Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Early Spring and A Perfect Day

My gardening friend Martha described the weather we are having in Seattle this glorious early March perfectly.  She told me “This is my favorite time of year…just the promise    the not quite of spring….”

How I love that phrase “the not quite of spring”.  Of all seasons, spring is the one that promises so much.  Flowers begin to bloom; leaves start to open; temperatures rise; creeks rush their winter water to the sea; twilight gets longer and brighter with each passing day.  You can almost feel new life in your bones.

As the result of some minor surgery that is keeping me out of the gym and off my bike, I’ve taken time to wander through several favorite Seattle Parks in the last week.  Two of my favorites, the University of Washington Arboretum and Volunteer Park are glorious.  Pink and white magnolias, early weeping cherries, big-blossomed camellias, deep coral quince, yellow forsythia and all manner of daffodils are in full spectacular bloom.  I can’t help but love them all – I want to slip under their floral canopies and see the sky from their flowery vantage.  The spring sky itself is worthy of praise – brilliant cerulean blue that deepens to an almost purple hue at dusk.  The other night, as I was walking home, the moon was just shy of full.  Through my skylight in the middle of the night, its distant glow gave me a feeling of comfort.  Wherever I am, each month I watch as the moon reaches its full potential and spreads its kind glow across the night sky.

 Season changes and moon phases are magical.  They give us the opportunity to renew ourselves and, at the same time, feast our eyes.  We are very lucky to live in such a beautiful world with its (hopefully if we are a little more careful) capacity to renew itself.  While there are many uncertainties on our earth at the present and too many inequities, the beginning of spring is an annual joy.  Maybe where you live, spring isn’t here yet or perhaps you are in the southern hemisphere and moving into fall.  It doesn’t have to be spring – every season has a reason for joy.  Take notice.  Don’t take the seasonal change for granted.  Go for a walk and explore the world around you.  Wander aimlessly among the trees.  Perhaps indulge in an exercise that some friends of mine and I did recently: imagine your perfect day – not some fantasy day but a real day that you can capture in your life right now.  
Then go out and live it.

Here is my experience of a perfect early spring day.  I was staying on the central California coast in a small house owned by one of my three sisters.  I am lucky enough to be one of four sisters.  We decided to share a sisters’ weekend together.  We are all middle-aged married women, two of us retired and two still actively engaged in their professions.  We’ve spent many holidays and vacations together over the years but we had never spent a weekend together just the four of us, unencumbered by husbands and children.  It was time to remedy that.

The day began slowly.  We were all tired from traveling the previous day and, although we planned to do a hike at Point Lobos State Park, there was no reason to get up on a forced march schedule.  We awoke, one by one, the two older retired sisters first followed by the two younger sisters.  I found a Chemex coffee maker in the kitchen and put the kettle onto boil.  I filled a pan with milk and heated it slowly on the stove.  With the help of a battery operated, hand held tool called Aero Latte, I made delicious lattes for my older sister and I.  I made a pot of strong Typhoo tea for my middle sister and brought the teapot, a small jug of milk and a selection of nice ceramic mugs on a tray into the living room.  When my youngest sister awoke, I made her a nice hot latte too.  The four of us settled into the living room, watching the big pine trees through the windows and reminiscing about times past.  After awhile and another round of lattes, my older sister made a big pot of porridge (i.e., cooked oatmeal).  We washed some fresh berries and set the table for a delicious healthy breakfast.  It was soon time to dress, put on our shoes, fill our water bottles and take off for Point Lobos. 

The drive was relatively short and picturesque – we paralleled the Pacific coast driving past old farmsteads and occasional herds of cattle.  We parked outside the park boundaries along the roadside.  Our leisurely breakfast ensured that we were not the first to hit the trail on what was a beautiful blue sky Saturday.  Two of my sisters had been to the park before but two of us had not.  Like many Pacific coastal parks, Point Lobos has a wonderful history that includes early settlements and fishing and whaling expeditions.  The park is spectacular and well worth visiting.  Its mature vegetation includes areas of giant Monterey Pines and ancient Cypress.  The trails follow a circuitous track around and across steep rocky promontories and incised bays.  We could see the spouts of grey whales offshore and smell the pungent odor of hundreds of harbor seals basking in the sunshine on small rocky beaches.  We watched a sea otter open his mussel lunch while swimming happily on his back.  Here and there we saw early spring wildflowers in bloom, peeking unexpectedly from rocky crevices.  Everywhere we looked, the azure sky, the deep forest green and rusty red furrowed bark of the old trees made postcard-worthy pictures.  We hiked for a good three hours and stopped at the old whale museum to watch a video about the history and ecology of the region.  We drank water from our water bottles and decided it was time for lunch. 

One of my sisters knew of a small nearby sandwich shop where we ordered fresh avocado sandwiches.  One of the delights of California is eating freshly picked ripe avocados especially yummy with a little California olive oil.  We wandered around the small town, nosing into its shops.  We spent an hour in a small municipal art gallery, full of paintings by local artists.  Some were quite amateur but others were beautifully crafted.  As it got later in the afternoon we decided to find a super market and buy groceries for dinner.  We had chosen a one dish meal for dinner – Ribollita.  Ribollita is an Italian dish somewhere between a soup and a stew.  This one is made with white beans, Italian sausage, a variety of veggies including Tuscan kale, and a splash of white wine.  Find the recipe on line at Bon Appetit:
It is simple to make and eaten with homemade croutons.  With provisions in hand, we returned to the house and started our preparations.  My older sister took charge of the Ribollita; I took charge of the croutons; my middle sister made us a lovely pot of tea.  After tea, we moved into sharing white wine while we cooked and talked and enjoyed each other’s company.  When the Ribollita was ready, we sat at the table and ate heartily.  Despite the late lunch, the hike and fresh air had made us hungry.  The day ended with a fire and more talking.  It seems that sisters always have something to talk about – sharing experiences, hardships and joys, comparing options and figuring out the best solution to everyday problems.  When it was time for bed we were tired and happy.  We hugged, brushed our teeth and crawled under the covers.  It was the end of a perfect day.

In closing, I’d like share one of our dad’s favorite spring poems – something that we four sisters grew up with – it is occasionally attributed to Ogden Nash but who knows…just a fun ditty from the 1950’s.  Enjoy!

Spring is sprung
The grass is riz
I wonder where the birdie is?

They say the bird is on the wing
But that’s absurd
The wing is on the bird.

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