Alpine Lady

Honoring the natural world through prose, poetry, music, sounds, photographs and musings.


Reflecting Once More on the Universe within the Sol Duc Rainforest

Reflecting Once More on the Universe within the Sol Duc Rainforest

Streams of warming sunlight penetrate through the old-growth canopy of green, slipping down hundreds of feet to the sparsely-strewn understory. Tiny, brown Pacific wrens creep among brush piles, scamper over upturned roots or along downed logs searching out spiders and insects. Their tinkly, trilling songs are joined by the cheerful, whistling melodies of robins greeting the dawn sky. Ravens echo in the distance and Steller’s jays let all the world know they have arrived.

Sunlight greets the forest floor.

Sunlight greets the forest floor.

Entranced by the forest’s beauty, we silently walk the duff-lined trails witnessing a scene complete unto itself as the sweet odors of spring embrace and envelope us. Below ground, billions of fungal strands connect and branch off, securing moisture, minerals, medicinals and starches to nourish and enliven the forest’s intrinsic gifts.

These ancients stand in witness to journeys made up and down the Sol Duc River Valley. Like whales in the oceans that carry the history in their bones and songlines in their blood, the trees along the river hold history in their wood and sap, in their roots and mycorrhizal connections.

Ancients of the Sol Duc River Valley.

Ancients of the Sol Duc River Valley.

Some Douglas-fir trees, Sitka spruce, Pacific Red cedar and Western hemlock stand tall and majestic, many lean; others already on the ground offer their rotting trunks to nurse a plethora of emerging seedlings, living microbial communities and countless insects and spiders. The older deciduous, Bigleaf maples hold tons of epiphytic plants eking out a rainforest existence in meagre soils atop lichen-strewn, mossy branches.

Ringed by elder trees, skunk cabbages and ferns, a spring pond mirrors back days of blue sky, nights of slivered moonlight, canopies filled with stars and mysteries cradled in waters cold from chilling autumn rains and snow melt.

Sol Duc Reflection Pool in the Ancient Groves

Sol Duc Reflection Pool in the Ancient Groves

Perhaps human ancients trod similar duff-lined trails among forest beings, taking in the history, storing it in their bones, giving it witness as they traveled through the universe. I like to think their reflections helped form the beauty way… and through all of us, may it continue.

Until our next journey, peace be unto you…

And a special thank you to Michael for his awesome photos of the reflections!

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Artistic Impressions: “A Gold Talisman” and “Still Water Runs Deep”

In a search for a way to incorporate my love of the natural world with photos, prose and poetry for reasons of brevity and space, I have come to appreciate the many Japanese forms of poetry. My interest in haibun is fairly recent, yet I feel the form fits me well and I enjoy writing it. The westernized version follows traditional rules to some extent but allows for a great deal of latitude.

Haibun is a combination of prose and poetry popularized by the poet monk, Matsuo Basho, in the late 1600’s, made famous in his book, “Narrow Road to the Interior,” containing four of his travelogues. Writing in “How to Haiku,” Bruce Ross states, “If a haiku is an insight into a moment of experience, a haibun is the story or narrative of how one came to have that experience.” I hope you enjoy the following haibun, its essence captured on my way to a recent spring equinox mandala meditation and drawing retreat. Following the haibun is the actual mandala I made with an explanation of how it came about.

 “A Gold Talisman”

My breath quickens as I clamber over the graveyard’s uneven grounds, eyes feasting on golden sunlight reflecting off the snowfields, glaciers and peaks of the Olympic Mountain Range to the south and silvery-white trumpeter swans still at rest in the greening fields below. 

On reflex, I retrieve the camera out of my thigh pocket and snap a few photos as a reminder of the prairie’s verdure and mountain snowpack mid-March, 2017. Slipping it back carefully, I reach for my grandmother’s necklace dangling from a thin golden chain, nervously reviewing my way up the ridge in case it fell off. The pathway is strewn with moss and lichen-encrusted headstones of the early settlers to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley. I touch the pendant’s reassuring presence.

Grandma’s gravesite lies several hundred miles east of here overlooking Lake Pend Oreille and the Green Monarch Mountains. A Welsh lady, she is buried amid pioneers in a small northern Idaho community of farming, railroad, logging, fishing and mining families. She and I were bonded to the natural elements and made many a stroll on hillside trails of the community visiting and sharing stories, pointing out wildlife and wild fairy orchids, watching storm activity, a snake shed its skin, and honeysuckle vines grow.

I silently finger the ornate pendant, turn and hurry along to spend the day participating in a spring equinox mandala meditation and drawing retreat nearby, feeling all the more richer for spending a moment in the sun.                                       

gnarled fingers clasping

pearl seeds and violet gems ––

an eagle’s shrill cry.


My grandmother’s necklace of gold filigree, seed pearls and amethyst.


“Still Water Runs Deep”

This is my first-ever mandala, the result of the Spring Equinox Mandala Meditation and Drawing Retreat led by Ruth Marcus on the lovely grounds of  Dungeness Barn House B&B, Two Crows Farm, overlooking the Straits of Juan DeFuca.  Done on black paper, the drawing of the mandala is specifically to show us how we can begin a journey as one dot of white in a pre-creation state of blackness. And with the placement of that dot of whiteness, with each breath and at any given moment, to radiate light and weave a rainbow of color throughout our lives.

“Still Water Runs Deep,” my first-ever mandala done on black paper.

At the retreat, I titled my mandala “Still Water Runs Deep” and had in mind the importance of water and my support of the Standing Rock Water Protectors and others around the globe. Michael pointed out to me when I came home that it was a “Sparkle Drawing in the Round.” I find that extremely interesting in that “Sparkle Drawings” are universal impressions I get in the moment that I express on white paper with colored pencils, never to be repeated quite the same. I’ve been doing them for about thirty years, finding them as a means to observe nature’s insight and practice compassionate grace, all in one.

At the Celebration of Spring Retreat, which took place in the afternoon, a holistic therapist mentioned that it was the last day of “Winter’s water element, a time of greatest stillness.” Unbeknownst to me as such and with the coming of Spring, we entered into the wood element represented by Hun, the wood element in Chinese Medicine. Now, through that lens, I see my mandala being very much about water and the influence of its impulses throughout the year.

The Triskele in the center signifies movement and the casting off of drops of water, the wavy lines and dots represent the different aspects of water through the seasons…dots for snowflakes, the wavy clouds for mists and gentle spring rains, the heavier dashes for summer hail/heavy raindrops, and the clouds for the heavy buildup of clouds, storms and thunderstorms of fall time. The rainbow brings in the sun and warmth aspect and is represented in the colors of the center circle, and in the developing buds of the vine as it circles the seasons. Guess what the red hearts surrounded by the golden rings signifies! The stems on the vine represents the shift from water to the material of solidity…hence pre-wood.

Today I feel if I were to draw one, it would begin centering on shrubs and trees. Very humbled by the process and interested in how I will finish out this mandala and what I do with the next. Perhaps I will try on dark, forest green paper.

Below is an example of a “Sparkle Drawing,” done in the moment. I found it far different to draw on black paper and get the light to radiate forth from the white dot when doing a mandala. Which do I enjoy drawing more? I’m not sure at this point but I may incorporate more of the “Sparkle Drawings” with poetry and see where they take me.

A rainbow of light lies within each seed we cast.

Blessings to one and all. Until we meet again, may our journeys be on paths of balance, beauty and beauty. ~ P



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4th Friday Writers on the Spit Readings

4th Friday-October, 2016

Once a month, about forty to sixty authors and listeners gather together in a conference room at “The Lodge” in Sequim, WA listening for an hour and a half to readings of prose and poetry. The authors have five minutes of uninterrupted time to read aloud their works. Applause is generous and since many of us are seniors, there is a level of gracious awareness for less than perfect delivery. Many of the readings are from life experiences gleaned around the world working on pipelines, sailing, military maneuvers, battling forest fires, breaking horses, treks into the wildernesses of by-gone days, heart-break romances, kidnappings, etc. shared with tearful or maybe belly-laughing descriptions and clarity of thought. Some readers are published authors, others who just do it for the pleasure. We welcome young readers, too, and I admire and am humbled by their talents.

What follows is my “Play List” for this Friday. Since my name was drawn but I didn’t get called due to lack of time at the September reading, I get to be among the first to read on the next 4th Friday. Mine tend to be theme-based and this group is about autumn. I’d like to try out my experimental Triune of Haikus, a threesome of haikus centered around a subject or season. From the following poems, I will read perhaps five with maybe a haiku if the 5 Minute Bell hasn’t sounded. These poems are all new to Writers of the Spit but regular readers of this blog or my public Facebook page may find some of them familiar; however, most have been reworked.

Play List – 10/16

“An Awakening unto Autumn”

What colors you ask?
I’d say rust and amber…
for I no longer carry red inside
to enrich generations unborn.

Rust, the stain of oxidizing iron,
the central molecule of blood
and amber, the color phase of youth
before the ivory of age.

Rust and amber
mineral and resin
releasing and encapsulating
awakening muses of poetry.

The beauty of rust an amber leaves piled together begging to be shuffled through.

Rust an amber-colored Bigleaf maple leaves just before shuffling.

“October’s Melancholy”

Shaken loose by autumn’s gales,
washed with copious rain drops,
apples and pears lie strewn upon the ground;
the tang of their sweet fermentation fills the air
reminiscent of a champagne cider
but melancholy plucks my heart strings,
for even Indian Summer must end
when winter signals its approach
on the distant mountain tops.

October bounty

October bounty

“The Weaver Archetype”

The Weaver spins the mythos of our lives,
into tapestries rich with sensual awareness;

from our nightly dreams and daily visions
she plucks wistful strands, hopeful strands,
stringing them on looms
framed by our personal stories;

she threads them with silvery rivers and creeks
from tears shed, joys shared;

she weaves colored strands into sunrises, sunsets,
fields of wildflowers under brilliant blue skies
embellished with smiles and laughter;

she weaves evocative poetry
into breezes carrying exotic aromas
of cedar and cottonwood, a sagebrush prairie;

she weaves vibrational thread sounds into the music
of birdsong and quivering aspen leaves;

the rhythms of movement and the passage of time
into dance and labor;

taste into sweet, ripened fruits
and the comfort of a full belly;

touch into safety and a loving embrace;

and she also weaves in threads
of tolerance to language and habits
amid humans diverse in culture, nature and form
all sharing a greater mythos journey;

from birth until death, the Weaver watches over us
helping to weave our destinies into living tapestries
full of potential, beauty, gratitude…

and she waits for us at death’s door catching our last out breath
spinning it into the mythos of our new incarnation
along the spiraled path.

The Weaver plucks threads from our life stories to add to our personal mythos.

The Weaver plucks threads from our life stories adding them to our personal mythos.

“Grandmother Cedar and the Lilliputians”

Behind a living screen of shrubbery and brambles
Grandmother Cedar remains at rest
becoming one with her wetland community.

A gigantic spiraling opened running her full length
exposing wooden flesh to the elements
when she collapsed onto the silty, storm-drenched river soils.

Inherently armed blackberry canes hold her steadfast with
Lilliputian diplomacy; their slender vines exploring Grandmother’s trunk
with territorial rights to festoon clusters of purpling summer fruits.

The matriarch’s displacement from the skyline not noticed
save by eagle and raven seeking her familiar snag top
and the wandering soul coming to offer prayers.

Grandmother Cedar held by the blackberry canes' Lilliputian diplomacy.

Grandmother Cedar held by Blackberry Cane Lilliputian diplomacy.


Imagine dusk ascending the mountains
becoming the backdrop for the valley filling in
with mists and haze, the smell of burning leaves.

Dusk ascending the mountains and filling in the valley.

Dusk ascending the mountains and filling in the valley.

“Autumn Triune of Haikus”

A wet, sodden leaf
assisted by gravity
onto ground below.

Litter piling up,
detritivore community
breaking, ingesting.

Autumn’s legacy:
decaying vegetation,
enrichment of soil.

A wet, Bigleaf maple leaf

A wet, Bigleaf maple leaf

“Frost Fairies” Haiku

With frigid fingers
frost fairies nip autumn’s fare,
the chill has begun.

Fairy-Frosted Fare

Fairy-Frosted Fare

“Evidence of Change” Haiku

Wind changed directions,
red rose petals south of fence
yellow on north side.

Frosted Fall Roses

Frosted Fall Roses

Thank you and for more of my work join me at
May your journeys be filled with beauty and your walk peaceful.


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July’s Capricious Skies

Atop capricious skies of gray,

July waits with flickering tongue

to melt plants water-fat with June rains

and desiccate hardy lichens.

Water-fat lichens and mosses on old stump.

Water-fat lichens and mosses on old stump.

The earth reacts naturally

beckoning hues of rich color

to adorn larkspur and lavender

in renaissance blue and purple.

Honey bee savoring nectar on lavender blossom

Honey bee savoring nectar on lavender blossom.

The deep green of summer leaves

hide raspberries and cherries,

but not their ripening odors

from children, wasps and hungry black crows.

Ripening cherries on the old McComb Cabin cherry tree.

Ripening cherries on the old McComb Cabin cherry tree.

I prefer the cooler days

away from the blistering heat,

but you might want the summer flames

to ripen deeper fantasies.

Neighborhood fig fruit filled with hawthorn -infused honey!

Neighborhood fig fruit filled with hawthorn -infused honey!

Until we meet again on our journey around the spiraling year, may your summer be filled with peace and plenty. ~ Patricia

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Imbolc, Spiraling Along a Path of Peace and Beauty into Spring


Celebrating Imbolc on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State in the Pacific Northwest.

Rain-refreshed lichen covered knothole in old cedar fencepost.

Rain-refreshed lichen-covered knothole in old cedar fencepost in our neighborhood.

“Signs of Imbolc Found in our Neighborhood”

The upwelling tides of Imbolc
wash over the landscape as
black-capped chickadees sing of rain
in blossoming quince shrubs,
daffodils spring open
blaring their golden trumpets,
Lenton roses host sleeping bumblebees
in the warmth of their green blossoms;
calves drop and rise wobbly, instinctively
seeking their mother’s nourishment,
soft and downy blossom clusters shoot up
from stiff and thorny blackberry canes,
profuse flowering masses of pink and white
spring heathers perfume the roadside,
and the great mystery of regeneration
expresses living wonderment to curious eyes.

“Poking Around the Yard for Imbolc Signs”

Out in the yard today poking around for more evidence of Imbolc energy and discovered several varieties of peppermints planted in containers including one from Bob Marley’s compound in Kingston, Jamaica, and another from an old homestead in the Dungeness River Crossing area were poking up into the sunshine. Also Italian flat-leafed parsley, chives, French tarragon, parsley, thyme, purple bee balm (Monarda fistulosa) and raspberry red bee balm (Monarda didyma) were pushing up through the soft ground plus the Common Field-speedwell (Veronica persica), chickweed, purple pansies, calendula, and a small red rose growing close to the house foundation were in blossom. The spiky rosemary bushes are flourishing and the lawn is bespeckled with English daisies.

“Imbolc Signs Found within the House”

Even in the house and cool storage areas of the store room, Imbolc energy and its subtle signs are hiding in the darker recesses waiting for the time of change. I notice them first, in of all places, my refrigerator crisper where beets and carrots from the garden’s harvest lie. Pale yellow leaves have sprouted on the veggies stored beside the recently-purchased vegetables and mushrooms destined for hearty soups and stews. The stored carrots and beets are responding, not to an impulse of light, but to the more ancient rhythms, one that can penetrate into a chilled metal box, surrounded by electrical currents.

In the cool spaces of the garage/storage area where I store potatoes, onions, garlic and a variety of winter squashes, I also note changes in form and texture. As I cut and dice, I notice pale green sprouts appearing inside at the base of the garlic and onions. Because we have a healthy harvest of alliums, indeed, many continue this natural sprouting process of the developing flower bud and eventually work their way up through the many leafy, outer layers. These bud sprouts historically find their way into a morning omelet as the first harvest greens of the season. This actually can occur earlier, surprisingly at the Yuletide season, depending on the warmth, and strength of the yearly impulse. Another sign of their growth is a gassing off, which if not noticed, have you looking all around for a source of the sour stink.

I remember one wintery day a number of years ago, I became aware of errant white tendrils of anemic alien creatures having escaped notice and making their way out of a brown paper sack stashed to the back of the storage area. Inside the small bag were untreated organic potatoes, their withered bodies now vestiges of their once plump selves. Fortunately, I tossed them in my worm bin and the activity and warmth kept them viable until such time as I could plant them outdoors. By then they had plumped up and upon planting, produced a healthy crop of spuds.

Even inside store-bought spaghetti squashes and winter squashes, the seeds may begin to sprout, helping to deteriorate the flesh upon which they are feasting. Like a spawning fish, these signs of passing along their body’s nutrients to future generations show up in the change of the outer skin, forming mold and rot which happen quickly if not inspected almost daily.

Clearly, once again, the Imbolic forces that stimulate growth in the northern hemisphere have taken charge.

“Imbolc Energies in the Natural World”

For me, Imbolc is a time of weaving the seasons together, an in-between time, poised to move forward into the warming, light-filled spring season or if necessary, languish in the dormancy of late winter. Our senses are also poised for a renewal of familiar and new smells, tastes, textures, sounds, and sights after the melancholic weariness of winter.

Bodies ready to break out of “cabin fever days” and catch “spring fever” cue on the sound of migratory fowl as perhaps one of the primary clues that a major transition is in the workings. Bird songs, whistles, cackling or the whispering of wings awaken inner prompts. Also the sensual clues of soft, furry pussy willows, of trickling springs and creeks lined with bright green mosses and ferns, warm sunshine break-throughs, fresh green fragrant shoots poking through where snow has melted away, the emergence and early harvesting of foraged plants like nettles and chickweed, these all carry the same potential message that winter is on the wane.

Plants that choose this time for ascendancy usually have adapted forms and coverings or mechanisms to survive frosts, snows, blizzards, ground heaving and yes, even sun. We think usually of tulips, jonquils, and nettles but my favorite plant of the season is a bog plant, with a weird odor. It initiates the season early, often in time for winter solstice. That plant is the skunk cabbage, aka the swamp lantern, swamp candle.

By some chemical wizardry, probably related to the calcium oxalate crystals it contains, the skunk cabbage (Lyschiton americanum) can melt its way through ice to become the earliest of sprouts on which bear and beaver feed. A thick, fleshy flower spike surrounded by a pale yellow spathe rises through last year’s dead growth and pond muck, adding a candle-like spot of brightness to the landscape of gray alders, wispy salmon berry canes, and dark green cedars. Inside this partly rolled flower covering are hundreds of minute flowers. Their exotic, skunky odor draws pollinating flies.

The large leaves (over three  feet long and a foot wide) emerge later and along with ferns, miner’s lettuce, and nettles, will fill a swamp with their lush foliage. Although the smell and name of the plant may strike some as offensive, it describes a truly unique plant of our wet-woods habitat. Its flesh provides food for the hungry, its leaves provide shade and nutrients for the ecosystem, and its exotic nature attracts poets, photographers, and painters.

At some inner level of knowing, I feel our living earth actuates her seasonal dance dressed as the skunk cabbage. Stimulated by the energies of winter solstice or Imbolc, she spirals upward through the snow and ice-covered pond muck to begin her dance of creation and color, setting the scene for spring. As the days lengthen and the temperatures warm, her verdant robes unfurl to shade the bog and keep her root zone moist from the summer’s heat. She’ll dance until the autumn urges rest and the fall rains rot her gown, then; safely asleep in the muck of the pond, the swamp candle will slumber until the renewal energies of late winter stir her once again to awaken and rise, beckoning the Earth Mother to dance once again.

“Imbolc, The Inner Rhythm’s Journey”

The awareness of the seasonal shift into Imbolc represents an awareness of spiraling into the warming season of spring and that winter is on the wane, approximately midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox. In lands still locked in the slumber of winter, it is a time for farmers to check the number of healthy animals against their stored grains and grasses to see if there is enough to feed them until the animals can freely graze. Below ground animals in hibernation are becoming restless, baby bears are being born while mothers are in a lighter sleep mode. Seeds and bulbs are feeling the impulses to send down shoots, connect to mycelia and begin the feeding processes which will help them to soon shoot upward.

Historically it was and still is a time for householders to check the condition of stored vegetables and other food stuffs and make plans accordingly. It’s a time of cleaning up the clutter and messiness of winter debris.

In lands that have already thawed, it is physically marked by calves and sheep being born because there is apt to be enough fresh green grasses to feed the mothers so they have a plentiful milk supply. Wild foods become available to supplement our daily diets.

Historically Imbolc is represented by Brigid, the Celtic goddess of healing, poetry, mysticism, and smithcraft. Now, however, climate and social changes have made the development of healing and crafting arts very important once again. Developing the skills of carpentry, leather work, gardening, house-holding, energy work, and herbal medicine making are becoming popular as is using nature as a primary teacher for children. Homeschooling is commonplace. Writing, art, and poetry are defining us as populations and souls bound to Gaia from whom all blessings flow.

But even more than that, it’s a time when we can re-acquaint ourselves with inner rhythms and invest in new opportunities to develop them. The universal rhythms will support the change once acknowledged. So clean out the closet both outer and inner, then take inventory and organize what’s left. If dissatisfied with what you find, develop new ways to bring that interest, that passion into your life, even if only in small ways in order to keep the candle spark alive.

There is so much available to us during Imbolc: as above, so below, and dwelling within, all three gestures happening at once and ready for attunement once we take time to acknowledge a desire to develop a path of peace and beauty within our lives co-creatively with Gaia.

sparks the imagination,
feeds the soul’s journey.

May Imbolc spark your creativity, curiosity and imagination. Blessings to one and all.

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Reflecting on the Universe at Sol Duc Rainforest

Reflecting on the Universe at Sol Duc Rainforest

On its journey through the universe accompanied by ancient trees growing in this old-growth rainforest, sunlight streams through their canopy of green. Pacific wrens ascend to search out spiders and insects, establish territories and with robins, to sing the morning awake. 

Sunlight greets the forest floor.

Sunlight greets the forest floor.

I stand in silence on a duff-lined trail entranced by the forest’s beauty––witnessing a scene complete unto itself as the sweet odors of spring embrace and envelope me. Below ground billions of fungal strands connect and branch off, securing moisture, minerals, medicinals and starches to enliven that said gift of air.

These ancients stand in witness to the journeys made up and down the Sol Duc River Valley. Like whales in the oceans that carry the history in their bones and songlines in their blood, the trees along the river hold it in their wood and sap, in their roots and mycorrhizal connections.

Ancients of the Sol Duc River Valley.

Ancients of the Sol Duc River Valley.

Some evergreen, needle-forming Douglas-fir, and Western hemlock stand tall and majestic, many lean; others on the ground offer their rotting trunks to nurse a plethora of emerging seedlings, living bacterial communities and countless bugs.The older deciduous, Bigleaf maples hold tons of epiphytic plants eking out their rainforest existence atop lichen-strewn, mossy branches in which voles and spiders dine.

Ringed so by ancient ones, skunk cabbages and ferns, a spring pond mirrors back days of blue sky, nights of slivered moonlight and of canopies filled with stars and mysteries cradled in waters cold from chilling autumn rains and snow melt. 

Sol Duc Reflection Pool in the Ancient Groves

Sol Duc Reflection Pool in the Ancient Groves

Perhaps human ancients trod similar duff-lined trails among forest beings, taking in the history, storing it in their bones. They gave witness as they traveled through the universe. I like to think their reflections helped form the beauty way… and through us, it continues to happen.

Until our next journey, peace be unto you…

And a special thank you to Michael for his awesome photos of the reflections!

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Sample Chapter: Tales of Blackberry Bramble Cottage ~ Ch. 2 ~ Ageless Beauty

I’d like to tell you about an exciting writing adventure I have been on relating to the natural world. It is an outgrowth of my personal journey through elderhood and of taking the challenge to make my elder years productive and in line with my passions which include studying the natural world and passing my enthusiasm along to children, their friends and families.

It has been my experience that immersing oneself in the “real world of nature,” although a worthy goal, is just not possible for the majority of children and their families today. There are many ways to connect with the natural world and in an attempt to bridge the gap between isolation and immersion, I am engaged in writing and recording a series of short, realistic fiction tales which take the reader into the realm of the hedgerow, field and forest to show our interconnectedness to all manner of life. “Tales of Blackberry Bramble Cottage” support the study of biology and are suggestive in ways to use creative exploration and artistic expression. Readers and listeners begin immediately to awaken their sensual instincts of smell, sight, sound, touch, and taste through imagery and creative thought, thus nurturing their natural curiosity.

“Tales of Blackberry Bramble Cottage” centers on the rural environs of a rustic, abandoned cottage, its neglected floral gardens and surrounding hay fields, forests and hedgerows rich in flora and fauna. I’m hoping to have the first Tale available in both pdf and as an audio recording later this year. I’d love to hear what you think of this sample chapter. Thank you!!

Sample chapter: Chapter 2 ~ Ageless Beauty
 I do not understand how anyone can live
without one small place of enchantment to turn to.”
~  Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, 1896-1953, author
The inspiration for Tales of Blackberry Bramble Cottage

The inspiration for Tales of Blackberry Bramble Cottage

At one time, colorful border plantings surrounded the cottage and an area by the back porch was conveniently laid out for herb and vegetable gardens. Scattered around the lawn were ornamental shrubs, a few cherry, apple and pear trees, several clumps of English walnut and hazelnut trees, and assorted evergreens. Surviving to date, despite the long-term neglect of a gardener’s hand, the starry, lavender-blue Glory-of-the-Snow flowers; dainty white and green snowdrops; brilliant yellow daffodils; shy, purple violets; and white, spice-scented narcissuses appear in the thick thatch of grass out front each spring, creating an oasis of color after the drabness of winter loosens its grip.

There is also a ragged clump of fragrant Lily of the Valley secreted away in a corner by the front porch. Its white, scalloped, faery-bells-on-a-stalk flowers hide among the folds of the plant’s dark green leaves; but one cannot mistake its sweet scent as the sign that somewhere close by, it’s in blossom. In late spring and early summer, the honesty or dollar plants can be found struggling to grow under the eaves amidst last year’s debris. The deep purple, cross-shaped blossoms of these fragrant plants attract butterflies and later their silvery, oval, translucent seed pods attract seed-eating birds

Alongside the western side of the cottage, rambling roses trail off their rotten trellises and toss about in the wind, rubbing up against the windows and leaving grimy arcs on the rain-splatted, dingy panes. In the summer, the rose vines brighten with fragrant, old-fashioned blossoms in shades of blushing pink, rich scarlet and lemony-yellow. Attracted by their floral promise of sweet nectars and pollen, a diverse assortment of insects crawl and hover amid the colorful bouquets and engage in rhythmical dances of pollination and gathering. Through the warm days of summer, the hard, marble-sized green rose hips mature and swell with seed before turning orange-red in the cool autumn air. Birds and smaller mammals await the fall frosts to soften and sweeten the hips at a time when other food sources turn scarce.

On one side of the back porch door grows a bee balm plant, a tall and stately herb attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds and bees. Next to it grows the medicinal and sweet-rooted Solomon seal, spreading its gnarly roots and looking very much like spinal vertebrae for which it has a curative affinity. Perhaps birds dropped the seeds there for one would expect both the bee balm and Solomon seal to be in the area of the herb garden where a few more plants are struggling to grow amidst the choking, weedy debris of past seasons. Spicy peppermints and cool spearmints along with relaxing lavenders, coarse elecampanes, bellicose hot-on-the-palate horseradish, and onion-flavored chives all survive despite the congested growing conditions.

In the surrounding lawn, single and double-flowered lilac bushes in white, lavender and deep purple are favorites of the swallow-tailed butterflies who flit among their fragrant blossoms. A clump of thick-leafed, hardy magenta rugosa roses attracts a myriad of bees each summer as does the profusely flowering, sweet-smelling, white-blossomed mock orange shrubs.

Other plant varieties considered weeds, including some native ones displaced to plant the cottage beds, have reintroduced themselves into the overgrown gardens and lawn. The wary eye is likely to spot the exotic trailing, heart-shape-leafed wild gingers with their secretive purple, long-tailed blossoms; the fern-leafed, pantaloon-shaped wild Dutchman’s breeches; the trumpeted orange tiger lilies, another favorite of the swallowtails; and the ubiquitous white field daisies sporting yellow bullseyes.

Wherever the soil has allowed the roots to penetrate, when the plants have received adequate moisture, and the weeds haven’t choked them out, the deer haven’t eaten them or the bears clawed them down, the valiant plants of Blackberry Bramble Cottage provide color, texture, foods, and fragrance to the grounds. Transient guests of the cottage or uninvited neighborhood fauna regularly visit the untidy landscape gathering the pollen, sipping the nectars or dining on the blossoms, leaves, seeds, fruits, berries and nuts in their season. There are others too, who are attracted to eating those drawn to the plants–– thus bringing a natural wholeness to the evolving cottage scene.

It’s name ~ Blackberry Bramble Cottage ~ came about because a lengthy hedgerow, largely made up of blackberry vines, separates it from the rest of the world; but the hedgerow has grown so much over the intervening years, invading the country lane, that it forms an almost impenetrable barrier. All manner of creatures live in the hedge: birds, spiders, snakes, insects, rodents, rabbits, feral cats, toads and organisms so small you’ll never see them even with a magnifying glass. Numerous guests who stay in the cottage come by way of the hedge. Not that there aren’t other ways to get in, including a gate; which at one time opened upon the lane running alongside the pasture; but it, too, has been taken over by blackberry vines spanning its wooden supports, making entry difficult if not impossible. For those few visitors who do manage to wrangle their way through the rambling hedge or who appear via the trails converging from the fields and forest beyond or who come by wing –– for all those needing a place to rest, there is always room on the grounds of the old farm’s cottage. And for a select few, sparse inside accommodations can be arranged.

Join us now for the tales of Alexander, a young deer mouse (Peromyscus maniculatus) who found his way through the hedge and into the cottage’s broom closet quite by accident; and Sophia, a lovely garden spider (Araneus diadematus) who inadvertently hitched a ride on the wind and ended up weaving her spiraled orbs close by the back door. Both are interesting tales of survival in a complex world of beauty and danger.

Stay tuned for more information on publication and recording as it becomes available. Namaste!


Musings in the Autumn Season: Tempting Recipes

Cooking is an alchemical, transformational process hinting of magic. To me, one of life’s healthiest joys is watching friends and family gather around a meal, tastefully prepared and lovingly served. In this post, I’ll offer you some of my experiences and recipes to pique your exploration of the autumn cooking and dining scene.

Farm store autumn produce.

Farm store autumn produce.

Whereas summer’s bounty is often enjoyed raw or with minimal processing, fall meals tend to be heartier, requiring more cooking and enlivening through the use of warming herbs and spices. Produce from the vegetable gardens and orchards, farm stands and wild woods encourage cooks to translate their unique aromas, textures and flavors into a language that suits the diners’ seasonally-shifting health needs and palates.

Not only does proper prepping and cooking enhance the color, texture and form of autumn’s bountiful produce but how food is presented to our bodies assists in the regeneration of its living tissues which goes on 24/7/365, rain or shine. Seasoned with the sensual enjoyment of tempting ingredients and healthy, intriguing recipes, it asssists in making eating a pleasure.

Celebrating Harvests

A typical garden in the Pacific Northwest and across much of the northern tier of states is usually finished producing in time for the pumpkin harvest at Halloween. Depending on the terrain and elevation, frost may already have touched or possibly even decimated the produce but often during the final clean up, there will be bits and pieces of salvage that challenge me to make an end-of-year harvest soup. A pale orange tomato, a handful of green beans, a few pathetic-looking parsley stalks, a forgotten onion, an all too-small garlic bulb, a few corn kernels off a runt cob, some cilantro seeds or the last bit of basil gets slipped into the soup pot along with other ingredients, herbs and spices. It’s a way of my saying thanks to the garden which has produced so much for us during the course of its life. Some years we’ve been blessed to find a handful of immature beans tucked away in the pods we’ve pulled and these hold special honor, a jack-in-the-bean-stalk magical moment.

Another tradition is a celebratory harvest “roast of vegetables,” including but not limited to, potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, squash and garlic baked in butter and olive oil until nicely caramelized and seasoned with additional herbs and spices. This is my way of saying thank you for the bountiful harvest and gives us a taste of what we’ll be enjoying until foraged foods and spring veggies are locally available.

An Abundance of Avocados

Hawaiian produce at the fruit stand.

Hawaiian produce at the fruit stand.

During our recent four-year stay on the Big Island of Hawaii, we lived on the wet side, the jungle side in an area known as Puna. We enjoyed a variety of fresh fruits during the autumn months including an extra sweet banana known as the candy apple banana, guavas, mangoes, rambutans, papayas, starfruits, lilikoi or passion fruits and the plentiful avocado which could be bought for a reasonable price at the farm stands and markets. They could also be gleaned while out on our neighborhood walks but we had to be quick and pick them up before the wild pigs or the rats got to them first. Gleaning for avo’s after a wind storm was ideal except that sometimes there were just too many to eat!

As to be expected, when the avo’s were ripe, guacamole found its way into every potluck gathering and all the cooks had their own recipes. One variation I used often consisted of two or three smallish, mashed avo’s, to which I added a dollop of hot sauce, some grated ginger, finely diced red onion, a finely minced garlic clove, the juice of a lime or lemon, a pinch of salt, pepper and a sprinkling of Thai or Italian basil, either fresh or dried. I might also add a measure of mayonnaise if I were serving it immediately.

Another simple meal featuring the avocado was made by toasting a slice of whole grain sprouted bread or rice bread onto which I placed an egg done to my liking, sunny side up, adding mashed or sliced avo, drizzling it all with olive oil and for extra nutrition, some Bragg’s liquid amino acids and a sprinkling of nutritional yeast. This could be eaten with knife and fork but often became a finger food and a finger/plate licking feast!

Roots and I Take Center Stage

But I digress into the past and a certain desire for warmer temperatures and colors now that we’re living in the Olympic Peninsula’s temperate, maritime climate at the feet of the majestic Olympic Mountains. Here the cool soils grow scrumptious fall root crops, brassicas, celery, leeks, spinach, foraged greens, pears and apples. The cooler climate creates a desire for more oils and longer cooking times and the use of more warming herbs and spices. And as food is our daily medicine, in the autumn we are careful with the amount of sweetening used, especially around the holidays, in order to keep immune systems healthy.

I’ve always been a slow cook, largely localvore, although I’m fond of exotic flavors and fragrances. I choose organic whenever possible and eat meat when my body tells me to “eat meat protein.” For my cooking oils, I use olive oil for basic salad dressings, meat dishes, tomato sauces and some toasted breads; butter for potatoes and added to meat and tomato dishes to impart a creamy taste and texture; and coconut oil for egg dishes and as a spread on scones and toast. For vinegars, I prefer wine vinegars or medicinal ones I’ve concocted myself for salad dressings; apple cider vinegars for meat dishes or heavier herbal vinegars such as nettle leaf; and balsamic vinegar for that unique flavored dish or dressing.

Our well-stocked pantry is supported by foraging, buying both locally and from Azure Standard so I have the items to be more creative on hand rather than having to secure them each time from the market. It’s a carry over from living in Alaska and Hawaii plus we feel some responsibility to our community when the need arises for support.

I enjoy the sensual textures, smells, sounds, tastes and sights of preparing, cooking and eating…in other words, my style involves active participation in being alert through the different cooking stages, watching how a dish melds together, listening for the sizzling and boiling sounds, sampling and noisily savoring the flavors.

I have yet to share how valuable music is to my cooking routine. I don’t particularly have a favorite style to cook by; most any kind will do if not too discordant a rhythm. Michael is the gatekeeper of the music and can usually pick a good vibe for me. I feel both relaxed and enlivened when music is playing while I prep and cook, sort of like having my kitchen full of friends sharing in my cooking passion. My kitchens are usually small where I can tap bottom drawers and doors shut with my foot or use my hips and knees to do the same. I like to get caught up in the twist and sway of the music and punctuate it with an occasional tap on the kettle with my wooden spoons. My metal mixing bowls become Tibetan singing bowls with beautiful tones. I never mind when they “ping” together and resonate till quiet. I like to think the musical routines translate into the food that comes out of the kitchen, too! My cooking is also my active meditation practice and I work diligently to allow thoughts of peace and harmony to permeate my time in the kitchen. Some days are easier than others!

So let’s look at a few warming recipes featuring autumn ingredients from near and far, blending cool clime and some tropical produce, shall we? After living in Hawaii where cooler temperatures, strong winds and heavy rains punctuate the fall months resulting in snow falling on Mauna Kea, I like to celebrate for the islands too.

I’m thinking scones with local blueberries and Hawaiian ginger for morning tea/coffee; later in the morning a wild foods frittata; followed by either potato leek soup or a corn chowder, Puna style. Then after a day of working outside, come in to warm up with a chaga fungus brew. Snacks are a rainbow selection of baked root chips. And if you fill up on chips, for a lighter fare, I offer a  recipe for baked acorn squash with quinoa-cranberry stuffing which goes well with a simple salad.

Gleaning Napa cabbage with Sally for the local food bank.

Gleaning Napa cabbage with Sally for the local food bank.

In the fall and winter months, I like to cook one pot meals so for a heartier appetite, how about a beef or veggie stew, a meatless black bean chili with orange chunks or a hearty bean soup featuring smoked pork chops and pinto beans which also can be served with boneless chicken breast or made vegetarian just by leaving out the meat.  I’ve also included something for the lighter appetite: a recipe for an all-in-one, spicy veggie slaw which would goes well with a simple carrot, ginger and coconut milk soup.

Now in the dessert realm, I’ve included recipes for a pumpkin coconut milk baked custard, and another tempting dessert: a layered, yogurt, cream cheese, blueberry, banana and custard pudding pie. The former is a crowd pleaser, the latter brings down the house!

Oh, and then to top it off, at the end of the meal while you sit around relaxing, a hot mulled rum apple cider.

Please join me on the next page and enjoy the culinary delights of autumn.

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Musings in the Autumn Season: A Food Journey

Since I find the acts of cooking and eating among life’s greater pleasures, I enjoy and am challenged each season by the foods, the harvesting, the preparation, the diversity of recipes and coordination of cooking skills involved in getting it from raw material to my plate. Seasonally, in the northern hemisphere and particularly in the Pacific Northwest, summer and autumn supply the richest variety and abundance of foraged and cultivated foods. On the other hand, depending on where you live, late spring and early summer can provide nutritious foraged foods and the beginning pickings of cultivated ones; while the winter season seems to tax our ingenuity in gathering both foraged and cultivated foods, keeping them from spoiling in storage and in knowing how best to prepare them as food and medicine.

Using Our Senses to Journey

Farm store produce.

Farm store produce.

Let’s begin by taking a sensual journey into the cornucopia of autumn’s bounty by thinking of answers to a few questions about your favorite culinary fruit. Take a moment and thoughtfully consider each question and response in your own manner. If you are familiar with produce only from your grocery store or farmer’s market display, please imagine this as your place of selection. Feel free to improvise ways to enjoy or obtain more data on answering the questions such as actually obtaining and taking a bite of your sample!

Picture your choice of the perfect autumn culinary fruit, your favorite, still attached to its branch, stalk or vine. What makes it perfect for you? In your mind’s eye, thoughtfully pluck it or even pick it up off the ground where it sits. Inspect it. Look for bruises, bird pecks, droppings, moldy or soft spots, worm holes or other blemishes. Roll it around in your hands. Is it heavy for its size? Is it small, misshapen? How would you describe the outer texture of the peel? Is it waxy, veined, fuzzy? What about its color? Is it streaked, or of solid color, flecked with white, cream or green? Is there a light spot on it from where it shouldered up against another piece of fruit or where it sat on the ground? Should it be peeled or can you eat leave the skin on and eat it out of hand? Do you need to let it ripen off the vine? How will it change in color, in flavor?

Since smell and taste are entwined when it comes to eating, if the peel is edible, what does it smell and taste like? Is it sharply flavored, bland, astringent, sweet, sour? How about the fruit underlying the peel? Is it bitter or sweet? Do you pucker and eat gingerly or smile and savor its flavor, feeling satisfied that you’ve got a good one? Are you inclined to slurp when you eat it, enjoying its aroma and taste? Are there fragrances or tones that linger longer than others? How does it feel on the tongue? Is it warming, leaving a hint of vanilla essence or perhaps cooling with a green apple fragrance, snappy with the aroma of ripe berry, or savory and tropical?

Do you hear anything resonating in your head when eating your piece of autumn bounty? Perhaps a satisfying crunch, a solid thwack, sounds of moistness, a slushy sound? Do you utter a sound upon eating your perfect, favorite piece of fruit? Such as…?

Papaya on Big Island, HI.

Non-GMO Papaya on Big Island, HI.

Does your piece of fruit have seeds or pits? Describe them: color, texture, form. How are they contained? Can you save and plant the seeds and there be more of the same without them hybridizing?  Do the seeds have a distinctive odor, flavor, can you eat them, or are they poisonous? Does cooking change their toxicity or make them more palatable? Could you use them in a medicine pouch or for a craft project?

Now look at your hands. Are they sticky? Do you feel inclined to lick your fingers? Did the fruit stain them? What color? Did it leave your fingers or face feeling itchy? How does your tongue feel? How about the inside of your mouth? Are your teeth zinging from all the sweetness? Do you feel like burping?

A food’s color and form and perhaps outer texture were identifying characteristics which may have prompted clues housed in your memory to the selection of your perfect piece. You further used recall describing the sensuous aspects, for if this is a favorite fruit of perfection for you, the fruit’s flavor, its smell, texture upon eating it, sounds of eating it are all friendly memories that reacquaint you with why it’s a favorite and will give you insight into how it can be enhanced in the alchemical process of cooking.This exercise can be done with your choice of the perfect vegetable, as well.

So, why did I have you do this, taking an imaginative journey acquainting your senses with the food you truly enjoy eating, a food which you most likely already have or will eventually transform into aiding the regeneration of your body’s living tissue? Primarily I did it to entertain you with a type of imaginative journey, I enjoy traveling plus as a reminder of society’s loss of contact with the natural world, and the greater sense of dis-ease that studies have proven exists globally today. This loss also exists in the realm of healthy foods, the very foods we eat and our bodies process 24/7/365 and which nourish our very being.

My Perfect Favorite Fruit

Although it’s been many decades, I can vividly remember my favorite apple tree and apple, what it looks like, it’s flavor and smell. The tree grew in my grandparent’s back yard next to the dripping water faucet, the old-fashioned kind of faucet that you could never really quite turn off, providing moisture to the tree, a dog’s watering dish also frequented by the deer who and resident garter snake. The tree wasn’t all that thrifty as it was an old tree and usually had a small harvest. It was a late summer apple, among the first ready for picking with tender flesh which developed a bruise where it fell off the tree. It’s flavor was sweet, its flesh a creamy white and it smelled fruity yet a bit like a crabapple. It made a slushy sound when I bit into it.

Associated with my apple are the memories of my grandmother helping me to shake the tree so that the ones already weakened by having a worm in residence or being small and misshapen would fall. She explained to me those were always the first to ripen. They also tended to be sweet because the irritation from the worm or the malformation caused them to go through their maturation process earlier. And if one fell and developed a bruise, if eaten immediately, the bruise helped to disperse the fruit’s sweetness. Weird, I know. But it does seem to work with the late summer, non-storage apples. The deer know from their midnight raids under the tree eating the fallen fruits.

Of course, the tree’s sweetest apples were growing at its top, light golden with charming pink stripes turning even more golden and red where they received plenty of sunlight. If not picked by my uncles or my dad climbing on a ladder, these were shaken down later when truly ripe. It became a game of grabbing them mid air so they didn’t bounce on the ground and cause a bruise to form in their tender flesh. The bruised ones were put aside to be among the first used in making applesauce. I treasure the lessons learned under that tree.

Applesauce made from gleaned apples!

Applesauce made from gleaned apples!

My mother, grandmother and I used to make copious amounts of applesauce to can, and to make into Priscilla cakes or raisin cakes which became our Christmas fruit cakes and baked well before Thanksgiving. The raisin cake was made popular during WWII when there were shortages of eggs, milk and butter. We stuffed ours with dried and candied fruits and nuts. After it was slowly baked and cooled, we’d wrap it in a thin layer of brown paper to hold it together, tie it with thin white string and then cover it with a layer of flour sack cloth dipped in brandy. This was wrapped carefully around the parcel and re-wetted with brandy, not soaked, however. It would be further wrapped in waxed butcher paper and stored away in the cool corner to “ripen” and be ready to serve during the holiday season. Adding all the fruit and nuts made them heavy, but oh, so tasty without being cloyingly sweet. My mother often made the raisin cake throughout the year without the extra fruit and brandy to serve at social events.

Sensory Cooking Routine

I normally inspect my produce with the usual debug, clean and notice the blemishes/bruises routine.  Then I go through a sensual inventory of its age, sweetness and tartness aspects, how I imagine it to combine with other flavors, textures. Would the addition of spices or herbs enhance its flavor or detract from it?

To me it’s not a piece of celery I look at, but a question: Is it part of the center spiral and therefore lighter in color and flavor or a stalk from the outer spiral which tend to be firmer, larger, darker, heavier-leafed, with more celery flavor? This makes a difference in a meal say of potato soup where I might want the flavor of the darker celery stalks to pep up an older batch of stored potatoes. I’d also add more onions and garlic to the recipe, possibly throwing in more curry and basil. If they were new potatoes and I wanted their buttery flavor to be highlighted, I’d use the inner celery stalks, a bit of sweet onion, less garlic and curry with a hint of dill and parsley to bring out the flavor and freshness of the newly-dug tubers.

First Recipe ~ With More to Come Next Time!

Let’s start with a simple, onion soup using the sweet Walla Walla or Vidalia varieties. You’ll need: coconut oil, butter, sweet onions, celery, dry basil, thyme and tarragon, curry powder, mustard powder, bay leaf pepper, salt and either a stock or nut milk. Of course, feel free to personalize it!

  • Creamy Sweet Onion Soup
  • 3-4 large sweet onions, quartered and sliced very thinly
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced thinly
  • 2 Tbs ea. butter and coconut oil (or olive, if you prefer)
  • Saute onions and celery together in butter and coconut oil until absolutely melted and turning light tan. Watch carefully and keep it from getting too caramelized (unless you prefer it that way.)
  • Stir in:
  • 1  Tbs or more medium to hot salsa
  • 1/2 tsp+ dried basil, thyme and tarragon
  • 1/2 tsp+ curry powder (I prefer the muchi curry)
  • 1/8 tsp+ mustard powder
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Add 1/2 – 1 C of broth, nut milk or raw milk. (I use rice milk.)
  • I just add enough nut milk to barely cover the onions while they simmer together for 15 minutes stirring frequently allowing them to meld and thicken. Now taste and add extra butter for a more buttery flavor, add additional salt, spices, etc. if you want. Stir well. Add more rice milk until just above the onions. Let it simmer for a while longer until thoroughly warmed up. If you add the moisture slowly, the onions seem to incorporate it, swelling and taking in the liquid’s sweetness or flavor. Stir well and taste again. If satisfied with the flavor, add just enough milk to keep it a thick soup. Of course, feel free to make a roux of butter, flour and milk to thicken it or even add kudzu or arrowroot and make a larger amount of soup but I like to keep it thick and rich without the additional thickeners. Makes 3-4 servings.
  • Serve with warm garlic bread and lightly-grated pecorino romano cheese.
Avocados from Kapoho, Big Island, HI.

Avocados from Kapoho, Big Island, HI.

And the fall season is perfect for avocados in Hawaii as evidenced by this lovely one from a local farm stand in Kapoho, Big Island, HI.

Now until we meet again, think about the sensual aspects and pleasures of connecting with your food and join Alpine Lady next time for Musings in the Autumn Season: Tempting Recipes.

PS: Yes, I’ll have a recipe for my favorite guacamole, too!

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Musings in the Autumn Season: Color, Form and Texture

Mysts of Autumn

Mysts of Autumn

When the heavy autumn mysts sweep inland enveloping the grasses and fencerows, obscuring the shapes of things, hiding movements and dulling all but the brightest of colors, the animals in their camouflaging coats of fur and feathers, the shadowy druidic oaks and the nearly-naked Indian plum and bitter cherry trees all but disappear in the shifting haze.

If I step into the mysts, the horizon becomes elusive, receding or creeping forward as the amorphous grey expands and contracts. At times I imagine or perhaps even sense the off-shore breeze breathing it forward, seeking my identity, my reason for entering into its grey refuge and is ready to dampen my enthusiasm, to test my resolve with its chilly, damp vapors. Yet when the sun burns through the fog, the winds disperse the grey, or the contractive dimming light of autumn rain lifts, my spirits rise and I witness another world enlivened by color, form and texture rivaling the pallets and fabrics of the autumn fashion scene. (*CSI)

Dyer's Polypore often used for dyeing wool.

Dyer’s Polypore often used for dyeing wool.

The basic, more drab background colors of grey, ivory, nude, khaki, chocolate and white which designers embellish with cool and warm color tones and appropriate accessories, exist in nature as foundations for embellishment with leaves, blossoms, fruits, berries and functional accessories such as spider webs and nests. In the fall time, the base tones color the underlaying structure of the graceful snowberry hedgerows lining fields and country lanes and abound in the world of fungi and its plethora of forms and textures.

Blue elderberry covered with whitish bloom causing them to appear power blue.

Blue elderberry covered with whitish bloom causing them to appear powder blue.

The cool fashion color tones of autumn with names such as loden and pine green, grape, syrah and fuchsia purple, spruce, powder blue, peacock, cobalt and moody, and the dark ink tones greet me in the grey-greens of the lichens, the flowers for sale in the farmers’ markets, the Michaelmas daisies in the country gardens, the rich purple juice of the expressed elderberry, the needles of the blue spruce tree, the powdery blue elderberry and blueberry fruits, the brilliant flash and flicker of the Steller’s jay flitting about in the coniferous forest, and in the moody skies overhead as the weather patterns establish a cooler dominance, the night sky lengthens and turns into the dark inky, almost black of night.

A late-blooming, fragrant fall rose.

A late-blooming, fragrant fall rose.

The warm color tones inspired by the natural world and reflected in the world of fashion: crimson, tomato and orange-reds, sweet potato and toffee, raisin, rust and gingerbread, carnation and dried rose pinks, mustard seed and yellow, plus aged cabernet and bordeaux appear in the bounty of fruits both fresh and dried, produce, flowers, leaf colors and even some fauna as the season deepens; and, in the pressed juices, serving wines, elixers, infused honeys and medicinal tinctures prepared with the fruits and roots of autumn.

Sometimes forms or textures dominate and colors become secondary. The leaves of the majestic big leaf maple live up to their name and often measure over a foot in diameter. The bark of the tree is gnarled and grey. The trunks sensuously grow in close contact and branch into thick strong arms capable of holding the heaviest layer of rainforest mosses and epiphytes. The big leaf maple is a dominant deciduous tree whose branches reach out over the country lanes we walk each day. It is a joy for me in the autumn when their leaves fall in thick carpets of gold turning to russet begging to be trod upon, to shuffle nostalgically through them releasing their sweet aromas and hollow, leafy sounds.

Orb-weaving cross or garden spider plump with eggs.

Orb-weaving cross or garden spider plump with eggs.

In nature, form follows function . All summer long, the curvaceous golden-bejeweled, orb weaving cross spiders have spun their spiraling webs in the fields and along the fence rows to catch the flies and wasps drawn to the foraging cattle herds. Their bodies have grown plump with eggs and they now spend their days resting close by the web site, often not replacing the torn spirals for days at a time. On mysty days, their sagging, water-laden webs are easily seen. In late October when the developing eggs have stretched their abdomens very tight and they feel the mothering urge, the cross spiders will leave their sticky traps to find suitable leaves or crevices in which to spin and secure their golden egg sacs, filling them with hundreds of eggs. The sacs will remain safely hidden until the warm weather of spring arrives and the yellow spiderlings emerge en masse.

Of course, autumn would not be complete without a celebration of the highly decorative cucurbit family – the gourds, pumpkins and squashes. One of our local farm stores is currently bursting with a rich harvest, much of which is raised in the their own fields in central Washington in the Columbia River Basin. The descriptive names of the gourd family fruits intrigue me and allude to their colors, forms and outer textures: warty, turban, banana, Cinderella, cheese wheel, spooky, ghost and bumpy. Their colors range from the basic foundation tones to the cool and warm colors, from cream, to blueish, blue-green and several orange and orange-reds along with yellows. One even has a pinkish cast. Their sizes vary from mini to gargantuan although none are record-breaking. Interspersed throughout their displays and making it feel very rustic and country-like are roughly-hewn, locally-recycled wooden sheds, boxes, shelves and of course, the traditional Indian corn cobs, and golden corn shocks.

A warty pumpkin.

A warty pumpkin.

Autumn begs immersion by way of the sensual to witness the colors, forms and textures of this transformational and regenerative fall time journey. It’s an emotional time of letting go of the summer past, a time for reflection and relaxation. The beauty that delights the eye, the fruits and foods that feed the body and the celebrations that feed the spirit sustain us as we enter more deeply into the dark of the year in preparation for our emergence into the light next spring.

A  frittata made with the bounty of autumn.

A frittata made with the bounty of autumn.

So invite your friends and join me next time as AlpineLady adds recipes featuring hearty fall soups, spreads and dips, entrees and desserts centered around the bounty of the season.

Until then, blessings on your autumn adventures!