Winter is icumen in, indeedy and our coal-black cat creeps to the fringe of the forest night, tasting the air. This winter smacks of green almonds and the assurance of spring, yet our paws just plucks along in the dread, resolute in his immediacy.
Under the last warm moon we eavesdrop on coyotes screeching close to our edge, and on the next frigid day a gaggle of geese—seven exact—form fly and drop down into our magic pond, squatting safe from this end-of-November squall.
This second gaggle of the season rests before setting wings to Oz and as we await the coming of twenty-one we envision navigating the same rainbow bridge, its colors scented of pastilles Mother gave us.
Anticipating ice hockey but sitting out this year-end game, friends help in ways they can, each holding a cold hand while masking their warm smiles. One self-commits and gives pause to our own sanity.
Another fears the icy path and crawls up, again emphasizing our own near-distant future. Having left his hearing at home, our limited conversation echoes off distant scenery, shortening our visit like a December day while the heart in our stonewall beats on in a long, winter-solstice night.
Vaccines, like water snakes slither to the shoal and all doubts surface as they spread into a strange reality that scrabbles into rocky crevices. The new C word waxes over more human territory and like the humpbacked gibbous moon its tipped points spread our mourning for frail souls as their imprint dwells upon our diurnal.
And our diurnals are history in the making, meshing past with future as bread baking—kindergarten for adults—beams into kitchens around the world and the new and unknown become familiar as family.
We hope to embrace the new and learn from the past, so though isolated, cold and quarantined, as COVID clocks in we refuse to clock out. Holidays shout love and joy in muffled merriment, women shift to girls exercising freedom of expression, community engagement, and promise. They reach out framing the town’s future, picturing everyone in gleeful array, oomphing village elders with their collective energy.
We may mimic politics of the day but we count up, not down this New Year—as that is our way.
MUSIC TO COOK BY
Since we have to be Home for the Holidays and already feeling nostalgic for our recent past we might as well celebrate with the Carpenters in a little more distant past. Or if you are not at home but want to be, enjoy Take Me Home for Christmas by Dan & Shay.
Butternut Squash and Brioche Pudding
As with all bread puddings the following delicious recipe is technically not a real pudding. This winter squash lends sweetness but it is a savory dish, and it's one of our favorite annual sides for a holiday meal. Another comfort meal to add to your docket.
2 c. butternut squash, diced
1 c. onion, diced
1/8 c. celery, diced
1 tsp. allspice, ground
S&P to taste
3 tbs. vegetable oil
7 eggs, medium size
1 qt. heavy cream
4 c. brioche or challah bread, cubed
1 c. Vermont cheddar cheese, grated*
3 tbs. fresh sage, chopped
3 tbs. unsalted butter
In a roasting pan toss the butternut squash, onion, celery, allspice, about ½ tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper. Toss and add oil. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until the squash is soft and begins to turn golden brown around the edges.
In a medium bowl combine eggs, heavy cream, and about 1 tsp. of salt. Pour about two thirds of this mixture over the brioche and refrigerate for at least an hour or until most of the liquid is absorbed.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Add the remaining liquid to the brioche mixture and fold in vegetables, cheese, and sage. Butter a baking dish and fill with this mixture.
Bake at 325 degrees for 1-1 1/2 hours. Check every 10 minutes or so in the last half hour to check doneness by placing a knife in the center. The knife should come out clean and be warm to your lips.