The Road to Summer

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I love this view.

Not so much for what it shows us now but for what it represents.

I’ve never walked down this particular path but I know that there lies, under the snow, a dirt road.

And that road leads to summer.

Roads like this exist all over the North Country. In the winter, they are never plowed, no one ventures there.

But at the end of all the roads, you can still see that glimpse of what’s to come. That blue at the end of the path? That’s lake and sky . . . and the promise of summer

Come May, maybe Memorial Day, after the snow is long gone and the mud has dried out, those dirt roads will beckon under canopies of new green. That blue sky and lake at the end will draw family members back to “camp.”

I’ve never seen the specific camp at the end of this path but I have a very good idea what it looks like. Small, with a couple of added-on rooms that were probably poorly planned and done by workers lacking skill. There’s probably indoor plumbing and running water but that, too, is a recent addition.

There won’t be heat in this building because it’s never needed—the small house is used only in summer. The rooms are small and probably dark but no one spends any time inside anyway. A large screened-in porch provides a transition to outside and maybe a spot for sleeping during really hot nights.

The yard is where the action is. In the yard you’ll find picnic tables and Adirondack chairs, quite possibly a hammock. And a jumble of summer toys—kayaks, canoes, water skis. A fire pit, for sure, and a big grill for cooking.

On winter days, when it’s really quiet, I can walk past the end of this dirt road and hear the sounds of summer. The buzz of the jet skis, the hollering of kids as they splash in the lake, the calls of “how do you want your burger done?”

We don’t have a long dirt driveway at our house and our house, now, is a year-round home, with all the mod cons.

But we strive to preserve the feeling of “camp” and days when family and friends gather, the days are long and mellow, the music lifts us, the food and drink sustain us. We look to the days when our short asphalt driveway transforms into the essence of a long dirt road—that leads to summer.

All My Life’s A Circle . . .

coconut bark-2All my life’s a circle, sunrise and sundown

The moon rolls through the nighttime, till the daybreak comes around

All my life’s a circle but I can’t tell you why

The season’s spinnin’ round again the years keep rollin’ by.

As so often happens, I woke up with a song in my head. I think my subconscious provides me with the lyrics, depending on my mood and what is happening in my little piece of paradise.

This morning, the song in my head is Harry Chapin’s “Circle.” I know why.

It’s because the seasons are spinning ’round, and it’s autumn, and candy season has begun.

As I’ve explained before, I sell handmade chocolates, and I can’t temper chocolate for the candy when the temperature is warm. Every spring, when the mercury goes up, I put away the candy-making paraphernalia and my circle spins to other pursuits.

Every September, the circle spins again, I take out my lucky tempering bowl and my digital thermometer, my sugar and butter and chocolate, and I commence to make candies.

I’ve had my first candy foray of 2015 this week. I made a double batch of caramels—about 200 candies—and yesterday I dipped half of them in dark, beautiful Callebaut chocolate. This morning I made white chocolate bark and will dip the rest of the caramels in Callebaut milk chocolate.

(On a side note, there’s a story in the news about someone who worked at Callebaut in Vermont, who hated his job so much he called in a bomb threat, in order to get fired. Never mind, how twisted his thinking was—can you imagine hating a job at a chocolate factory?!)

In the next few months, “candy season” in my world, I’ll make the equivalent of about 500 half-pound boxes of chocolates.

This arc of my circle is pretty predictable. I’ll chop, stir, temper, dip, garnish, package, label, rinse, repeat. And repeat.

I’ll get knickers in a twist about preparing enough candy for the one holiday boutique I participate in, and then I’ll have too much.

I’ll get up in the morning and check Etsy, half hoping to find more candy sales, and half hoping I won’t.

I’ll worry about running out of chocolate or out of half-pound boxes.

At some point, I’ll probably get a nasty sugar burn and I’ll get very, very sick of chocolate.

And, while this arc waxes, others aspects of my circle will wane for now. I’ll have much less time for vintage linens and weaving and blogging and quilting, and I’ll pout about all of that.

I’ll wonder why I do this candymaking thing at all.

But then, I’ll get my first order of the season from the “Queen of Sienna,” a blog friend, fellow seller of vintage lovelies, and loyal lover of chocolate. She’ll say kind things about my candy and be excited I’m back, selling again.

When I do the holiday boutique, people will come specifically looking for something they loved last year or because they heard about the chocolate from a friend. Etsy shoppers will buy candy as Christmas gifts and ask me to include sweet messages to their loved ones far away.

And my family and friends will be pleased when I have extra candy around!

I’ll find I enjoy quiet mornings in my warm space, with the smell of chocolate and caramel and vanilla. I’ll achieve a certain satisfaction from the repetitive motion of dipping caramel after caramel into silky dark chocolate. Zen and the art of candy making.

And, through it all, I’ll know that, when and if it stops being fun and fulfilling, I can put away the lucky bowl and digital thermometer for good. Because the circle of my life isn’t a stone circle, and the seasons can be filled with whatever I choose.

For now, though, I choose chocolate, and candy season.

Coming or Going?

geeseI watch the geese at this time of year, the time of year when they know what they should be doing and the direction they should be heading. And, in spite of responding to an internal imperative to fly south, they seem, on many days, to be heading north.

I can identify. I, too, know what I should be doing and the directions I should be heading and, yet, I can’t seem to figure out if I’m coming or going.

I should be making candy. It’s the beginning of candy season and I have ideas for sweet new concoctions. I should be making those goodies, taking photos of them, and preparing them for sale.

I should be ironing linens. I’ve lucked into many new caches of vintage wonderfulness lately—some beautiful pieces in lovely condition. This is the time of year people look to buy pretty things for their holiday tables and for gifts. I should be ironing.

I should be cutting back perennials. And raking leaves. And putting the geraniums to bed.

I should be writing substantive, deep, and thought-provoking blog posts instead of just posting photos as I have mostly been doing lately.

I should be doing some deep house cleaning (have you seen my shower?)

I should be winding warp because no weaving can occur without a warp to weave into. I should baste a quilt because no quilting can occur without basting first.

So much I should be doing . . .

But all I want to do is travel the byways of upstate New York, immersing myself in the wonders of the season, enjoying autumn.

We drove across New York this past weekend and went through the Adirondacks. Already, two weeks before the date we associate with peak color, we saw trees a-blazing. We saw fall everywhere we looked.

We were driving with a focus, we had places to go, so I just tried to gather as many impressions as I could. My impressions began with the awareness that everything is happening early this year—the people who take the leaf-peeper tours on Columbus Day weekend are going to miss the show, I’m afraid!

I also had the impression that the reds that make this region so spectacular, especially from the maples, are particularly bright and splashy this year. This isn’t a one-dimensional red but ranges from burgundy to flame red to cerise. Some leaves are streaked with stripes of red and green. Add the bright sun and the breeze rustling the leaves and you’ll get one million shades of red. This is what’s meant by the phrase “eye dazzling”!

I had the impression that this, this autumn, is the perfect autumn. The days are “black and blue”—moments of bright and sunny skies, broken in arresting ways by big dark clouds that add drama.

Enough with impressions.

I need to go out and move slowly, and savor this perfect autumn.

I want the smell of wood smoke and the smell of the sun on fallen pine needles.

I want the taste of cake donuts, made with apple cider and covered with cinnamon sugar.

I want the sound of the crunch of leaves as I shuffle through them and the sound of those silly geese, honking their heads off.

I want to feel the warm sun on my shoulders, leavened by a crisp breeze on my face.

Most of all, I need the sights of autumn. The sky the color we call “Adirondack blue.” The leaves putting on a show I can only seem to find trite descriptors for, a show that really does defy description. And the reflection of those colors, softer, moodier, muted, in every pond and stream.

This season, this moment, can’t be postponed. Autumn, the season, may last until December but the essence of fall in the North Country is ever so fleeting.

So, I say to hell with those things I should be doing. This time, the “shoulds” will be trumped by the “wants” and “needs”! Coming or going? My own internal imperative insists that I be going.

Going out to meet autumn, joyfully.