Sunday, September 25, 2011

It's been so long . . .

I haven't posted here in many months, for a number of reasons. First, I hadn't the energy. I thought I was just tired, but turns out I'm anemic. Then there was the fact that I hadn't anything good to say, and as Mama advised in such circumstances, I chose to say nothing at all. To be frank, this has not been a good year. More of a if-anything-can-go-wrong-it-will, what-fresh-hell-is-this kind of year. Health problems, financial worries, family crises--you've all got your own; you don't need to read about mine. But I've been too obsessed with those things to write about books, gardens, cats, or anything else that makes life worthwhile.

The rains returned today, and the weather got cooler. I still have hopes of getting a few more tomatoes to ripen, but I fear the figs will stay green. And I know of no good recipes for unripe-fig anything--no relishes, chutneys, or fried green figs. The fact that the birds haven't bothered them really says it all. It's been a very cool summer here--only a handful of days over 90--so everything is at least three weeks behind. I picked a pound of raspberries yesterday ($1.50 at the u-pick farm near my house). Raspberries! At the end of September! Blackberries are still producing as well, and there may be enough on the brambles near my office to make a blackberry cobbler for St. Michael's day. [When St. Michael battled the devil, he threw the demon into a blackberry bramble, thus the traditional holy day dessert.]

My husband made a terrific harvest dinner last night to share with friends. To accompany two fine French burgundies, he made a vegetarian feast: mushroom and goat cheese pâté on toasted baguette, cauliflower soup, and zucchini pierogues stuffed with a savory bread pudding and finished with a simple tomato sauce. Dessert, served with an excellent Oregon dessert wine from Sokol Blosser, was dark chocolate mousse and fresh raspberries. A lovely evening with friends, and a great start to the harvest season.

Fall is always and forever "back to school" time for me, and usually a beginning for a big reading project. I've spent the summer with the complete Barsetshire series by Angela Thirkell, and I now may return to the original Trollope Barsethire novels, which I haven't read in a decade. The book I read for my book group this month, Susan Hill's Howard's End is on the Landing, has made me think about my favorite books, and about those I want to read. She ends the work with her list of 40 books that would last her the rest of her life, if she could read nothing else. It's fun to work on my own list, and to decide which things I've read, and which things I want to read, should be on it. The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the Art of Living by Epictetus are the Stoic stand-bys I couldn't do without, the books always on my bedside table. Jane Austen would have to be there, probably represented by Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. The former is my favorite Austen. I've always felt a kinship with Elinor Dashwood.

A big decision is what "aspirational" reading to include. Do I use up six volumes of 40 on Proust's Remembrance of Things Past? I can't decide. Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (three volumes from Penguin) does make the cut. I've decided to give up the idea of ever reading Ulysses. I finally sent the copy I'd been dragging around through six moves to Goodwill, and frankly, I feel free.

I know there will be non-fiction from Joan Didion and Janet Flanner, and a book on gardening (but which one?). I will have to decide which works by Evelyn Waugh, Anthony Trollope, Virginia Woolf, and Edith Wharton will make the cut. Nancy Mitford's Pursuit of Love is a given, as is Milan Kundera's Unbearable Lightness of Being (why does this man not have a Nobel prize yet?) and Garcia-Marquez's Chronicle of a Death Foretold. Biography/memoir/letters/diaries are another difficult question, as is poetry (though I'm leaning toward John Donne). What an amusing way to spend some chilly, rainy autumn evenings.

PS: Sorry there are no pictures. This summer's disasters included the failure of three--count them, three--hard dives, and I haven't loaded photos onto this one yet.