Nor’easter Magic

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after the stormI haven’t seen the peaks of the Worcester Range for a week, but yesterday the blue light of the sky sifted through the clouds and played on the hillside for hours.

Last week a nor’easter settled in for days, weighing down us down with ice and snow, and now in the calm, trees still hold the evidence of the storm: white branches bowing down, mountainsides frozen thick with frost.

Each time I step outside, I feel as if I’ve entered Narnia, and my inner-child wakes up, dazzled and wondering, surrounded by magic.

Two Photographers

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photo by John Snell, http://stilllearningtosee.com

photo by John Snell, stilllearningtosee.com

photo by Rob Spring, robspringphoto.com

photo by Rob Spring, robspringphoto.com

 

I have my father, Rob Spring, to thank for my love of photography.  On countless weekend mornings, he woke me pre-dawn to go get lost on the back roads of Vermont to take pictures.  He taught me that if you drive down-hill long enough, you’ll come to a town, and from there you’ll find your way home again.  He taught me to zoom in to look at the details and to zoom out to see the whole picture.

He goes out weekly on walks around Vermont with his friend John Snell.  For as long as I can remember, John and my Dad have been friends, hiking on weekends all around Vermont taking photos together.  They each have a distinct style, and each celebrate the natural and working landscapes of Vermont in their photography.

So today, instead of posting my own pictures, I invite you to visit their websites and explore Vermont (and Alaska, Michigan, and beyond!) through their eyes.

Rob Spring: robspringphoto.com

John Snell: stilllearningtosee.com

The Naked Winter, or Becoming More Alive

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An opening comes with winter, when the forest canopy is naked and light falls through the branches to the snow below.  Summer in Vermont is packed with green leaves, close hills, screens of trees.  Now, the woods are bare and a feeling of space sprawls out.  Views hidden by leaves in the summer appear this time of year, framed by the twiggy crowns of trees, and light plays across the landscape like watercolor, fluidly moving from shades of white to gray, purple, pink, blue, yellow, and orange, a shifting palate created by the sun and clouds and particular time of day.

There’s something about this nakedness that brings me more alive.  It reminds me of the space I felt in Alaska, the way the open tundra calls to the spirit saying go, roam free; and at the same time, it asks more of me.  The elemental cold brings the act of living back to simplicity: make a fire, stay warm, eat.

You know what, I’ve just realized something, just put into words what I’m doing here, though some part of myself has surely known it all along.  From the first time I lived in a yurt during the Adirondack Semester in college, a mile-long hike and 3/4 mile paddle across a lake from the nearest car, I’ve been on a journey to remove the insulation between myself and this world.  There, in the Adirondacks, I lived in a little yurt village with 13 other students.  We left our cell phones and computers behind and spent our days outside; we traded house parties for campfires and starry nights on a dock.  I had never before felt so alive.

Since then, I’ve cultivated my life in a way that weeds out the distractions of modern society and leaves space for the base of this life: fresh air, earth, movement, food.  It’s harder to do this when away from that village in the Adirondacks.  Sometimes I forget why we live this way, why we’re here in this yurt with an outhouse and no running water.  Sometimes all those distractions cloud my head and send me reeling, wondering if what we’re doing is crazy.

Winter comes in and strips down the static, leaves me bare as well.  It brings me back to the elemental, back to the root of my journey, which is this: to create a life that constantly brings me more alive.  There are so many things that let us close up, stop growing, and insulate us from the world.  It is so easy to stop noticing the inherent magic and beauty that lives all around us.  It is not as easy to be present, aware, and open, but this is precisely the task if we want to be more alive.

Go outside, take a deep breath, keep breathing until the shock of cold slides off and your lungs expand in the clear air and your heart beats a little harder in the sheer exposure of it all.  Yell, if it helps.  Then ground yourself, shed whatever it is that holds you back, stand naked like a tree in winter.  Your path may different than mine, but that doesn’t matter.  What matters is that you follow what brings you alive.  What matters is that we all wake up a little more each day.

Sun and Snow, by Katie Spring

Farmer Wordplay

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P1030180

The words we use as farmers and eaters has a real impact on how we view our food.  This summer I started thinking more about the words harvest and slaughter when it comes to chickens, and my musings turned into an article in the latest edition of Vermont’s Local Banquet.  Read an excerpt below:

With both hands, I reach into the crate of chickens.

“I’m sorry!” I say to the chicken as it flaps in my less-than-confident grasp. The butcher just showed me how to properly handle a bird: two hands on their legs, chest down, and pick up. They won’t flap this way. I put the bird’s chest on the ground until it calms and pashand it to the butcher.

“No need to apologize to them for that,” he says, easily putting the bird upside-down into the cone and, with a sharp knife, cutting its head off in a blink.

“I hate picking up chickens,” I tell him. “I like eating and raising them, but I’m not good at this part.”

“Eating is the easy part.”

To read the full article, visit Vermont’s Local Banquet

The Open Moments

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cloud movementRain. Sleet. Ice. Snow.  Winter battles its way in, vying for frozen air even as small pockets of warmth swing in, teetering the thermometer down and up and down again, where eventually it will rest for the long stretch of the cold months.

The clouds color our days slate and slow the sunrise.  Each day we turn closer to solstice, darker and darker as we go, almost forgetting the calm blue sky brimming with light.  It happens then, just as we forget, that sun-laced wisps rise up from the hills and the winds push north and we stand, staring out at it all as our own breath rises like the clouds and for one moment we are empty, speechless, willing.

I wonder, what would the world be like, if we could always remember the clear expanse beyond the clouds.  What would the world be like if we lived from these open moments?

What the camera won’t capture

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Our morning:

A walk in the woods along a ridge-line trail rising up from the Musconetcong River.  I didn’t have  my camera, but that wouldn’t have captured the fresh cold smell of the snow and the slight sinking of our feet as we traipsed through it, or my surprise at the plump green rhododendron leaves peeking out from their hats of snow, or the dogs’ reluctant restraint as we told them to heel.  It wouldn’t have captured Waylon’s laugh and the feel of sprinkles on my neck as I grabbed hold of a beech tree bent under the weight of new snow and shook, the icy flakes pouring to the ground like sugar.

A Thanksgiving Goose

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Crisp crackled skin, juicy fat, deep flavorful meat.  A Thanksgiving goose!

Thanksgiving Goose

The goose was a gift for Waylon’s birth.  Our friends at Gozzard City brought it over one late summer day last year when Waylon was still a floppy little baby unable to hold his head up, and the goose went into the freezer with the intention of pulling it back out come Christmas.  Instead, it got lost among the pork and chicken and turkey and beef that also filled the freezers, and so over a year later we finally took it out to thaw, and cooked it on Sunday for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration with my parents and brother.

It was my first goose, and though I rarely follow recipes step by step, I tried my best with this bird.  In the middle I switched the recipe I was following for a simpler one, and the goose didn’t seem to mind one bit.  The temperature and length of time were different, but it was still stuffed with caramelized onions, bits of fatty bacon, chunks of apple and torn bread.  It still dripped fat that became our leek-laced gravy.

pumpkin pieIn the case we discovered that none of us liked goose, the bird was joined by a smaller fowl in the form of beer-can chicken.  Luckily, we found that not only do we like goose, but especially when dribbled with gravy, we love goose.  Nothing went to waste.

By the time dessert came around, Waylon was past ready for bed, but he sat on his uncle’s lap and tried his first taste of pumpkin pie, which happened to be just the thing to keep him going a little longer into the night.

The left-over goose and pie kept us fueled as we drove to New Jersey yesterday, and primed us for turkey tomorrow.  This year I am thankful for all these things: friends who raise geese, our bumper crop of pumpkins, the leeks that started in our field and ended simmering in goose fat, the soil that grew our vegetables, the grass that fed the animals, and family, always family, who share these meals with us.

pies and candlelight

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