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?


David Wilson said...

Classic NW approach to Fall. Love it!

AmberAnda said...

Hi Dave! Thanks for reading and thanks for your comment. Miss seeing you around the cafe- hope you're doing great!

Ben Heneghan said...

Hello friend, I just discovered your blog like a time capsule from my past of your future, if that makes sense. It's nice to see you again -- I missed that smile and that awesome attitude.

I agree that dark can be refreshing. I think of walking on a beach on a new moon: without the light of day defining every boundary, your consciousness can blend with the surroundings. You are amorphous, undefined. The life of the sand and water becomes a part of you, and there is renewal in that.

Lately as the sun goes down, I've been noticing how wintery the skies are looking around here. The high clouds and pale colors come welcome to my eyes, though. And I keep staring at the bare trees, like it's been a long time since I saw their striking, beautiful shapes. I don't remember feeling quite that way in recent autumns of memory.

Your beekeeping tales are cheering me up, so thank you. Funny to think it's been almost half my lifetime since we spent time together. (Greetings from the 1900's! Hope you're feeling rad.)

Anyway, just wanted to say I'm enjoying your blog and that I'd pinch your cheeks if they were within range 'cause you're all grown up now but the freckles still haven't changed.

AmberAnda said...

OMG, OMG, BENNN! You have no idea how shocked and happy I was to see your comment! What an awesome internet surprise. Because, as you said, it's been almost half our lives since we've seen each other! I've thought of you over the years but never knew how to get in touch. I hope that you have been doing well, and finding great outlets for your original way of being in the world and your unique creativity and intellect. Also, I'm glad that you understand about winteriness and connecting with the darkness :) Thanks so much for reading, I'm glad you found my blog! Where are you living these days? I will probably be in Seattle for years to come, so if you are ever around these parts please get in touch! We have at least a couple beers or coffees worth of catching up to do! Take care friend.

Ben Heneghan said...

Aww, thanks for the compliments. Indeed we do have some catching up to do, perhaps several feasts worth, I should say. I am in Sea-town, 2-to-the-0-to-the-6, homz. Don't want to post contact info here, but if you click on my name, and then scroll to the bottom of my G+ profile, there should be a link to my current, fledgling website where you can find phone/email. Would love to see you sometime soon!