Archive for September, 2012

Dragon-Baking

Saturday, September 29th, 2012

Today is the feast of Michaelmas, on which we acknowledge and resolve to transform our Inner Dragons, an ongoing and elusive undertaking that is refreshed by this annual reminder. And it helps to dress ourselves and our table in red, and for breakfast to dine upon freshly baked dragon bread with honey and cider and apples from the Saturday farmers market.

Here is the recipe I use for Dragon Bread. It’s a modification of “Arkansas Hot Rolls,” one I clipped from The Washington Post at the time of Bill Clinton’s first inauguration, a recipe to which we now refer as “Bill’s Buns.” (Now, there’s a fellow who has wrestled impressively with his inner dragons.) Next year I resolve to photograph and post the steps for shaping the dough. The one pictured below is about 18” wide, making enough to share with neighbors.

Dragon7366

Dragon Bread

3/4 cup butter
1 cup scalded milk
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup cold water
2 T dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
3-1/2 cups unbleached white flour
3 cups whole-wheat flour
More flour as needed

Combine butter and scalded milk and stir until butter is melted. Combine beaten eggs, brown sugar and salt and beat in the cold water.

Soften yeast in the lukewarm water. Combine the three mixtures and then add HALF the flour. Stir well and let this sponge rise about 45 minutes. Then stir down and add the rest of the flour and knead well about ten minutes, adding small handfuls of flour if necessary if the dough is very sticky. (This varies depending upon kind of flour and humidity.) Place in a LARGE bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise for about 2 hours.

Then shape it into a dragon (see directions for this in September 2013)—or into anything you like!—and place it on a buttered baking sheet sprinkled with cornmeal, with plenty of room around it for a final rising. Bake in a preheated 350º oven for about 50 minutes total. BUT you must do this in stages, covering the crisping brown edges with aluminum foil starting at about 20 minutes, to prevent them from burning. Serve with butter and honey.

CakeStars Dad

Renewal of Spirit

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

It’s the weekend of our church community’s annual retreat in Orkney Springs, Virginia, and, 2012 being the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, which helped drag the Catholic Church from the Middle Ages into modern times (well, at least into the 20th century), this was a natural subject for discussion. There were reminiscences by grandparents of growing up in the “Catholic ghetto”: gloomy churches, scary sermons about sinfulness and hell, and nary a non-Catholic to be seen… gradually replaced by Mass in the vernacular, greatly expanded participation by lay people, and reaching across the aisles, so to speak, to people of other faiths. What might be accomplished in the next fifty years? I’m sure MY to-do list doesn’t match that of the current Pope.

Accommodations at the retreat vary, and families with children are generally housed together, but rarely in Maryland House, pictured below. I learned this weekend that it’s an Adults-Only House, to which parents graduate when their children go off to college. Aha! That explains the singing, the clinking of glasses, and the boisterous laughter drifting across the lawn after the rest of us have put the kids to bed and crashed ourselves. And I thought it was coming from the Teen Camp.

MdHouse2

CakeSprinklesEmma

CakeYellowRoses2Megan

Autumn Equinox

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

Today is one of the turnings of the year, and between now and the beginning of winter, each day will begin a little later and end a little earlier, until, when the alarm clock goes off, we find ourselves groping for our bedroom slippers in darkness.

But there are some joys to be had during the days of shrinking sunlight: walks in the golden woods, candlelight, hot soup, bread fresh from the oven, and, of course, apples in every imaginable form. Just to look at one is a pleasure. And of course there is autumnal poetry, in which this poignant season abounds.

AppleMapleLeaf

To Autumn

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

‘The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

‘The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.’
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

—William Blake

The Sunlight on the Garden

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

As we approach the end of summer, a rather melancholy poem, on the birthday of its author John MacNeice (1907-1963). By way of contrast, a watercolor of sunny wood poppies, which bloom most satisfactorily all season long and sprinkle their seed generously every year, ensuring a steady supply of offspring. Painted for sunny and generous Colette.

WoodPoppies

The sunlight on the garden
Hardens and grows cold,
We cannot cage the minute
Within its nets of gold;
When all is told
We cannot beg for pardon.

Our freedom as free lances
Advances towards its end;
The earth compels, upon it
Sonnets and birds descend;
And soon, my friend,
We shall have no time for dances.

The sky was good for flying
Defying the church bells
And every evil iron
Siren and what it tells:
The earth compels,
We are dying, Egypt, dying

And not expecting pardon,
Hardened in heart anew,
But glad to have sat under
Thunder and rain with you,
And grateful too
For sunlight on the garden.

—Louis Macneice

Well-Spring of Life

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

FountainSiloPost

Today is the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, events which were both traumatic and transformative in ways we are still discovering. From the book The Survivor Tree (written by Cheryl Somers Aubin), about a tree that survived and was re-planted on the new Memorial Plaza, I post this illustration of the fountain that once stood nearby. Now a new water feature stands in its place on the Plaza, another hopeful symbol of renewal.

There is an item in Sunday’s Washington Post about The Survivor Tree.

Understanding is a well-spring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly. —Proverbs 16:22

YCandleJim

Why I Wake Early

Monday, September 10th, 2012

A last look at the sunny beach before summer’s end, and a poem by Mary Oliver (b. 1935), whose birthday it is today. (This is not an upload glitch—the Indian Village watercolor paper actually is irregularly shaped.)

Beach&Houses

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who made the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and the crotchety—
best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light—
good morning, good morning, good morning.
Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

—Mary Oliver