Laughing Whitefish Cabin Observations:

First three face cords of firewood

Laughing Whitefish Cabin Observations:

Fall Front-Door Orchard
Fall Front-Door Orchard
Target Practice with the 22
Target Practice with the 22

 

Fear

I walk the property in deep dusk, with Bea a tiggered, bouncing shadow at my side. Mist hangs, ethereal—a gauzy veil—over apple orchard and south lawn. We enter the tree line—mostly cedar, scrubby pine, and the occasional towering old growth. The world goes from dim to black. The familiar trail becomes a new entity—roots and dips to discover. Trees are twisted silhouettes. Bea disappears, but I can hear the faint “ching” of her collar rise and fall against the river’s chuckling backdrop. Other than that, it’s silent.

I stand still, contemplating the old me that wouldn’t have stepped away from yard-light-safety-halo, let alone out of the yard entirely and into the dark woods. I’m aware, my senses heightened, but I’m not afraid. The absence of fear so recent I search it like tongue to pulled tooth. There’s a freedom here—freedom tickling against my breastbone like moth wings.

“Aren’t you afraid to be all the way out there, on that big property, in that old house, all by yourself?” Friends, family, students, ask me.

The lack of fear was hard earned. Born bloody, out of pain, anxiety, and fear of a different kind. These experiences teach us the real things to fear, rather than the imaginary that so captivate us and keep us out of the woods at night.

22 Target Practice also helps lose fear.
22 Target Practice also helps lose fear.

 

Cycles

I’ve never seen so many mushrooms.

Yard Mushrooms
Yard Mushrooms
Woods Mushrooms
Woods Mushrooms

 

 

 

 

Humans continually speculate as to the reasons reactions occur in nature. For better or worse, we’re a meddling species, always poking and prodding; always postulating. I’ve heard many speculations about everything from the winter ahead: “It’s going to be an average winter.” To the prevalence of mice indoors this fall: “They’re cyclical.” To the sudden and varied explosion of mushrooms across the region. “Perfect ratio of heat to rainfall.” I like these hypothesis, empirically science and observation based—as much as I like the mythological explanations for such events: Poseidon’s wrath at fault for stormy seas. Coyote’s trickery for things going awry. Pele for erupting volcanoes.

Humans are meaning-makers. We seek answers. This aspect of our nature has led to both positives and negatives for both our species, other species, and the planet as a whole. Watching the Trump ascendency and listening to the rhetoric of his supporters, I cannot help but wish for more of this questioning nature across our population, and while I’m at it, the world. Perhaps we’ve become so inundated by our advertising/media/capitalist centered society, we’ve forgotten the importance of questioning, observation, careful analysis before reaching conclusions. On the other hand—and I’m debating with myself at this point—studying mythology shows that, despite scientific advances across thousands of years, humans haven’t changed at all. We still love, lust, grieve. We’re jealous, angry, and start wars. We’re fascinated with one another’s drama. We don’t know what exists before we’re born, and we don’t know where we go when we die. We still don’t know our purpose any more than did the ancient Greeks, Aborigines, Mayans staring up at the stars and making meaning out of constellations.

I don’t know why the mushrooms have appeared in such vast quantities this year, but I’m captivated by their shapes, sizes, colors, and prolific-stemmed-capped-cragged-horned-tilting presence. I’ve seen purple mushrooms, six-inch-tall table-topped Aminitas, brown and white puffballs like blown-bubbles on the lawn, and various eye-popping orange and red fungi that screams “poisonous” in all their fluorescent vibrancy.

They’re delightful, turning the woods and lawn into a there-and-gone fairy world overnight.

The Ancient Britons believed that stumbling into a fairy ring of mushrooms, one risked being taken to the land of faery, where you might never emerge, or, worse yet, emerge after only “one night” to find you’d been gone 200 years in real time. Many cultures have and continue to use certain mushrooms for their hallucinogenic qualities and ability to alter consciousness. Proponents across the centuries believe these characteristics reveal deeper meanings and truths than humans are able to see on a day to day basis.

I suggest a healthy dose for most modern politicians.

Toppled woods mushroom
Toppled woods mushroom

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Cold Weather’s Coming

The change in season happens so gradually, I hardly notice. Subtle shifts in day-to-day routine are always the first clues.

Fall colors over the Laughing Whitefish
Fall colors over the Laughing Whitefish

Less skirts, dresses, shorts and more leggings and jeans.

The windows, always open at night, get lowered bit by bit until cracked just enough to hear the river as I fall asleep.

 

 

I’m hungrier than I was, as though, bear-like, my body’s preparing for cold.

Birds fly in chittering flocks, foraging together in preparation for a flight south I’m eager to imitate in December.

Fields turn green to gold, catching late-day sunlight in haloed reflections.

Late-fall sunset
Late-fall sunset

Days get shorter.

I hauled and stacked three face cords of wood yesterday. It felt like a lot, but I’ll need much more. “Wood warms you twice.” I hear my father’s voice as I bend, lift, stack, repeat. Sweat trickles between my breasts. Thunder rumbles and wind whips errant blond hairs into my eyes and across my lips.

First three face words of firewood
First three face words of firewood

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaves swirl in colored tornadoes.

The cherry tree, first to acquiesce to coming cold, stands, a leafless profile against a gathering-storm-sky.

Stacked
Stacked

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tastes Like Fall

As the seasons change, my culinary fantasies shift from blueberry bursts, sweet corn and BLT bliss, and sugar snap pea sweetness to daydreams of bacon-wrapped-duck breast, apples melted with honey and cinnamon, and buttery-orange mounds of butternut squash.

Ideas and Recent Recipe Concept-Photos to Follow:

*Email rachelmills906@gmail.com for Recipes and Ideas

White beans, sausage, butternut squash
White beans, sausage, butternut squash
Mustard Greens, lettuce, shaved pecorino romano cheese, carrot, purple cabbage
Mustard Greens, lettuce, shaved pecorino romano cheese, carrot, purple cabbage
Gazpacho, sauteed salmon, roasted potatoes
Gazpacho, sauteed salmon, roasted potatoes
Fresh Tomato and Veggie Gazpacho
Fresh Tomato and Veggie Gazpacho
Yard Apples
Yard Apples

 

Lazy Apple Crisp
Lazy Apple Crisp
Butternut Squash, Leeks, Fresh/Sundried Tomatoes, Coconut Milk, Wild Rice
Butternut Squash, Leeks, Fresh/Sundried Tomatoes, Coconut Milk, Wild Rice
Brat with beet sauerkraut, turmeric/garlic roast potatoes, Asian cucumber salad with peanuts
Brat with beet sauerkraut, turmeric/garlic roast potatoes, Asian cucumber salad with peanuts

Author: Rachel Mills

Rachel Mills is a freelance writer/writing consultant/English Professor/Creative nonfiction writer from Michigan's Upper Peninsula living on the island of Isla Mujeres in Mexico.

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