Thursday, October 19, 2006

Autumn Bounty, Autumn Beauty

“If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It's a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it's time to reflect on what's come before.”
-Mitchell Burgess

The days grow shorter, the nights tinged with frost. But before we abandon those long warm summer days we experience joy in the fruits and colors of fall. This past week two experiences brought that home for me. They also provided a small measure of healing from the sadness of the previous post.

Saturday morning Brendan, Isla and I made our weekly trip to the Farmer's Market in the Deering Oaks Park in Portland. The vendors' stalls were so full of fall riches: beautiful mums, brilliant pumpkins, crisp apples, ripe gourds and root vegetables.

The market is a favorite destination for anyone who loves to cook, garden, and those of us who love to eat, mingle with our neighbors and just enjoy a walk amidst the beauty.

It takes two or three trips through to see everything. People with dogs and strollers are everywhere but there is a relaxed sense of a stroll. Even the dogs seem low-key. They do their mandatory greet and sniff with tails wagging.

Brendan goes from stall to stall, checking his list to make sure he has all the ingredients for his weekend cooking. The colors and variety are eye-popping.

How many pies could come out of these bins?

I could spend all day there just enjoying the fall sunshine. It feels warm, despite being mid-October.

Isla is getting restless. She spots some squirrels under the trees and goes into herding mode. Brendan has crossed off everything on his list so it's time to head home.

Now it's time for part two of our Autumn celebration. Each year we spend an October Saturday at a gorgeous mountainside farm about an hour away picking out the Christmas tree we will come back to cut down in December. The couple who run this tree farm have become family friends over the past fifteen years. They recognize our car, greet us warmly and hand us a ribbon with our name pre-printed to hang on the tree we select. They have followed Meredith's move through school and off to college. They have watched with amusement as Lady, and now Isla, raced through the fields chasing the scents of deer, racoons and countless other wild critters. It is an amazingly beautiful place, hillsides on fire with reds and golds in October and blanketed in grays and whites in December. We bring a picnic lunch and, once the special tree has been selected, we spread a blanket or sit at one of the weathered tables left in the fields for that purpose and enjoy the tranquility with our sandwiches.

Choosing the right tree is an art. It has to be just the right size and shape. I am far less particular than Brendan or Meredith. My requirements are simple: green, able to fit through the door, enough branches to hold the ornaments. Period. B and M make this a scientific expedition. In the years since Meredith has been at school, we have been charged to photograph the choice for her approval. Last year's choice ended up being unsatisfactory: lacking in the height department. We got our marching orders this year in no short order. Failure was not an option.

Here is the lucky winner:

After Brendan puts the ribbon from George on the tree, he attaches a special ribbon from home, a tradition Meredith started many years ago. She said it makes the tree feel special (and makes it easier for us to spot it when we come back in December).

And then it's my turn to pose with our newest "family member." Isla poses too but seems more interested in a little creature scurrying through the high grass.

A few minutes later it's time for lunch and Isla is introduced to a new tradition sure to become a personal favorite, a bologna sandwich. That was always Lady's favorite part of the trip.

As usual, the beauty of the afternoon was exquisite.

We hated to leave the tranquility of the mountain but knowing we will be back in two months makes it a little easier. A different beauty will be waiting for us in December when Meredith will come up with us to bring the tree home. And, by the way, it passed her strict standards for approval. What a relief!!


Becky said...

Oh those bittersweet wreaths! How I would love one. I have great memories of the Portland Farmer's Market. Thank you for the wonderful pictures.

What a fantastic tradition you have with choosing your Christmas tree! That one sure is a beauty.


What a great Christmas tree - we all need those annual trips and traditions in order to get through the good times and bad. So happy to see Isla doing well! Sue