Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Into That Dark Time of Year

It is really, seriously, officially fall. We set our clocks back a couple weeks ago and now we're in the thick of it- rainy days, howling wind, bare trees, leaves on the ground, and the light already fading at 4pm when I ride my bike home from work. 

It could be depressing, but here in the Pacific Northwest we learn to steel ourselves against the cold and dark and make the best of the season. That means wool socks and down jackets and long underwear. It means cooking more soups and baking more bread. It means drinking pumpkin ales (but not so many that you get sick of them). It means finally having more time to read again. It means remembering that we have rich internal lives, and are part of something larger, whatever you want to call that. Lately, I've found myself knowing what some one was going to say before they say it. There are beautiful and perplexing reports of Orca whales coming into the Puget sound and circling a ferry carrying tribal artifacts. Really, dark is not depressing, but rather reflective and a new way to define our comfort and human connections.

I think that's why Halloween and Day of the Dead come at the perfect time. Fear and celebration. Death and abundance. Decaying landscape and ornate costumes. Somehow, in the dark time of year, these things are not opposites but complimentary. This year for Halloween, my stepdad made an amazing haunted house in the garage, complete with strobe lights, scary noises, a fountain of blood, pop-up monsters, dry ice, gravestones, and giant spiders. Then to top it off, there were three live monsters- my mom, stepdad, and oldest niece. Horror and creativity combined to make a pretty fun family holiday.
A couple days later, my sister, nieces, and I went to the annual Day of the Dead festival at the Phinney Neighborhood Center. They start with a candle-light procession outside, then end inside with a myriad of family-friendly activities. We saw traditional dancers, watched sand-chalk art being made, got our faces painted, made tissue paper flowers, decorated sugar skulls, and ate dead bread.
I didn't get around to making my own altar this year, but I did make dead bread with anise, an orange glaze, and a bone criss-cross pattern on the top. Speaking of food, I made a fall batch of kimchi, which is the traditional time in Korea to make kimchi for the year. I got a huge napa cabbage from the farmer's market and salted it overnight. Then I slathered it in a sauce of onion, green onion, red pepper flakes, red pepper paste, ginger, garlic, and fish sauce.
The other part of embracing the fall is getting excited for snow. I don't ski or snowboard, but I'm still trying to get inspired to get into the mountains. Snowshoeing! Hot springs! Cozy cabins! I'm sure those things will come soon.

Fortunately I did get one last warm weather hike in in September- with snow at the top! It was the best of both worlds. If you've never been to Sauk Mountain off Highway 20, I highly recommend it. It's short but has incredible views. Just the trailhead is impressive. You can see way down the Skagit River valley.
Then as you round the mountain on the north and east side, you see all the Cascades. YOU SEE EVERY MOUNTAIN. Well, it certainly feels that way. 
How do you get through this dark time of year? What are your outdoor activities for fall and winter?