Pam, you reach in from your life toward the farm, I reach out toward the farm from the woods. We meet at the farmers market!
James I smile back at you. How many times in my life I have been grateful for a smile.
Often I do not see what I am saying until you repeat it back to me. Yes Ember, the peace of wholeness. As I look back upon Innermost House, I think there is nothing I am so thankful for as the peace of living in wholeness with the inward world.
It is so true about having your cupboards full, Sherry. In that way every market day is a little Thanksgiving. Of course it helps when you have so few cupboards. You can fill them up and hardly have to have anything!
Julie and Leah, it really is grand to just get by. That is part of what makes the difference for me about Innermost House. There is so much grandeur in so little.
And Alice, you have me remembering the years when we did not have fire. I have faith in your faith. You too are building beautiful memories of being true to your Innermost Life.
Thanksgiving morning! Winter mornings always begin with the cold at Innermost House. On the coldest days the chill never really passes, but lingers in the corners with remnants of the night. The cold and dark are essential somehow. I would not dispel it if I could. It makes a space for the candles and the fire in the way that hunger makes a space for the meal.
We do not light a fire this morning, but we do have a hot breakfast that we take back up to the warmth of our bed. Eggs and sweet potatoes have been baking all night in the embers, and with a little fruit they make the perfect beginning to a Thanksgiving day. When we step outside into the morning sun it actually feels a little warmer than it did indoors. I don't think it really is warmer, but the sunshine makes it seem so.
We cut wood each week during the winter months, keeping just ahead of need. Limbs and branches enough for a year are gathered and stored upright under dense scrub oaks just at the edge of the woods. We keep the pile high and loose so that it is not too tempting to the woodland creatures.
Though we have enough cut wood on the porch to burn for a few days, we go out to choose some especially interesting branches to burn for the holiday. Fruit tree prunings can be very beautiful. I especially love cherry with its dark glossy bark and striated markings, and apple with its lichen blotches of green and orange.
We do the cutting right on the porch. It's pretty light work—which is easy for me to say since Michael does all the working! He doesn't use an axe or maul as we have elsewhere because we don't split the small pieces of wood; he just uses a light garden saw to crosscut them.
We position a branch twig-end outward on the porch so that it extends beyond the edge. I stand on the thick end to keep it steady while Michael stands down on the ground and saws off length after length, each one less than a foot long so we have enough room in the firebox for the trivet and kettle. I enjoy watching him work—and soon at least one of us is warm.
We go inside to lay the fire. Michael makes different kinds of arrangements depending on the cold, the length of the burning day, and the holiday or mood. Today he lays a fire of apple tree branches with the twiggy spray of an oak tree atop, acorns still attached. He calls me in from the kitchen to watch it take flame. Whatever I'm doing, I like to watch the first few minutes of a new fire.
In the kitchen I'm cutting up vegetables and greens for our Thanksgiving meal. There are onions and carrots and tomatoes, brussel sprouts and broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower and kale. I wash and cut each into size according to toughness, but everything will have plenty of time to cook. I don't cut anything too fine because we prefer the ingredients to maintain some of their separate character.
Before I put anything into the pot I rub a little olive oil over the inside. We use so little that instead of buying jars of oil I use the oil from a small jar of sun dried tomatoes. After I have everything in I add a little water and some wild rice on top. And today I add half a jar of marinara sauce. Olives are the only other food I buy in a jar. These all say refrigerate after opening. The whole house is a refrigerator!
Our one pot is a French cast iron oven with black enamel baked on. Of all the pots I've ever used this is my favorite. It is the perfect size for the two of us, but big enough for guests if we serve other foods with the meal.
It is almost unbelievably easy to care for—I just wipe it clean as soon as I've filled our eating bowls and the heat it retains will dry out all the moisture. It is a very Useful Pot.
It takes about an hour before the fire begins to yield cooking embers. When it does we pick out the hottest ones from the heart of the fire and move them over to the trivet, where a hole is dug in the ash to contain them. Once the pot is on we continue to renew the embers for perhaps three hours while the stew cooks.
The food will be cooked enough to eat in two hours, but it tastes best after three. The feeling of sitting at arm's reach from the fire and the food for hours—well, that is difficult to explain. We and the food and fire are somehow one thing.
We sit there beside the sights and scents and sounds of the hearth and we speak of everything together—the season and the harvest, the shape of history and the harmonies of the world. We are grown together like the foods in the stew we await. I have so much to be thankful for.