strawberries have to be mulched. The earth is not forgiving, but it does yield to hard work and tender care. Each season the pumpkins grow from two-centimeter-high seedlings into a knee-high forest of thick green vines. The tomatoes ripen into shades of red-orange and bright yellow, deep purple and blushing rose. I spend long mornings snapping silver-green leaves of kale from tough stalks and cutting fragile heads of lettuce from the ground. These are no small miracles. I started farming four years ago and it has revolutionized my life. I have never been as close to the earth as I am each summer, as I guide crop after crop through its life toward fruition.

At the heart of farming is the desire to be a part of the process of growing things. I do not farm to dominate and destroy, or to make a profit. I farm because, above all, I love the earth, and I am always tying to get closer to its heart. I want to understand its vital cycles, its power and its vulnerability, what it can give and what it can take away. The earth is a tough and compassionate teacher. All summer, as I hoe the beds and irrigate the fields, I am riding out a prayer. I put everything of myself into the hard work of my hands, but in the end, it is the earth that produces the bounty. Farming is a partnership, an ownership, between me and the land I love. As a farmer I am a witness and a guide, a student and a teacher, and, more than anything, a friend.

I love wild places. But this morning, pausing in my work to watch the last bony ridge of the moon fade behind the trees, I am thinking of the miracle of cultivated land and the beauty of carrots. The thin orange root I am holding in my hand, rough and covered in dirt, with its crown of greenery, is the fulfillment of a promise. It is not merely a vegetable – it is hours of sun and rain and the work of hands. I am blessed to have been a part of this process, a process that begins with loving the growing things of the earth. I wipe the carrot on my jeans and take a bite. The sweet, field-fresh flavor is heightened with the acrid taste of dirt. It is, of course, the best carrot I have ever eaten.

4. Shehecheyanu

Barukh attah Adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam, she-hecheyanu v’ki-yemanu v’higianu lazeman hazeh. Blessed art thou, Lord our God, Master of the Universe, who has kept us alive and sustained us and enabled us to reach this season.

Shehecheyanu is my favorite Jewish prayer. It is traditionally recited on the first night of a holiday, or on the occasion of anything new or unusual: the birth of a baby, the beginning of school, the start of a new job, a wedding or Bar-mitzvah. It is a prayer of gratitude to remind us how lucky we are to arrive each season at a moment of celebration. At its root is the idea that to simply arrive, whole and healthy, in each new day of our lives, is a miracle and a blessing.

Autumn is the season of arrival. After the messy abundance of summer and before the long sleep of winter, fall is the harvest season, the season of gathering and reaping. The ground hardens and freezes, the leaves turn golden and fall, the crops fold back into the earth. There is something sweet and sad in the evening air, something that stills me and steadies me. It is the season of slowing down and starting over, the beginning of the cycle of death and rebirth that guides the land through the winter and back into spring. In the fall, it is the knowledge of being present in that ancient, sacred cycle, that sustains me and carries me forward.

Shehecheyanu is a prayer about the miracle of being sustained, alive, through each moment. I believe that every day merits a Shehecheyanu. Every moment we are alive is worth celebrating. Though it is traditionally only said on special occasions, I say Shehecheyanu nearly every day. I say is as a blessing over my food. I say it as I am preparing the garden for winter and storing away the last of the beets in the cellar. Walking through the autumn woods, I say it to the falling leaves and to the last blue waters of the ponds before they ice over into black. I do not believe in God, but I do believe in the miracle of reaching, again and again, another season. I do believe in the miracle of being sustained, moment by moment, into the next day, the next month, the next season. Arrival is more complicated than simply waking up each morning. Arrival means coming from somewhere. Lives, like seasons, do not exist in vacuums. Fall comes from summer, and from fall comes winter. To arrive is to be aware of the delicate and beautiful dance of the earth, and to say a Shehecheyanu for that dance.

I am back in the woods of Grafton County, walking up to the Power Ridge through the golden maze of beach and oak. The woods are heavy with the sharp scent of wholeness and fulfillment. When I reach the top, I will say a prayer for arrival, a prayer for the woods and the streams and the gardens that have sustained me and kept me alive and allowed me to reach this moment on this beloved ridge. With the wind in my face, looking out from this season into the next, I will open my arms to the sky, and bow down to the earth, and sing a Shehecheyanu for the land.

5. How to Love a Place

If there are solutions to the environmental crises of our time, they lie in our willingness to enter into a new kind of ownership with the earth, an ownership rooted in reverence, an ownership defined not by rending and wasting, by power-over and use-of, but by keen understanding and honest love and mutual responsibility. They lie in our capacity to fall in wonder, walking daily from miracle to miracle, our capacity to steep ourselves so completely in the beauty and the bounty of the natural world that to destroy it becomes impossible. They lie in our ability to be tender shepards of the land, to kneel down in the earth and plunge our hands into the dirt.

If there are solutions to the environmental crises of our day, they lie in the capacity of each of us to arrive, moment by moment, in the season of gratitude and grace. They lie in our capacity to guide and sustain not only ourselves, but our fields and our mountains and our woodlands, toward a season in which our footsteps fall in harmony with those of the fox and black bear and the cardinal. Now is the time for concrete change, but it must begin in the specifics of how we love a place: the way the October sunlight falls on a pumpkin vine, the sharp curve of a distant ridge, whitened and sharpened by winter, the ordinary song of a chickadee in the garden, the familiar sensation of the rough and weathered bark of a sugar maple against the palm of your hand.

Hoarding Season

It is hoarding season. It comes with the longer nights and the chilly mornings and the leaves that turn red and brown and orange and fall from the branches. It comes with the first early frost, with the squash harvest and the harder sunsets in the west. My house is slowly filling up with the good, hard food that will keep me going in the winter: potatoes, pie pumpkins, winter squash, onions. It is hard to go a whole season without green things. In this age of planes and computers we are used to getting whatever we want whenever we want it. I am not immune to this. In the darkest months I crave fresh lettuce, red peppers and blueberries. I don’t go six months without eating anything green. But there is something important about the need to prepare for a season. There is something important in the act of storing away food and strength for the times we’ll need them most. There is something that happens to the body, a reaction to the cold and the darkness, a need to keep things close. Maybe it is just basic human instinct, like the instinct to keep warm and to eat and to be with other people.

It is hoarding season. Winter food is different from summer food. In the cold months I crave thick potato soup, fried onions, roasted squash and pumpkin seeds, leeks simmered a long time in fragrant broth. Food is our most basic need, and whether we notice it or not, it links us directly to the soil, the rain, the sunlight. It is hoarding season. This week in a friend’s bright kitchen on the edge of the woods, I jarred ten quarts of applesauce. It was a clear cool night one day before the full moon. I peeled apples while Jo chopped tomatoes. We set two big pots on the stove, side by side, and the smells of harvest filled the kitchen and spilled out into the night. Apples, honey, cinnamon, cloves, tomatoes, basil, parsley, garlic. We watched and talked as the apples bubbled and fell apart into a golden fragrance and the red tomatoes thickened as they cooked.

It is hoarding season. I want to gather all the good food we grow close to me and not let it out of my sight. This is a gut reaction. My body tells me what I need, and it is speaking now of thick soups that simmer all day on the stove and will keep me warm for a long time after I eat them. This is a need that is older than me, a need that has been around as long as humans have been making homes. We are not as disconnected from the land as our supermarkets and our televisions lead us to believe. It is not a crime to buy lettuce and red peppers in December, but preparing for the winter is no small feat. Food sustains something in us that is deeper than muscle and blood. It sustains our homes, our families, our loves, our friendships. We are fragile in the winter. The world tightens and hardens. It takes a lot of energy to keep warm. We need food that will keep us warm, that will keep a core of sunlight deep in our chests.

It is hoarding season. The harvest is in. All our winter squash is boxed and cured. I spend the mornings at the farm stand popping garlic for seed and cleaning onions. Our tomatoes are still thriving, but an early frost killed our summer squash. It is time to pause, to take a breath and take stock of where we are, to prepare for the long darkness. Hoarding used to be a tool for survival. If you didn’t have enough salted meat and cornmeal and flour and apples, you would starve. It used to be that preparing for winter was more than getting out your wool sweaters and putting away your t-shirts. Strawberries are a blessing, as is fresh corn and tomatoes and an abundance of zucchini. But we do not live in a world that can produce these things endlessly without consequence. It is also a blessing that seasons end and are renewed with others, that we live in a world rich and varied enough that each season brings its own joy.

It is hoarding season, and I am preparing for winter. I take long walks and let the sunlight filter into my blood. I spend the evenings freezing corn and canning tomatoes. This is one of the ways I make peace with the darkness. There is more than tomatoes and basil and garlic in every glass jar of tomato sauce I put into in my pantry. In every jar there is the sum total of a season’s hard work. In every jar there are the hours spent weeding and mulching and tying tomatoes. In every jar is the weight of a red fruit in my hand and the light that touched them as we harvested in the late afternoon. These are things that will feed me over the winter. The hard work, the sunshine, the memory of laughter and aching muscles, the rare taste of rain, the blessing of ripe fruit, the celebration of the harvest, that we’ve made it through another season. Food is sustenance, and sustenance is not free.

Earlier this week a young girl came to the farm with her mother to pick out a pumpkin. She was curious about everything, and asked me what I was doing as I separated heads of garlic into cloves for planting. I explained to her that each clove of garlic would grow into a new plant next summer. She watched me for a while and then went back to the serious task of choosing a pumpkin. Later, as she helped her mom pick out vegetables and bring them to the counter, she asked me: “Why do you grow things?” I was taken by surprise. “Everything you see in the supermarket comes from a farm,” I told her. “Somebody has to grow it.” A simplified and watered-down answer to a very important and rarely-asked question.

Everything that eats must also kill. I am just beginning to realize how important it is not to separate myself from this process, this cycle of killing and growing and eating. We grow things so that we can hoard them. We grow things because we love the earth, because our hands crave dirt, because we need to eat. This is the most basic, the simplest truth. We have to eat to stay alive. There is no way around this, no easier way to explain it. Things that live want to keep living. I grow food because I am attached to my life on this planet. We need to eat, and in order to do that, we kill a lot of things. We grow broccoli and corn and cucumbers, but we kill a lot of other plants, plants with names of their own: pigweed, purslane, ragweed, mustard root, dandelion, bindweed, sedge grass. We kill a lot of bugs – potato beetles, bean beetles, horn worms, aphids. Everything that eats must also kill. You can spray a field of potatoes with poison to kill all the potato beetles. Or you can spend hours in the hot sun moving down the row by hand, examining the leaves for beetles and squishing every one you see. This is a large part of our work in July: killing potato bug larva one by one, before they can perform the most basic act of survival and make more of themselves. In exchange for the life of a potato beetle we get a hard brown potato. A meal. I don’t know if this is a fair trade, but it is a trade I’m willing to make. I’m walking down those rows squishing those bugs by hand because the alternative is a lot of needless death.

There are complexities upon complexities in farming. I didn’t know how to answer that young girl’s question and I still don’t. All I have to offer her are the truths I know and refuse to ignore, the few hard facts that do not change, that shape our relationship to the land. Everything that eats must also kill. Everything that lives only wants to keep living, only wants to be remembered. We need to eat. We need to eat.

It is the end of September, and it is hoarding season. I am storing away onions and kabocha squash, and making of my kitchen an offering: applesauce, tomato sauce, thick garlic broth, raspberry jam, pumpkin butter, pickled beets, salsa. The nights are getting colder and my kitchen is gathering steam. It is not enough to fill our pantries with glass jars that remind us of our need for the land and what it will give us if we are patient and careful. It is not enough, but it is a start. My body knows what it needs. It is the season of yellow onions and butternut squash. I am filling my house with the scents of things that come from the earth: sweet basil and sharp garlic, roasted pumpkin, baked apples, honey. Winter is coming and this is the only thing I know how to do. I am filling my house with this good, solid food, this food that has the hard work of hands stitched into its flesh, this food that carries in its seeds both life and death, this food that is sustence and sunlight, that is patience and reverence, this food that binds us to the earth and blesses us and sustains us, this food that is our one undeniable prayer.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Rosh Hashanah Poem

I know Rosh Hashanah is over, but it's still the season...

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to the red and golden skins of apples.
Here’s to wind and other small things that sing.
Here’s to the names of fruits, names that are prayers, names you can hold in your mouth for a long, long time, names that change each morning when the new light pours over them, names that have no endings.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to water.
Here’s to the thousand shades of brown that pass through every ordinary day.
Here’s to dirt.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to yellow squash soup
and sweet onions cooked a long time in a coal-black skillet
and here’s to the years of pride and loneliness in that skillet’s dark, oily bowl,
here’s to the stories written there, the Sunday morning pancakes, the first chard of the season, the blossom of one egg yolk exploding into that expanse of space, meaning sustenance.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to enough for dinner.
Here’s to the bottoms of feet that carry hearts.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to honey that spills over from a glass jar, honey that opens love where it blooms, honey thick and warm and oatmeal-colored, honey that holds together families, honey that sings an answer to darkness with its slow spiral off a wooden spoon.
Here’s to rivers with fish in them that jump, and frogs that lay eggs, and the moment when everything hatches, everything opens, everything finally breaks new and trembling into the world, tumbles into daylight and stays.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to the weight of a ceramic mug between your hands
and here’s to the steam that rises from hot black tea, that weaves itself into the fabric of the kitchen and disappears.
Here’s to what we’ve lost.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to patched jeans and rain boots and wool hats and sweaters.
Here’s to soup in blue enamel pots and familiar faces gathered around tables and nut-brown loaves of round raisin challah.
Here’s to prayers older than bone
and firelight
and songs older than prayer.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to the things that hold us up.
Here’s to the things that let us down.
Here’s to what we can’t let go.
Here’s to what opens us, and what closes us.
Here’s to what we can’t sing.
Here’s to the secret spaces in hearts where words don’t go.
Here’s to what we can touch with the roughened skin of our fingers.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to stinging blue afternoons and mornings cloaked in snow.
Here’s to the days that have blessed us with their patience and their color.
Here’s to the blessings we’ve given each other and the blessings we’ve given the land,
and here’s to the laugher we’ve received and the darkness we’ve accepted,
and here’s to hunger and here’s to fulfillment.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to the breath we’ve breathed.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to the names of our grandmothers and here’s to their prayers, to their sweat, their thick woolen coats, their sadness, their socks.
Here’s to the places we’ll never go with them.
Here’s to what we remember about the lines in their faces and the creases in their laughter.
Here’s to bone.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to bread and honey.
Here’s to blood.

Here’s to a sweet new year.
Here’s to some silence and some noise.
Here’s to some rain and some sweet blue days
and here’s to some bread that doesn’t rise
and some crops that fail
and here’s to a harvest to carry us through the winter
and to an emptiness that will sustain us there.
Here’s to wind that breaks boughs and sings us to sleep
and honors our loneliness.
Here’s to our muscles and our madnesses.
Here’s to some little deaths and some big deaths
and here’s to the moments that change us, and name us, and hold us,
some big ones and some little ones.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Why I want to be a Farmer

Because kale
when you dip it into a basin of cold water
and lift it out to shake dry,
scattering water like silver
into the quiet morning.

Because I like the names of tomatoes:
Cherokee Purple. Black Prince.
Fox cherry. Brandy Rose. Orange Blossom.

out in the fields at dawn
the sun is rising in the east
the moon is setting in the west.

If you listen closely,
onions will tell you how to weather storms
basil will teach you to write your name with scent
and pumpkins will whisper in your ear
the secret word for home.

I want calluses
just below my thumbs
in the place where the hoe touches my skin.

Once, harvesting beets,
a family of wild turkeys
watched me working as they walked across the meadow.

Also the names of tools:
Hoe, harrow, rake, plough.
Spade, trowel, knife.

Because of dirt and sky
and what grows
in the endless silence between them.

And the names of herbs:
Tarragon, thyme, parsley, sage, cilantro.

If you could spend all day in a place full of rosemary,
wouldn’t you?

It is as close as I have ever come to having a conversation with the earth.

on a cold blue afternoon
at the end of September
the sunlight on the piles of winter squash
curing in the field –
butternut, Hubbard, acorn, delicata –
is as much beauty
as I can ask for
in one lifetime.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Some Things You Might Notice at a Farm in a Day

1. Your body moving. Especially your arms as they lift, your knees bending, the curve of your back as you move down the bed, weeding.

2. Light. On radishes in early morning, darkening the spinach in late afternoon. The way it saddens and deepens the evening as it softens. Shinning all over the pumpkins, making them glow rounder, fuller. How it dazzles when you walk into it. The way it makes dry leaves into glitter. On your hands as you pull tomatoes from the vine. How it changes the texture of the sky.

3. Eleven geese flying south in perfect formation. Their sleek backs against the blue sky, their wings moving in rhythm like small black waves. Their calls, which are like the sound a heart might make, flying away.

4. The unique color of one red onion as you clean a crate of them. Dark burgundy, plum-metallic, gleaming.

5. The scent of garlic on your hands.

6. Sudden wind that shakes the trees and rips through the tall rows of amaranth and sunflowers, bringing with it the scent of evening: sharp and musky, like sweet hay and freshly-tilled soil.

7. The sun on your back.

8. Green kale that turns to silver in cold water. Yellow tomatoes. White turnips. Purple beets, their greens veined with red. Sweet peppers marbled yellow and green, like grass in early May. The miracle that all these things come from the earth.

9. Thirst.

Three Meals

Pumpkin bread with thick honey, black tea. The sun is rising behind the oak tree in the back yard. Quiet.

Leftover tomato pie at the picnic table in the shade of the maple tree. Laughing with farmers under the blue sky on the edge of the field of flowers. Amaranth, Mexican sunflower, ageratum, marigold, celosia. Onions cooked a long, long time. Tomatoes simmered down to a thick red pulp with fresh basil, salt and pepper, parsley, garlic. Parmesan and mozzarella. Baked golden and steaming in a pie crust made with butter, flour, water and salt. A small breeze and the sun through the leaves. The table dappled now with sunlight, now with shadow. Empire apples and honey. Cold water.

Frittata with lots of good stuff: onions, garlic, red and yellow peppers, chard, sweet corn, basil. Roasted red and white potatoes with garlic, olive oil and a pinch of tarragon. The raw red potatoes blush pink and darken to purple when they’re cooked. The kitchen smells like basil and corn. We open a bottle of Spanish red. We make the first fall salad of the year: dark leaves of spinach, harvested an hour earlier, sliced apples, New York cheddar cheese, toasted pecans. The sun gets lower and lower in the sky. It’s gone when I pull the frittata out of the oven. We sit at the table and eat and talk. The two most basic things. For dessert: apple pie and homemade cinnamon ice cream. Ginger tea. The pie is warm and full of apples and tastes like fall melting in your mouth.

This is as much as I can fill myself with every day. This is as much as I can take from the world. This is what I want to give away: the feeling that spreads through your body as you take a bite of hot apple pie or earthen green spinach and sharp cheese. It starts on your tongue and flows down your throat and into your gut and winds around your heart and enters your bloodstream. I don’t know all the answers, but I know that a day full of pumpkin bread and apples and roasted potatoes is the first half of a prayer. Something happens to us when we eat good food. Something opens up in us, something softens. I don’t have all the answers, but I am going to start with this: fall is brewing in the hard skies and the dark mornings. My house will be full of gingerbread and leeks, thick potato soup and apple-cheddar omelets, pumpkin pies and maple cookies and long-cooked onions, always. My house will be full of sustenance and my doors will be open.

May wonder and gratitude bless all our bread.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Yom Kippur

I know this is a little outdated, since Yom Kippur was yesterday and I wrote this a few days before, but it seems relevant...

It has been so cold in the mornings I have been wearing two pairs of socks inside my boots and a hat. The boots change everything about the day. The ground feels different through a half inch of leather. It is dark when I wake up in the mornings now. I wake up in darkness. Last night I made apple pie. Butter, flour, water, salt. Apples, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, honey. We ate it this morning standing around the harvest board, our hands wrapped around mugs of coffee, our breath white against the sky. The sky has been too bright for me recently, and the moon has been too sharp.

Yom Kippur is Saturday. I am going to spend the whole day cooking. I am going to make applesauce in a blue enamel pot and oatmeal bread that fills the whole kitchen with its nutty scent, and pumpkin pie that glows. We harvested pumpkins yesterday. Afterwards I felt strong. It is a good afternoon’s work, harvesting a truckload of pumpkins. I like my body when I’m working. In the field I feel young and beautiful. I can feel the ribs of my muscles and the outline of my heart as it beats inside my chest. The pumpkins shone orange and gold in the afternoon sunlight, and standing in the back of the dump truck as the crew tossed me pumpkin after pumpkin, and the stack behind me grew taller and fatter and brighter, I thought: I could die from the vastness of this. The field is sacred and so is work and when I can feel my muscles moving in their cages I know I am saying a true prayer.

It is Yom Kippur on Saturday and I am going to make pie with the pumpkins I harvested while the sun sank lower in the sky and my skin gleamed with happiness and sweat. They are lined up now on my kitchen table. They speak of bounty and autumn and they light up the kitchen. I am going to make tomato sauce with only the bare essentials: tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil, salt. I am going to fill the house with the scents of cinnamon and cloves and rising bread and onions sizzling golden in the dark bottom of the skillet. I am going to get up early and spend the day in the kitchen, the prayer-center of the house, the temple of everything I hold sacred. I don’t feel like a Jew today and I don’t want to atone. There’s enough atonement in the world already. I only want to celebrate. I only want to eat and be grateful.

I am not going to fast on Saturday. Fasting seems inconceivable to me right now. I am hungry all the time. I want to fill my body with good, solid food: tomatoes with olive oil and basil, baked whole apples, carrots roasted with ginger and sesame seeds. Onions cooked for hours on the back of the stove while I write by the windows in the other room. Gingerbread with lots of molasses. Roasted fennel and curry with fresh chilies and cumin seeds and paprika peppers. Fresh eggs and tangy white goat cheese and acorn squash baked slowly with maple syrup. I am not going to fast on Saturday. It is fall now, and everything is impossibly sad and impossibly close and I don’t want one good day to go by that isn’t layered with the scents of basil and fresh sage and nutty bread rising in the oven.

I don’t know what this is about. Last year on Yom Kipper I drove to Plum Island alone and walked along the beach watching the sunlight change on the water. The color of the sky and the sound of waves on rock was food enough. I sat on a bench on the edge of the salt marsh and wrote down what I saw: a blue heron, a snowy egret, the sun coming out from behind the clouds, low in the sky, turning the grasses in the marsh to gold. I drove home in silence on the highway and waited for sunset to eat. Food seemed far away to me that day. It was enough to sit in the company of the marsh and the ocean, enough to lie on my back in the sand and trace the movement of the clouds across the sky with my fingers. It was enough to feel the earth on my bare feet and the wind in my face and know it was fall and fall was enough and food was unnecessary.

The year before I spent most of the day on a blanket spread out under an oak tree in Oberlin, Ohio. I wrote the first poem I was ever proud of, and walked around the little pond and watched the robins. I broke fast alone on the porch of my coop with a bowl of granola and a glass of cider. I was lonely. It was important that I was fasting. I broke fast as the sun set, and I could feel each swallow of granola as it went down my throat. I could feel the sharp, sweet liquor of the cider as it filled up my gut. It mattered that I was fasting. It mattered that I set aside one day and did with it what I was ordered to do. It mattered, even though I didn’t go to services, even though I have never been to services on Yom Kippur. It mattered that I made that day a ceremony. I fasted on the most scared day of the year, and when I sat alone on the porch and finally brought the cider to my lips, it was that much richer, that much more of a blessing.

It has been so cold in the mornings that my hands turn red as I bend over to harvest radishes and cut heads of lettuce from their roots. I wear my warm corduroy vest to work and a fleece over it, and all morning I listen to the sound my boots make on the earth as I walk the fields. I don’t know what this is about, this need for food, this refusal to adhere to the laws of a religion I have been trying so hard to claim as mine for the past two years. All I know is that these days my body comes first. I work hard and I sleep well. I eat good solid food, fresh out of the ground. I sit in the bathtub and let the hot water soak into my pores. It doesn’t wash away the dirt.

I am constantly thinking about seeds. Seeds are small and weightless. You can hold a thousand carrot seeds in the palm of your hand. A carrot seed is smaller than the pupil of an eye. It carries everything it needs to become a hard orange root, one that will survive all winter with enough nutrients to support the plant in the next spring. Seeds become sustenance. They are a mystery too deep and too beautiful for my eyes. This morning harvesting radishes I had to stop working and kneel in the dirt and say a prayer for transformation.

The moon has been so sharp recently, sharp enough to cut through my eyes. The earth is a hard teacher and the fall makes no promises. I don’t know what this is about. I only know that sustenance comes from the earth, that prayer is sometimes only as meaningful as what you put in your mouth. What I am trying to say is that food is sometimes as simple as it seems, and to go without it is sometimes as simple as it seems. What I’m trying to say is that fasting is complicated and hunger is universal. There is a time for fasting. There is a time to go without, to cleanse the body sweet and clean. There is a time to get down on your knees and put your face to the earth and repent for the mistakes you’ve made and the loves you’ve botched and the meals you haven’t earned, and there is a time to make a promise to yourself and your god and those you love to try again, to get it right the next time around.

But there is also a time for soup and a time for pie. There is also a time to sing blessings to the god that has brought us to this season with enough food to keep on going. There is a time to give our bodies what they need: food to keep them strong and love to keep them shining. These are the hard, solid facts of life: seeds grow into plants and people need food to live. The earth withers without rain and loving is easier over a meal. Everything we put inside our bodies comes out of the earth and everything goes back. Everything grows and everything dies. These are the solid facts, the facts you can’t get around. I can’t ignore them anymore. I can’t get past them. Fasting is too far away from the heavy, hard-to-take grit and wonder of life for me to relate to right now. I can relate to greens and onions in a cast iron skillet. I can relate to dirt-worn hands and muscles hardened by a long season, to folks laughing and drinking beer in little kitchens all over the country, to a hot bath and a good night’s sleep after a long day’s work. I can relate to our need for onions and soup, for the emptiness that hunger leaves behind. There is only gratitude in my heart right now, and wonder, and prayers upon prayers: there is food on my table and that is enough, that is more than enough, that is as much as a blessing as I can ask for.

I don’t know what this is about. I love the cold mornings. I love the way my breath tunnels out of my mouth and collides with the air. I love the way apple pie makes my kitchen smell. I love the weight of an onion in my head, the texture of tomatoes, the smell of dirt on my fingertips. I am making promises, too, as the days lengthen and my heart turns to nights. I promise to be more tender than I have been. I promise to walk slowly, to eat with a full heart and all my muscles. I want to be gentler, quieter, more courageous. Everything grows and everything dies. There is a god who goes hungry at every table. I love the color of cooked onions and the smell of fall at sunset when I’m leaving the farm with a basket of fresh corn. The earth gives and the earth takes away. I’m only trying to live by her rules. I want to bake more bread and give away more cookies. I want to give away the scent of the sauce while it simmers down. I want to give away the sunlight in the early morning while I’m digging carrots. The only god I know is the god of growing things. The only prayer I know how to speak is the prayer of pie and soup. It isn’t the prayer you’re supposed to pray on Yom Kippur but it’s the only prayer in my heart right now. These are the days of awe. I have nothing and everything to forgive, nothing and everything to repent. If I have wronged myself this year and wronged the ones I love, I will make it up to them in pies. The only god I know is the god of growing things, the god that lives in the dirt, the god of turnips and apples and rain. A hard-working tough-voiced unforgiving god. The only god I know is the god that transforms seeds from white pebbles you can hold in the palm of your hand to glistening heads of lettuce and gleaming red onions. This is the god I am going to pray to on Saturday, the most sacred day of the year, in the kitchen.

I'm back... popular demand! This time around there's no theme and no structure. It's just me, writing about farming and cooking and being full of wonder and covered in dirt and surrounded by blessings and aching with gratitude and overflowing with endless everyday love. These are my prayers for the earth and all her creatures. This is my ode to thunderstorms and pumpkins. This is what I know how to do: write down the way the sun is brightening the sky over Mass Ave, turning it into a blue veined with gold, how the kitchen and the street are cloaked in Sunday silence, how the taste of fresh-baked pumpkin bread is warming my mouth, and how each of these things is scared, how each of these things is a strand of miracle. This is what I know how to do: write down every detail of where I am and what I love, write down how much it matters that we walk the world with open eyes and breathe wonder everywhere we go and bow to what sustains us. These are my prayers for the earth and all her creatures. This is my endless everyday love.