ALMOST AUTUMN AWE IN UPSTATE NEW YORK


Let this not be a scorched with boredom bla bla piece of writing as all the elements are with me this Sunday. No one is mowing their lawn, the sky is a metal grey shield against sunlight, a light freckly kind of rain falls outside, and Bill Evans and Jim Hall’s sublime mix plays into my pulse.

In upstate New York, an overwhelming enthusiasm erupts for pumpkins, apples, and cider doughnuts. Advertisements appear in my Saratoga news feed of festivals at the local farms, homemade apple cider, witches and hayrides, pick your own pumpkins, and doughnut-eating contests.

Instead of smirking at this unfamiliar custom, I took a ride out to Lakeside Farms Cider Mill to riddle my sensibilities and get into the autumn groove. It’s a short distance away but, after you make the third turn off the main road, the gladiator trees blushing with yellow and gold formed a canopy over my convertible. It reminded me of an amusement park ride. My mood melted with the colors and as I pulled into the driveway of Lakeside, packed as if the Rolling Stones were going to perform my internal stick shift went into submission. I’m guessing the farm sits on several acres, and on one side is a field of grass, with pathways to walk, and then as I moved closer to a small brown barn, I noticed a witch outfitted for the children standing with her pitchfork.

Shoppers with carts passed filled with pumpkins and apples, and as I looked for a shopping cart, a woman noticed my puzzled expression. “You lookin’ for a cart?”

“Yes, where do I find one?”

“There’s an empty one behind you.” I felt dumb as gum and thanked her. Then I had the choice of going into the open farmhouse where a display of a dozen diverse kinds of apples stacked in crates, farm-fresh vegetables, pumpkins of all sizes, and an assortment of Apple Brown Betty mixes neatly placed on shelves next to jars of honey, preserves, syrup, and pancake mixes.

It is now a full-blown bumper car amusement ride as carts are pushed by shoppers unaware of colliding with other carts. Children are jumping up and down, and screeching with sugar craving desire.  I cannot decide which aisle to choose. First, an eggplant that wasn’t the size of a dinner platter, then a few green chilis, and sexy plump tomatoes. I could have chosen a dozen more items. Since I am single, my lesson has been learned not to overbuy only to throw it away.

Apples were tied in bags, a dozen the smallest amount, so I chose one bag of Cortland amongst the other twenty-five kinds of apples! Macintosh, Macoun, Gala, Empire, Jonagold, Honey Crisp, Red Delicious, etc.

I knew I was in the jive when I bought a two-pound sack of Buttermilk pancake mix, a jar of Vermont Syrup, and a jug of Apple Cider. At the counter, in line with half a dozen others, the clerk whom I’m sure was part of the family greeted me.

“How are you today?” He said this as if he was on stage speaking loud enough for an auditorium of guests.

    “I’m doing very well, and you?” I don’t usually project an openly loving tone but he sort of earned my delight.  With all that I bought, the bill was twenty-eight dollars. I used to spend that at Sprouts in Los Angeles for half the items.

Next, the bakery for those tantalizing apple cider doughnuts. Now I go indoors to a converted barn where they serve food and more grocery items. Another reason for this jaunt was to pick up a dozen doughnuts for the seven firemen who answered my call this week when my basement began to flood. We had so much rain my sump pumps gave up, and the water was just about to fill the hot water heaters in the pit. After they hosed out all the water, we chatted outdoors. Someone mentioned breakfast time. I chimed in,

     “Let me guess, cider doughnut!” A round of laughter and oh yes, they all love them. They would not take any money and so I thought I’d buy them what they love.

The sandwich line was twenty groups long. I squeezed in next to the bakery and was called on right away.

    “What can we get for you today?” Another gleeful greeting from a woman who looked like she grew up next to the oven. I looked at the selection of pastries oozing with sugar, cream, icing the works.

“A dozen cider doughnut in a box please-it’s a gift.”

“What kind? Sugar glazed, cinnamon, plain, chocolate covered…”

“Sugar glazed pleased. And six cinnamons in a bag.”

With a cart loaded up, I suddenly realized I would have to wheel it all the way to my car over puddles, chipped brick, and steps. Instead, I used my less-than sturdy arms. As I walked along leaning slightly to the right (my left arm hasn’t behaved since I fell on the stairs) my LA persona surrendered to old-fashioned, no dieting, family-friendly shopping at Lakeside.

As soon as I entered my kitchen, I dug into the bag of doughnuts, poured a cup of coffee, and dunked.

SEASONAL BEHAVIOR & ROSH HASHANAH


The throw of the dice this week lands on adventures in contemplation. Before the day begins to intersect with my solitude, I sit at my desk in a pre-dawn crystal of clarity. Only the light from a candle shines on a journal of hand written notes. I walked outside to asses the damage of a devilish storm that ravished the night. Leaves dropped from trees and the street is slick with the residue of the storm. Autumn is rising from dormancy; she is painting the leaves pumpkin and cranberry, while impregnating the atmosphere with the perfume of seasonal change. The inversion seeps into my pores.
While shopping at Whole Foods last week, for my first stockpile of chicken tortilla soup, I noticed expressions of 20131003_160015[1]contemplation on faces. Not in the choice of their groceries, but a characteristic of preparation for winter. Pumpkins, firewood and potted mums have replaced the outdoor display of flower baskets and lavender.  The silence will blanket time beyond the hours of sleep. This is when contemplation is given the freedom to spread over my thoughts and feelings. September marks the disrobing of summer; as if the float of festivities,  parties, and outdoor markets were moved into storage.
Last week was the beginning of the new Year on the Jewish Calendar, Rosh Hashanah. Unlike New Years for the traditional American, is a time of contemplation and reckoning of ones faults. We are asked to examine our behavior and plant new seeds of integrity from within.
“Another popular practice of the holiday is Tashlikh (“casting off”). We walk to flowing water, such as a creek or river, on the afternoon of the first day and empty our pockets into the river, symbolically casting off our sins. Small pieces of bread are commonly put in the pocket to cast off. This practice is not discussed in the Bible, but is a long-standing custom.” Excerpt from Wikipedia.
What I do is to take my emotional and physical wardrobe, and move it from the closet in my casita, to the upstairs storage closet. The skimpy and sexy finery are replaced with turtlenecks, leggings and wool. The emotional wardrobe, is pressed down to the fibers, so it can be studied. In this examination, the reflection of myself is not as important as it has been, the stubble of age has bitten me but not in a bitter way. It has burned down my childish selfishness, insistence of acknowledgment, intolerance of behavior unfamiliar to me, and detached me from the wayward choices made by our government. I used to work with the news turned on and the volume down.

This summer, beginning just after my adventure in Malibu with my friend Chantel, my grip on aloofness towards Santa Fe,  frustrations associated with publication, and narcissism dissipated. It is possible that one month in the company of Chantal, her vibrancy and generosity softened my reserve. In the last four months, I’ve at last given up tightening against the unmanageable forces that intersect with me, and meet the pleasures of humanity in nakedness. I stood in my doorway, shaded by trees and shrubbery, naked – simply to feel the sensation. In return for this placation of behavior, I was invited by my vacation rental guests into their gatherings and parties; a wedding couple and their twenty-five guests included me in their after party. We cajoled, roused, sang and danced until my neighbor, JD, shamed our festivity and ordered me to shut the party down. It was one-thirty in the morning. I wrapped my arm around his neck, and whispered, ‘Oh, you are so right; I will take care of it. Don’t worry.’ JD, a man with twenty- three civil complaints for noise ordinance disruption against the La Posada Resort across the street, replied ‘Well LouLou, if you don’t, I’ll have to call the police.’ I hugged him tighter, and said. “Of course you will, and you have every right.’ This is not the behavior that guided me last year. I returned to the party and made the announcement to the guests, who were by now leaning against the walls, drinking shots of whisky in bowls, and I said:
‘ Party to dawn kids, but keep your voices down.’ The lights went out at four-thirty in the morning. When I left the house, empty bottles, uneaten meals, flowers, shoes, and scarfs scattered everywhere. This disruption of my polished tidy home would have erupted me into a silent rage a year ago. After they checked-out, my new pal and assistant Marc, entered the house. Stepping over pillows, popcorn, sticky wood floors, and into a kitchen of stained counters and food crumbs; a counterfeit of my dear old hollering father shouted;  ‘ This is outrageous. They’ll pay for this!’
“ Stop. We were part of it. It was a wedding party. What did you expect?”

“What the heck is that? Marc said pointing to a clump of food stuck to the wall.
“ Looks like salsa and chips.” I said with a sponge in my hand. By the time we reached the rooms upstairs, I too was chuckling. Two days later the house  converted from slipshod to spotless.
The spell of silence has now been broken. The sidewalk blowers stir the leaves, doors open, the clatter of buffet trays wheeling down the street from the kitchen at La Posada pushed by employees in white jackets, swipe greetings, and converse in Spanish. My birds are screeching for more seeds, and the candle is just about burned out. The unknown outcome of our state of affairs in government and society has padded me with extra elasticity, tolerance, and love. Maybe our collective kindness will intercede with the poisonous bitterness and vengeance that titillates through the news.