It’s that time of year. Summer is fading and the mountains are turning daffodil, pumpkin, and scarlet. Our lows are in the 40s and the light is softening.
The changes on this mountaintop warn us (about as subtly as a clanging gong) that winter is coming. Animals have picked clean the berry brambles and the rose hips are bright red, rich with vitamin C. Mushroom season (see this blog) is winding down as hunting season (elk, deer, bighorn sheep) ratchets up. I marvel, as I do each year, at God’s goodness as He cares for humans and animals alike.
My Harbinger of Doom plant, the one that changes colors before everything else, began to evolve two weeks ago. It’s a currant plant, bountiful with fruit. I purchased another bush (I plant one each year), keeping it on the deck to protect the fruit from chipmunks. The critters have the eyes of an eagle and the speed of Mo Farah.
I baked the last batch of currant scones today, and I’m sharing the recipe here. If you’ve never had fresh, wild currants, you don’t know what you’re missing. When I fly-fish our rivers now, I barely restrain myself from asking the guide to pull over so that I can raid the flaming currant brambles along the banks.
FRESH CURRANT SCONES
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Mix in your food processor 4.5 cups flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add i teaspoon of freshly ground nutmeg. Gently cut in 2 sticks of cold butter.
Mix 2.25 cups of heavy cream with an egg. Add this to the dry ingredients. The batter has the consistency of half-dry cement, so brace yourself to add the currants. Fold in the currants, noting that some will become smashed fatalities.
Roll the dough onto a floured surface and form into a ball. Flatten the ball to about an inch thick, then cut into eight or ten pieces with a sharp knife.
Arrange on a baking sheet, brush with additional melted butter, and sprinkle with Demerara sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. These freeze well, which is a good thing if you have a husband who loves fresh scones as much as mine.
(makes roughly four dozen)
Preheat oven to 375 and line two cookie sheets with parchment.
Cream 1 cup of sugar and 2/3 cup unsalted butter. Add 2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest, 3 eggs, and 1/4 teaspoon lemon extract. In separate bowl, mix 3 cups flour, 2.5 teaspoons baking powder, 1/8 teaspoon sale, and 2 tablespoons anise seed. Add dry ingredients to wet. Then add 2/3 cup dried, unsweetened cranberries, and 2/3 cup pistachios. Form dough into four balls.
Shape each ball into logs about 3/4 inch thick. Lay two logs on each baking sheet, with the parchment between the dough and sheet. (Yes, son. This specific advice about the parchment is for you.)
Bake for 25 minutes, switching the cookie sheets halfway through. Remove from oven. Let cool five minutes. Then slice each log into roughly 1/2 inch slices, spreading the slices back on the parchment.
Bake an additional seven minutes, again switching the sheets at the mid-point. Let cool, then top with the best quality melted chocolate you can find .
(Those of you who have been on this journey with me since 2012 will recognize this as the Thanksgiving blog from that year. It remains a favorite, and I’m happy to share it again. I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday, and I look forward to writing a new blog next week.)
Movement along our ridge caught my eye a couple of weeks ago. At first glance, I thought I saw a flock of the largest blue grouse — prairie chickens — on record. Then I realized I looked at eleven HATs (high-altitude turkeys).
The fellow on the far right was the Alpha Turkey. (I think I dated him in college but that’s another story.) Every time a brethren tried to pass, a peck or poke sent the feathered insurgent to the back of the line. I watched their social antics as the flock adhered to a rigid order. The Alpha Turkey’s determination to lead was comical; the other turkeys’ willingness to follow was amazing.
Eventually, they hopped down the ridge and out of sight. I wondered how many would survive hunting season and which would grace a Thanksgiving table with sinewy “saginess.”
How like turkeys we are! Some push to the head of the line, defending only God knows what from every angle, oozing aggression. Others are content to follow, never risking the responsibility of leadership, always looking at the tail feathers ahead. At least one is a lunatic waiting to erupt. But all exist in community, instinctively seeking a flock.
What makes us different (aside from the “likeness of God” angle, since I am confident God is not a turkey) is that some humans lead with honor, dignity, humility, and by merit of skill or strength of character. Others follow in the supporting roles without which a leader can’t do his or her job. Humans are a functioning organism of independent, symbiotic parts, just like Christendom. We’re turkeys.
I have many prayers this holiday season. Some address recent tragedies and are global, others look ahead with hope, a few are personal. One is that we each find our predestined place in line, contributing the gifts we’ve received while offering thanks with joyful hearts.
Happy Thanksgiving, and let me be one of the first to wish you a Merry Christmas.
I’m trying to write the classic, “what I’m thankful for” post, but the problem is, neither you nor I have the time. I’m thankful for just about everything. Certainly for blessings normally cited — faith, health, family, food, and shelter.
I’m thankful for the twelve inches of snow that fell last week, for the past few warm sunny days that melted that snow — and for cross-country ski wax! For deer ambling through the yard and the family of foxes that left tracks this morning.
I’m thankful for the success of When Camels Fly and the GREAT pre-release reviews of The Brothers’ Keepers (releasing today!). I’m thankful for my literary agent, a work history that enables me to tackle marketing, and for my editors. (I’m really thankful for my editors. My readers should be, too.)
I’m thankful for talented artists and book-cover designers. I’m thankful that technology has evolved to the point that NO ONE needs to set type letter by letter by hand. Ever again. (Yep. Been there, done that.)
I guess my problem is an inability to understand a spirit of unthankfulness. I never thought it would be easy, growing up in a patriarchal denomination when the words women’s lib would nail you to the prayer list, whereas casserole vaulted you to the holy stratosphere. I was too poor to feel entitled. I never thought about what my parents, or society, or God owed me, but itched to get out in the world to try to burst through that glass ceiling, all the more enticing because I saw through it to what lay in the larger universe.
I’d like to encourage you to join me in a spirit of thankfulness. Right now. Start each day thinking about one thing for which you’re thankful. Is there a better way to slide into the holiday season than by focusing on our blessings?
Mr. Wonderful retired early into the world of law enforcement. The bad news is I’m “enjoying” stories about his breaking down doors, citing traffic violations, and encountering billowing marijuana smoke from cars stopped on the side of the road. The good news is he’s providing quite a few thought-provoking ideas, and I’m sharing one today.
His concept of three degrees relates to last week’s post, True North, in which I explored the concept of following true north to stay on course. Three degrees fine tunes that idea. Specifically, during target practice, he says it’s easy to think he’s on target. But if his sight is off just three degrees in any direction — a veritable smidgen at the muzzle tip — the shot veers dangerously off-target by the time it reaches the bulls eye.
So what about three degrees in terms of life? Small choices seeming inconsequential, minor compromises, carelessness or thoughtlessness…all can lead to much bigger misfires when they reach their conclusion. My personal failure — not making time to study the Bible daily — is a perfect example of three degrees. So is running a stop sign or speaking when it’s best to remain silent.
I propose there’s a correlation between staying on target and spending at least ten minutes focusing on God every single day. (I just admitted failure.) If I will allocate time to read a chapter, or do a devotional (anything by Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton or Richard J. Foster), my chances of not straying three degrees from true north increase exponentially.
If life is a journey, I don’t want to end it lost.