Saturday, February 18, 2017

Winter Tangles

Exposed in winter are the tangles of the vines, at least in Virginia, that make walking outside of paths difficult in my town's many forest pockets. The birds and animals find shelter in them.

Part of an overgrowth of pine trees bending toward the ground in a canopy over the path. 

A brown carpet soon to be green. 

Bird sanctuary--a 12-foot-tall tangle of old wood and large vines. 

Giant bushes and vines all wrapped around each other. In the fall bittersweet hangs down from a nearby tree whose branches are covered with vines.

So thick it almost creates an impenetrable shelter. Rabbits come out from these bushes in the early evening, scampering in grassy areas, their cottontail tails bouncing in the twilight.

Sunday, February 12, 2017


One reason I like winter is that with all the leaves stripped, we see the trees in a new and exciting way--we see their delicately graceful structures. Here is one such lacey specimen framed by the clouds around it. The sky is often gray in winter and often dramatic. The sun struggles against the grayness and peeks out in ways we never expect. We think it is a gray, gray day looking straight ahead, but if we look up, the interaction of the clouds, wind, and sun bring us beauty. I secretly felt as if the beautiful tendrils of the tree had been framed so perfectly by the clouds, with the light of sun streaking across the right, just for me. That's not true, I know, but so often when I look up on a walk or in in the car, I see the unexpected and beautiful.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

O Christ, Our Morning Star

O Christ, our Morning Star,
Splendour of Light Eternal,
shining with the glory of the rainbow,
come and waken us
from the greyness of our apathy,
and renew in us your gift of hope.


A prayer of Saint Bede, 672-735

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Potages d'hiver

It's a bit late to talk about winter soups but we have more than another month before spring arrives. The picture shows a bowl of potage d'hiver I cooked up on our snow day last week. The idea of potage is to throw whatever you might have on hand in your fridge, sauté it, add water and some herbs as you like, and throw it in the blender. Perhaps it is a modernized version of the concoction referenced in the nursery rhyme "peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old." In those days, they threw everything in the pot and ate from the pot, threw more stuff in the pot, and ate some more....

Potage d'hiver is apparently now a French soup, and I love to make it in winter. Usually I take onions, leeks, carrots, celery, turnips, a small red potato or two, and a parsnip. In this case, I couldn't find any turnips, so I used what I had on hand:  onions, leeks, celery, and carrots sautéed in the pot with olive oil, then plain frozen peas, cauliflower, and broccoli added with water, and some herbes de provence and a lot of freshly ground pepper. Let that simmer for an hour or more, and then blend it up. It's a good stick-to-your-ribs lunch. I usually eat it plain, but any kind of garnish would be fine: cheese or garlic croutons, shredded cheese,  a dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

Another very simple potage d'hiver is this cauliflower soup:

Slice an onion and sauté in 2 TB of olive oil and 2 TB of melted butter for 15 minutes on low heat til soft, but not darkened. Add a head of cauliflower cut up into pieces the size of the florets and 1 cup of water. Put the lid on the pot and simmer over medium low for another 10 or 15 minutes, then add another 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Season with salt and pepper and keep on heat til the cauliflower is completely soft. Cool a bit and then blend up. The result is a creamy and delicious soup, but without the cream. Garnish with shredded parmesan or croutons, or both if you are having guests and serve a cup of this soup as a first course.

I like to make my own soups since they tend to taste far better than canned and lack the overdose of sodium and sugar canned soups tend to have.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Fine Arts Friday: The Miracle of Drawing

Untitled, by George Luks, 1920

To me, this drawing exemplifies the miracle of drawing and painting. I happened upon it when I was looking at George Luks' work in preparation for this post. We could easily COUNT the pencil strokes in this drawing. And yet, we know exactly what is going on. Two women who are neighbors in the city are talking. They are not affluent, as indicated by the kitchen chair on the stoop and the babe in arms. The one with the baby is doing the talking and the one who is sitting is listening but not in rapt attention, as she is not looking up at the talking woman. We feel that they are friends who know a lot about each other. More than likely the standing woman is talking of things that must be done--I have to go in now, only have this for supper, a comment about the husband and when he is coming? Yes, the sitting woman may tiredly nod in agreement, I know what you mean.

Meanwhile, sitting in front is a woman who seems younger, who hears their conversation in the background, and is not attentive. It is the background noise of her life. She sits in a condition of inwardness, even as she looks onto the street before her, watching children playing or women on the way to the store or peddlers calling out their goods or men on the way back from work. But she is not thinking of them. She is watching and waiting. She may be waiting for a man or for a friend or, more likely, simply for her future, and she waits in anxious hope.

My words are a reduction of the atmosphere conjured up by Luks' drawing. With his few quick strokes of the pencil, he has created a world, and we instantly know its tone--cares, tiredness, neighborliness, boredom, and hope. A whole world on a piece of paper.