this little hill of beans

I’ve been marking time with a tree. A most regal and expressive specimen that can be viewed on my new favorite route to the woods. It called out to me about a month ago, still clad in a profusion of green.

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Now it is exposed, with beautifully formed bare limbs undulating in a dance to the sky while throwing off golden leaves.

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I wish I could be so bold. Just when I am celebrating the warmth and comfort of the layers I get to cover my body with as the season of hibernation approaches, this beauty is celebrating the promise of new growth in full on exposure. I want to speak the language of this tree. Perhaps the season of human me turning inside is simply the opportunity for throwing off the need for accomplishment and quietly baring the soul.

It has also been a month of languid walks in the woods. Gloriously long excursions that now include a multitude of choices for direction and degree of difficulty. The other day I felt myself circling the crest of Eagle Nest and then back down around its base in valleys along familiar paths that follow the edge of water in some way.

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We are usually out mid morning when the sun has risen fully in the sky, casting light in dramatically different ways depending on which side we are on.

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Eagle Nest is the highest of the ‘hills’ in my neighborhood of hills. I can feel its presence even walking the paths at its base, glimpses of massive gray boulders through trees, and the sense of being comforted by something close by. Each day this past month has begun or ended at Eagle Nest. I have felt drawn to it like a moth to a flame, hungering for something. Being out for so long that day created physical hunger as well, and I walked with visions and sensations of warm fragrant squash and apples I could bake when I got home. As soon as I walked through the door inside, I set the oven for 400 degrees. Cut an acorn squash in half and cut one of the halves into 3/4″ slices. Made a few 3/4″ slices of the butternut squash waiting in the fridge. Cut one of the beautiful Cortland apples just picked from a local farm in half and into slices too, rubbed it all lightly with olive arranged them in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish, baked for fifteen minutes before adding pats of butter and a drizzle of maple syrup, and then baked until apple was puffy soft and squash was fork tender.

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Through it all, the preparation, the baking, and the eating, I was still feeling the gentleness of Eagle Nest. I was still communing with my new tree friend, and I was already circling around to anticipation for the next walk. The apple had carmelized a bit and tasted like the sweetness of the day accompanied by the warmth of soft buttered shades of orange.

Yesterday I woke to our second full on frost. I found my mound of drying bean plants now wet and on the verge of mold. I picked all the pods in various degrees of readiness, and opened them to extract the beans inside. Such a beautiful little hill of beans!

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Flecked with a purplish gray, some still cream colored, some golden in their age. I felt the thrill I felt as a little girl when my mother would make a bin of dried beans for me to play with, hands plunging into the the thick silky texture and gleefully listening to the sounds of bean waves as I moved them around, picked up handfuls and let them rain back into soft mounds. For some reason the expression ‘hill of beans’ stuck in my head and accompanied me into the day’s walk. I know this expression is typically used to describe something of no consequence or significance, but it felt the opposite to me as we ventured onto a long ignored path on the other side of Eagle Nest and the pond at its base. I knew I would veer off path. I knew I would work my way back toward Eagle Nest. The thing I love about walking the woods here is the wavelike regularity of the hills and valleys. Off trail I am learning to become one with these waves, following barely discernible deer paths that make my passage significantly a joy.

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It felt completely natural to feel my way home through completely unknown territory. And cook those beans for dinner.

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