"A sudden splendor from behind
Flushed all the leaves with rich golden-green"
--Alfred, Lord Tennyson
It's a beautiful chill October morning, notable for the anniversary of the birth of my first child, who turns 21 today. All around the house and all along the pathways in the garden are the leaves that I'm going to have to rake up soon. These are the worker bees of the plant world. They really get little respect given that they take the energy from sunlight and manufacture the sugars and starches that feed the plant all year long. But in the fall, when their verdant prospects are dimming they flash in glorious golds, reds, yellows and blazing oranges in a kind of botanical smack down on their dainty flower counterparts.
When they are all finally off the trees, usually in the week just after Thanksgiving, I like to run the mower over them just enough so that when they go into the composters, they'll more quickly break down into the wonderful black gold that I'll use in the spring. It's a little hard now however not to feel intimidated by this seasonal task, given the volume of leaves that fall on my garden every year. And the chill in the air makes it more likely that the hard freeze will come sooner than last year. (It was quite late--after Thanksgiving, as I recall.)
In fact the rushed holiday season begins today with my daughter's birthday. From this point on, we head pell mell into the triumvirate of Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. These are the domestic goddess's glory days, when home and hearth must be tended with a fury. The cooking, the shopping, the entertaining, the parties. It's breathtaking really, and the forever quest of making our lives seem flawlessly Hallmark rests on my shoulders alone.
Tonight, I'll pull my witch costume from the closet. (And by the way, I AM a witch, in the sexy and giving ways of the earth goddess). Next come the tricker treaters, and for them, I decorate the door and put out a tasty display of chocolate offerings. Some friends have invited us to go leaf peeping and so we'll wake early tomorrow to head off for a hike. But I'm leaving out the crazy Rally on the Mall today. (I have to hurry and get dressed now and walk the dog).
And at work, the little goGuide has to go to press. But the leaves are piling up on the walkways and can I possibly get to them before Thanksgiving, when I must insist on making all the food from scratch, the pie crusts Julia Child style, the turkey brined overnight? The table must be set with the antique china, which all has to be washed of the dust it gathered over the year. And yes, I'd better press the linen table cloths. What's that a stain? Quick let's throw them all in the wash and freshen them up. And the table centerpiece, I hate to buy someone else's work. Shouldn't I arrange the flowers?
Next comes the gift getting and giving. A wisp of Hanukkah to celebrate Jim's heritage. We light the candles and give the girls a symbolic gift. And sometimes a dreidel and chocolates come out. I love to wrap the presents with playful decorations. And we have to get those for the cousins early in the mail. The card? Should I write one of those dopey letters again? My family just hates them and we always argue over them. But our friends and family seem to enjoy them. Maybe I can do a few leaves, too.
Now the tree must be hauled out of the attic. (Years ago, I gave up the fresh tree thing. It just is so messy to clean up, when a few fresh boughs on the hearth will give off the same eau de pine.) The kids in the neighborhood would love it if I also took out the silly little Christmas land city/town/village that I sometimes put on display in the living room, but oh, that is just so over the top. I will skip that once again this year. Oh, I'm exhausted already thinking of it all. But give it up? Never. And I have to do the leaves, too. The Putterer