The sun is sitting low in the sky these days, casting long shadows all day long. We’ve reached that curious stage when the sunset is the earliest it will be this winter, and in five more days, the sun will set a minute later. Though the sunrise will keep getting later until just after the New Year, when by the third of January, it will start rising earlier and earlier.
One would think that sunsets and sunrises would keep getting closer and closer together until the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, but they go their separate ways for a short time around the solstice.
December broccoli is a delight. I pluck ripe clusters as the form, and new ones develop further down the stalk. They are so much fun to grow and eat.
Frost turns lavender and oregano into mystery plants. They are practically unrecognizable compared to their summer forms.
The Cuckoo Marans are growing up splendidly. It’s hard waiting to see their chocolate brown eggs. In early spring, their very dark eggs will be so much fun to gather.
When does winter start? There is the date on the calendar marking the start of winter, but really, once all the leaves are off the trees, it is winter. By the time swans are waddling over the fields, it is winter. When the sun is low and shadows stretch as far as the eye can see, it is winter.
The seasons don’t follow the calendar. They come when they will, the go when they please. Wait for them to arrive and go when they are officially supposed to, and you’ll miss them at their best.
This year, the swans and snow geese have been remarkable. Every day swans go honking overhead, and ribbons of snow geese paint the sky. I was driving home at dusk after delivering tofu, and it was hard concentrating on the road because flocks of swans kept flying by, just above the tops of the trees, on their way to wherever they were going to bed.
After twenty five days of rain, drizzle, and clouds, and minimal sunlight, this morning’s sky is different. The pink clouds aren’t threatening to pour down rain. There are no puddles in the driveway.
By afternoon, the soft winter sunlight is everywhere. Gilda and Gloria are delighted. All the chickens are happy. The forecast is for more than a week of dry, sunny weather. You can’t ask for more than that in December.
The first step to making tofu is to soak the beans. Though what is happening is much more profound. The destiny of any bean is to grow, to find a spot in the earth, drink in the moistness of the soil and stir its roots, and push up through the warm earth to kiss the sun with baby leaves. That is the dream bound up inside each bean.
In the evening, I wash and fill a pot with beans. I turn the tap on just a trickle, and let the beans enjoy the soft sensations of running water all night long. The next day, the beans are alive, plump, happy, and pure.
There is a glow to beans that have spent a night under gently running water, a purity that softens and beckons. The steady stream of water has washed away all impurities, and the beans sparkle. There is one last chance to enjoy their beauty. It’s almost a shame to toss them in the blender and grind them to pulp, to crush their precious dreams of becoming tall bean plants and feeling the summer breeze flow through their sweet flowers, to laugh when the bumble bees tickle their petals.
The beans are no more, transformed into cooling blocks of pure tofu. What is the tofu dreaming? A dream of soaking in a hot broth? Of getting doused with seasonings? Of hanging out in a fridge? They look like blocks of tofu cooling, but something much more profound is happening.
Something was amiss last night. It was in the warm night air. Stepping out of the cabin where I make tofu, there was no November chill in the air. A warm night breeze wafted over the dark pond.
At dawn, the ducks went wild with their bath, diving deep, splashing, and flapping their wet wings with pure joy. Perhaps they thought winter was over.
With today’s bread order cooling, it was off to the cabin to label and pack up the tofu. A fanged thing greeted me on the door. A harvestmen was waiting for something to ambush. To be an insect must be to live in a nightmarish world of monsters. Imagine the tales children would have to tell if they had to sneak by monsters like this on their way to and from school. “Mommy, Bobby didn’t make it home today, the Fanged-Thing got him!” would be an oft heard phrase in such a world.
On the way to deliver bread and tofu, I see that a giant has fallen. The massive cottonwood in the parking lot of BowEdison Fine Food & Drink has met its demise. A crew of tree fellers has been working on it since yesterday, and now the giant is but a crumpled carcass on the ground.
All day the warm south winds have gusted. Huge clouds billow above the mountains. I see flocks of swans shooting by at jet speed, riding the howling winds. The day ends as warm as it started. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It’s a far cry from a snowbound Seattle Thanksgiving of some thirty years ago when my husband came in our four-wheel drive Tercel to fetch me from the downtown office building where I worked. That evening, we passed bus after bus which was stuck in the knee-deep snow which blanked the hills of Seattle. This Thanksgiving will be nothing like that. This Thanksgiving will be more like Maui in the Pacific Northwest.