descriptions of commonplace things

“October” by Willard Metcalf

Back in March, when I was sorting through the boxes of family stuff, I found the following undated, typewritten account of a lovely October day Tim’s great-grandparents spent together many years ago. Charles Amos Hamilton (1866-1943) wrote it for his wife, Gertrude Mabel Hubbard (1874-1965). They lived in Batavia, New York.

AN OCTOBER DAY

Written for the delectation of my good wife, Gertrude, who delights in reading descriptions of commonplace things, written in rather grandiloquent language.


The poet wrote,
“What is so rare as a day in June,
Then, if ever, come perfect days.”

Without questioning the judgment or belittling the taste of the writer of this couplet, I make the assertion that, with equal or even greater veracity, it might have been written with the substitution of “October” for “June.” For, in old October, Nature gives us examples of a brilliance of coloring, and a tang of ozone, which June, for meteorological reasons, cannot duplicate.

I arise on a bright October morning and raise the shades of my bedroom window. What a riot of all the hues of the rainbow meet my eyes. From the pale green of maple leaves not yet touched by autumn’s frosty fingers, up through the entire gamut of the spectrum, to the vivid scarlet of maples of a different species. As the leaves rustle in the light breeze, they seem to be whispering “Goodbye” to their companions of the departed summer. The dark green limbs of the evergreens nearer the house, stand out like sentinels, bravely daring the blasts of the coming winter. The sunlight lies in little pools in the verdancy of the lawn, dotted here and there by vagrant leaves which have thus early abandoned the protection of their parent branch. The clump of spireas, which last June resembled a snow-bank, now has the appearance of a cluster of shrubs, which in the serene consciousness of a duty well done, are now nestling quietly and unobtrusively together. A belated hollyhock, and a few sturdy petunias, render an additional dash of color. Glancing from the the rear window, I behold the majestic line of cedars, bowing gently before the breeze, but standing with all the dignity of a line of knights in full armor. The row of sweet alyssum shows the same white purity it has maintained for several months. Two scarlet rose-buds, with youthful optimism, raise their heads fearlessly to the autumnal skies, disregarding the improbability of their ever being able to attain maturity.

Later in the day, we take a drive in our Buick, through the farm lands of the vicinity. The same magnificent coloring marks the foliage everywhere, outdoing the most artistic efforts of the painter’s brush. Huge stacks of golden straw stand beside the farmer’s barns, testifying to the repleteness of the barns with fodder for the stock. We know without inspection, that the cellars are well filled with fruits and vegetables, destined to adorn many a well-filled table, and to furnish apples and pop-corn for groups of merry young people. In the fields, the sheep are quietly nibbling, already comfortably clad in their winter woolens. The cows are lying placidly chewing the rumen of contentment. Everything denotes peace, harmony and plenty. Occasionally, a vagrant leaf flutters down momentarily upon the hood of the car, then, as if disdaining its warmth, flutters away to joining its companions by the roadside.

In the evening, fortified by an excellent dinner, maybe washed down by a flagon of “Old October ale,” we sit by the bright flame of our fireplace, and as we listen to the occasional snap of the apple-tree wood, and watch the sparks seek freedom via the chimney, we feel that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.” Yes, what is so rare as a day in October?

hanging garden of bottle gourds

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

As we wandered around a corn maze on a perfect autumn day, we came upon an enchanting gourd tunnel.

Gourds are natural born climbers. They seek out anything they can reach to climb closer to the sun. They grow so quickly it can become a daily task to move the vines away from some places you don’t want them to climb on. And once a tendril gets itself wound around a hold nothing short of breaking the tendril off the vine will get the little curlicue to let go. Not even the death of the vine will loosen their grip much.
~ Karen Hundt-Brown
(American Gourd Society)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

While I looked, my inner self moved; my spirit shook its always-fettered wings half loose; I had a sudden feeling as if I, who never yet truly lived, were at last about to taste life: in that morning my soul grew as fast as Jonah’s gourd.
~ Charlotte Brontë
(Villette)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

Yet poetry, though the last and finest result, is a natural fruit. As naturally as the oak bears an acorn, and the vine a gourd, man bears a poem, either spoken or done.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(A Week on the Concord & Merrimack Rivers)

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9.25.16 ~ Holmberg Orchards ~ Gales Ferry, Connecticut

grass-powered organism

“Kneeling Cow” by Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) French Post-Impressionist Artist
“Kneeling Cow” by Paul Gauguin

So this is what commodity corn can do to a cow: industrialize the miracle of nature that is a ruminant, taking this sunlight- and prairie grass-powered organism and turning it into the last thing we need: another fossil fuel machine. This one, however, is able to suffer.
~ Michael Pollan
(The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals)

scattering abroad

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corn maze ~ 9.15.13 ~ Buttonwood Farm, Griswold, Connecticut

For man, autumn is a time of harvest, of gathering together. For nature, it is a time of sowing, of scattering abroad.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Autumn Across America)

A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.
~ Anne Brontë
(The Tenant of Wildfell Hall)

wounded planet

"Landscape with Chickens" by Auguste Durst
“Landscape with Chickens” by Auguste Durst

Earth is generous with her provisions, and her sustenance is very kind; she offers, for your table, food that requires no bloodshed and no slaughter.
~ Ovid

Honestly, I could live indefinitely on soy milk and cereal, and beans and rice. But husband Tim is a lover of great variety and hearty meals. I’m starting to realize that if I am going to have a vegetarian kitchen I am going to have to add a lot more to my repertoire to keep this guy reasonably satisfied.

Borders is or was going out of business and we found ourselves there browsing around for good deals on books. Looking over the cookbook selections I thought 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles sounded promising and started thumbing through it. It has won two awards, the Julia Child Cookbook Award and the James Beard Foundation Award for Excellence. Following my intuition about this one – sorry Dr. Ornish, but Tim was not at all thrilled with the recipes in your cookbook – I bought it and am so happy I did. So far, Tim has liked every recipe I’ve made from it! 🙂 Who knew there were so many ways to prepare eggplant? Or that eggplants and plums went well together in the same concoction?

A few days ago my friend Robin, over at Life in the Bogs, mentioned that she was becoming more of a vegetarian. I told her I was heading in the same direction and she recommended a book to me, The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted & The Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss & Long-term Health by T. Colin Campbell & Thomas M. Campbell. Well, thanks again to Kindle it didn’t take me long to finish this amazing book, which delves quite deeply into why animal protein is so unhealthy for us, even if it is humanely and organically raised. Our Western diets are primarily animal protein and this is probably the cause of many of what the authors call diseases of affluence – cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, osteoporosis, multiple sclerosis – the list goes on and on as he cites the China Study and many other scientific studies.

As it turns out, the diet that is good for us is also good for our little blue planet.

We plow under the habitats of other animals to grow hybrid corn that fattens our genetically engineered animals for slaughter. We make free species extinct and domestic species into bio-machines. We build cruelty into our diet.
~ Peter Singer & Jim Mason
(The Way We Eat)

It seems disingenuous for the intellectual elite of the first world to dwell on the subject of too many babies being born in the second- and third-world nations while virtually ignoring the over-population of cattle and the realities of a food chain that robs the poor of sustenance to feed the rich a steady diet of grain-fed meat.
~ Jeremy Rifkin
(Beyond Beef: The Rise & Fall of the Cattle Culture)

It’s going to take a lot of effort to become a vegan household, but I feel like I’ve got enough information now to help me keep this new commitment.