ancestor of skill redux

It is the perfect winter morning. Fresh snow, about four inches, preceded by a couple of very cold days. The snow is that perfectly packable lightweight variety that every skier pines for. Dad would have loved this. He would have been up and ready for the slopes in record time, determined to be one of the first on the chairlift.

I’m still getting used to the fact that he is no longer here to greet the snow this way. I woke this morning feeling the weight of an anniversary. Two years today we lost Bob Ford. And as I walked with the dogs in the freshly fallen snow the joy of being on the slopes with him seven years ago sailed into my heart. It was a spectacularly special time with my father, the last time I ever skied with him. I found the post, written in March of 2013, an amalgam of memories spent with family, food, and a photo of my father in all his glory as king of the mountain. The feeling of sharing so much joy in those four days came alive in a burst of grace. My dear dear father.

Re-posting what was there seven years ago is humbling. Not much changes and yet everything changes. Reaching inside for skills I already possess is not a finite activity. Much of the reaching is for remembering as much as it is for discovering. The compulsion to make soup began last night, turning on the light and climbing out of bed to wash and soak the beans for today’s black bean soup. Making soup today has been a reminder of just how deeply the reach of flavors and textures and warmth can reach into a heart of memory. Bob Ford was a man of deep tribal ties to his family and community and he loved to make soup too. How honored I am to be his daughter.

ancestor of skill  3-23-13 

I feel the feast or famine of the past three months. Snow, and then no snow. The intensity and richness of the holidays and then the quiet and austere aftermath. Typically a slow time of year for my architecture work, when there is little to do from mid December to mid February, I feel it in every way. I become aware of every penny spent and notice how I condition my time. I tend to worry. It is always an opportunity for creative immersion, but maintaining trust requires a lot of energy! It is energy that needs to be replenished by being consciously fed and nourished and sustained with balance in how I eat and move and stay connected. Even maintaining silence feels like work. I have a favorite saying, that “Everything I do is work.” And I truly believe this, that in consciousness, no one thing in front of me is more important than another. So I practice feeling this truth.

Writing about this now feels eerily familiar. I search the archives with the words feast or famine and sure enough, discover that I have already written about this space, have even shared a more proactive way of considering the character of this kind of passage of time as ‘ebb and flow’. And yet, now, still, I feel the edge of feast or famine more, this time I seem to be stuck in the quality of ‘should’ that makes being here so uncomfortable. So in the spirit of finding the ebb and flow, I pull out my newly acquired ‘Shaman’s Dream Oracle’ cards (created by John Matthews and Wil Klinghan). Each card is a gorgeous image from the ancient Cave Art, accompanied with a clear simple heartfelt message.

I shuffle and put my energy into the cards. Cut the deck, and flip my hand over to see what will be revealed. Ancestor of Skill.

This evocative image and the description offered by the authors resonates, “Ancestor of Skill appears as a hybrid of a deer and a person, expressing how important it is to blur the edges of common perception, and seek skills from unusual, even unlikely sources. Crucially, we must look within ourselves to harness the abilities we already possess but have not yet discovered – these are often the most enriching.”

Ancestor of Skill…lots of places I could go with this, but what comes up immediately is the feeling of my recent trip to Colorado to ski with family, the last four precious days in Aspen with my father, and the moment on the chairlift when I shared with him how complete I felt from my time being with the mountain that day. The combination of the bright sun, the beautiful fresh packed snow, and the feeling of moving effortlessly down the mountain was something that brought me back to some ancient body memory, certainly from this childhood and years of family ski trips, but also to something even beyond.

Dad and the Mountain – Aspen 2013

As if in a dream, I simply shared with my father one of my ‘past life’ memories of being a young male dragging a dead deer across an expanse of snow into the cave of my community. However, it is not my skill as a provider of food that was being celebrated in this memory, but my skill as an initiator of order, as one who helps us ‘remember’, and I take my place facing my community, while being guided by the wise woman who is sitting to my left. My father listened with respect. He simply nodded. He heard me.

I am so grateful for being able to have the experience of being with the mountain again in such a familiar way. The entire ten days in Colorado was made possible by the generosity of family. I gave back by being able share with all of them my ‘skill’ at making meals and what fun the first four days in Vail with my cousin Carolyn and her partner Jean, joined by our other cousin Bill, meeting up with Uncle Ted on the slopes, to be able to prepare lentil soup and vegetable tuna curry, orange chicken cutlets with squash and kale, with enough leftovers to enjoy a smorgasbord our last night together. Being in the gorgeous kitchen that opened to and faced the living room and fire and easy activity after days of skiing was a perfect place to be. And being with so many members of both sides of my family reminded me of the importance of the order of family and how being who I am in family allows me to be who I am for a larger community.

So now home again…and all I have to do to re-create the feeling of time shared is make a pot of soup. It is an amalgam of favorite vegetable soup (which I typically make for my parents and kids) with favorite lentil soup (which I had just made in Vail). I put on a pot of lentils (about a cup and a half covered with about 4 cups water) to cook on the back burner whicle I prepare vegetables, at least a cup each of chopped onion and leeks and carrots and celery and green beans and potaotes. While the leeks and onions are sauteeing in olive oil in a large skillet with a sprinkle of fennel seed, I chop the next vegetable, add it to the mix, until everything is in the pot. Add some canned diced tomatoes in their juice and water to just cover, and a few favorite vegetable boullion cubes (organic, with sea salt variety), cover and simmer gently until the lentils are done, then add the entire pot including cooking liquid to the simmering vegetables. Final additions include some tomato paste, a small amount of salt, cayenne pepper, a splash of balsamic vinegar. Simmer for at least another half hour or so so everything blends, then add some fresh spinach, mix, turn off the fire and let sit for a few while I toast a piece of (7 grain sprouted) bread to crumble on top.

This soup seems to hold just the energy I need…I can feel the cave around me now, the warmth and support and clarity of who I am in this space in the sharing of the skills I bring to my community.

the season

When daughter Molly wakes this morning, I will be asking her what she would like me to make for her last supper here in Massachusetts before returning to Peru. I will find a few minutes in the day to go into my studio and gaze at the four unfinished quilts that have been neglected these past few weeks, set aside to make room for wrapping paper, boxes, ribbons, and racks of cooling cookies. Yes I am a tad weary from working through all the endless details that go into setting the stage for another family Christmas. But my otherwise quiet life needed this infusion of focused activity to create context for Christmas. It is my season after all. It is the time I can go down the rabbit hole of spontaneous accomplishment and making magic for a very concentrated and extended period of time. When it is working, when the context created for coming together in all the various combinations of family and friends and loved ones fills the house with good smells, happy sounds, and sparkling light, time stops for a blessed moment and the seed of love gets a good watering for another year of growth.

I read recently that ‘Christmas is a state of mind. It’s not about the food or the presents. it’s about creating a loving and warm atmosphere. To cherish peace and goodwill. That’s the real spirit of Christmas.” (Tara Isis Gerris) 

As son Ben would say, “Of course.”

One of Ben’s favorite movies is ‘Christmas with the Kranks’. It is about a couple who, just weeks after their beloved daughter moves to Peru for a year in the Peace Corps, decides to completely skip Christmas and instead spend their money on a Caribbean cruise. But on Christmas eve they get a call from their daughter that she is in Miami with a fiancé and they are on their way to spend Christmas at home with them after all. It is a well played comedy that has the entire neighborhood pitching in at the nth hour to make Christmas for the family as they had done every year prior. It is a predictable plot and ending, there is even a mysterious character who could actually be Santa Claus, all the elements of Christmas magic are there. I sit there smiling at the end every time. Because they’ve managed to convey the warm feeling that the real spirit of Christmas is about peace and goodwill, even amidst the craziness of food and presents and decorating, without being sappy or sentimental. 

Ben manages to get us, or at least me, to watch it every year without fail. It has been particularly poignant this year during this two weeks that Molly has been here. After we talk about food, a most important topic in this house, she will settle in with me here by the fire with her knitting and the dogs will follow suit, also settling in for their morning naps.

Precious precious moments spent in quiet and camaraderie with my beloved girl. The pinch of ‘too much’ felt when regarding all the presents under the tree recedes back into my otherwise sustainable sensibility when I remember that most of the presents had been wrapped in the packing paper from my mother’s move, drawn on and decorated to created a dazzling display of creatively wrapped gifts. I feel the weight of the days of wrapping tiny things for the stockings disappear, because my sweet girl’s favorite thing is to open an overflowing stocking filled with an endless variety of tiny presents, and of course, this meant filling everyone else’s stockings too. We’ll sit here this morning anticipating these last days together and revel in how perfect it has all been, around the table, perfect gifts given to each other, nothing unwanted or extraneous, nothing wasted, everything received with exclamations of joy and pleasure.

It was the Christmas that the kid’s father, my ex-husband and friend, spent two nights with us through the festivities, family intact after twelve years of doing it differently, now a different family, but still oh so loving and grateful for who we can always be together. 

It was the year that Ben wowed us with not just his memorable mealtime blessings, but with homemade cards filled with extraordinary heart wisdom. After years of obsessing about the Parent Trap, of holding on to a belief that his father and I would be married once again, he has finally let go in love. We affectionately refer to his writing as ‘Benspeak’ because even if not grammatically correct, we can all discern the meaning. This one simple offering is such gift…

Letting go in love has been hard. Letting go of a marriage, letting go of a father, letting go of expectations, letting go of a beloved daughter living so far away. My overflowing heart can finally spill.  

i am apple pie

Each day now brings more color. It is color that eventually finds its way to the ground. Like the gorgeous apples that I have been collecting for the past few weeks from the five beauties in my home’s meadow, globes of bright red dotting the trees and finding their way to the ground for any hungry creature to find. There are surprisingly many firm intact specimens to choose from, otherwise untouched by insect boring or animal tasting. 

The first apple pie I made was within hours of collecting, the energy of fresh imbuing it with a lip-smacking delectable akin to sacred. Even the remnant of the pie that was frozen and re-warmed was perfect. The second pie made two days ago also fell into this category, though everything about its making was distinctly different from the first. The apples had already been sitting in my collection basket for many days, and though still firm, I could feel a distinct difference in the yield of the flesh as I trimmed skin and cut each beautiful fruit into slices, not as crisp. The dough, made exactly as I always have but this time with a different kind of butter, was overly soft. I forgot to add flour to the apples, sugar, and spices and had to improvise incorporating it into the filling after it had been loaded into the bottom crust in the pie plate. The mound of apples wasn’t as high as before and I realized I used a tablespoon of butter more than usual to the filling before adding the top crust. All small deviations to a way that I hoped would yield yet another memorable pie.

It’s been awhile since I have had a phrase pass through my mind so insistently. It started yesterday, walking in the cool morning at sunrise. I am apple pie.

‘I am’ places ‘me’ in the center of this thought. And yet, walking in the morning beauty, in the quiet spectacular that surrounds me, ‘I am’ is simply just a channel for beauty, the center of any moment, to flow through. 

“Apple” carries meaning as old as time. Fruit of the tree that changed forever the relationship between man and woman. The promise of nourishment comes freely and unconditionally every single season. The variety of shape and flavor and texture and size is vast, each type representative of a place it chooses to thrive in. The season of apple brings crisp and colorful energy to a day, and the anticipation of something leaving to make room for something new.

“Pie” is an assemblage. Its form is one of containment and concentration, bringing a diversity of ingredients together to be transformed. The approach to making pie can be scientific, precise ingredients put together in a precise way to make something that can be identified as pie. Or, making pie can be considered a way. It can follow a process, and, the very nature of the moments that yield each ingredient, the way it is prepared and baked, the very air that it lives in, will produce something unique, never to be replicated exactly the same way again. Pie is art. Pie is delicious. Pie is comfort. Pie can be warm or cold, soft or firm, sweet or savory. The outside of a pie is merely the skin holding an inside work of art that wants to be revealed, tasted, and honored.

I am apple pie. The energy of this moment contains a vastness just waiting to be tasted.  


prompt

Sometimes inspiration for the beginning of something new comes so unexpectedly that I can hardly work fast enough to give it form. And then once established, a big pause typically follows. I will literally spend weeks gazing at what is there, wondering, ‘where did this come from and where is it going?’ I didn’t plan it after all. Even after all these years of making art by entering spaces of not knowing and letting my eye and my spirit guide the moment, I still manage to doubt the legitimacy of this process.

It happened about a week ago. I had just finished a two day open studio tour and every surface was free of the usual piles of colorful scraps and random fabric cuts. The space was clean and inviting and now waiting for something. The image of the piece of velvety red hand-dyed cotton sateen that I had recently found in my stash came to mind. In cleaning up, I had put it in a very specific place with an old piece of hand-dyed blue rayon, a new piece of tie-dyed art cloth purchased at a quilt show, a piece of bold print from Mood fabrics in NYC, and some scraps I guess I thought were part of this assemblage too. I pulled them out of hiding, let them wallow in the graciousness of so much open space. I finally shook out the yard piece of gorgeous red, and was surprised to discover that each edge was a swath of deep summer green. What happened next is a blur. I don’t remember cutting the yard of fabric in two pieces, or piecing the lengths of scraps just so. I don’t remember pinning it all up on the board or thinking about placement in any specific way. When I finally stepped back and felt the impact of ‘okay, this is it’, the word that came to me was ‘prompt’.

This feels like a visual version of a writing prompt. The story that will emerge from the pairing of this red and blue anchored in green is in there somewhere and I will just have to wait for it.

After two months, the last of the packing boxes from Mom’s move are in the recycle pile outside, floor surfaces are clear, and we’ve finally begun hanging art on the walls. There is a lot of art. Paintings and framed prints, photographs and drawings and even a quilt. The process of settling won’t be complete until the empty surfaces claim Mom’s amazing collection. The new white walls, the existing blue trim, and floors dressed with red oriental carpets have created a familiar context that will of course change with each item placed. Each room is a prompt waiting for the first move. One of the first paintings up is one I made in college, the view out my dorm room window through trees to a home beyond, reminding me that no matter how much time I have spent inside these past months, the perception of what is just outside will always been a reliable source for expressing the landscape of what is inside. Even if I don’t know what it is at the time.

I spot a framed print that Mom has set aside. A blue heron emerging out of red water in front of green ground and blue sky. It is such a simple image. It doesn’t feel like a coincidence that the same range of intense colors exist here as they do in the ‘prompt’ on my design wall. I think this heron has a story to tell. I am going to find out what it is.…

so, who are your people?

I’m home. Back in my studio staring at a new quilt on the design wall that has been forming there for the past two months. Back in this beloved place after the heady and heartfelt weekend just spent in Athens Ohio attending the opening of Quilt National ’19, I feel different. Even though the same nagging questions and doubts are there, the same impulse to make that one piece of fabric a little more yellow, and the same resolve to sew the bottom left corner together completely before doing any more changes or additions, I feel newfound confidence to keep doing what I uniquely do. I trust my knowing that where I am with this piece is exactly where I am supposed to be. I feel called to dive in and yet calm enough to just sit and stare. I’m home.

There is no question that something transformative happens when immersed in a group of individuals who share your passion and have produced exquisite work. Work that is unquestionably and undeniably ART.

Keeping my feet on the ground when first entering the gallery at The Dairy Barn Arts Center was not easy. The space is lofty, bright and vast. We, the participating artists, had been invited to be the the very first to see the show. We had been instructed to go find our piece, to make sure all was as it should be. I circled the gallery slowly, not really seeing, but rather feeling the impact of a group of quilts expertly and beautifully displayed in a way that let me know I someplace special. And then I saw the quilt that I call ‘Celestial Twins’. It simply glowed. I stood transfixed in the love I had poured into its making. Felt the thrill of accomplishment and the joy of being so included. Soon enough I would be able to re-focus and begin the first of many many rounds of circling slowly to take in the sheer magnitude of beauty surrounding me. But for that moment, I let myself truly celebrate me.

There were all the other wonderful pieces to experience, yes, but what made this weekend so rich for me was meeting and connecting with so many of the artists. From the moment I walked through the front door, I began to have animated conversations. Margarita was the first, standing just inside the door with a brilliant smile and introduction. I then introduced myself to Erika and Isabelle, both from Germany, and discovered that Erika is also an architect! I then met Carson, who lives in a neighboring town here in Massachusetts. I would continue to connect with each of them throughout the weekend. This was all in the fifteen minutes before the doors actually opened.

The first hour in the gallery was characterized by one encounter after another of mutual smiles, looking at each other’s name tag, introductions, and then like giddy kids, saying to each other, “show me your quilt”! In this space I met Irene, Jean, Tim and Pat. Introduced myself to Yael and Judy whose quilts I greatly admired. Found Margarita and began a second round with her. And so on.

Later, I sat down in an empty chair next to Martha at the artist’s banquet. We shared our excitement at being part of Quilt National for the first time. Without preamble she asked, “So, who are your people?” I knew what she meant…who are the people I share my quilt life with? Who are the people who get why I do this? I rambled on about my years attending Quilting by the Lake and some dear friends I have made there. I shared about the arts community that I have become part of in my town, as one of two fabric artists amongst dozens of painters, sculptors, and artisans. In the midst of such camaraderie there at the opening night, I felt the ping of knowing that in this moment, here in Athens Ohio, I was with my people. And like the others who have continued to be part of my life from afar, I would leave here with new friends and connections that I could also enjoy from afar. I had the stark and clear realization that for me to be with my people, I would have to keep doing this work, with the same dedication and commitment that brought me here.

The weekend quickly took on the quality of a series of circles intersecting over and over again. At the beginning and end of each day, I would get to download with my long time friend Pat who I was sharing a room with. By Sunday morning I had made many new friends, now including Julia, Jill, and Diane. Email, Facebook and Instagram accounts were exchanged along with promises of staying in touch.

I now sit in my studio staring at the beginning of something new, aware that making ART and experiencing ART is always in relationship, patiently waiting for the infusion of so much presence.

voices

Waking up to begin the first day of my sixty-second year in this life was no different than the day before. Except I feel different. There is something about knowing that this was the day my mother gave birth to me. Even if another day of spending morning time with the dogs before sequestering them to our little office for most of the day, before the contractors arrive and continue working on the addition to my house that will make room for my mother who is scheduled to move here in a month. Another day of anticipating progress, challenge, and the angst of it still not being done. The voice of the architect in my head knows all to well where there can be mistakes and delays and that the stress of not knowing or being able to control will not go away. Another day just like the past hundred and twenty days we’ve been at this. Meanwhile, the voice of my mother has me obsessing about the exterior paint colors. The voice of the dog lover continues to struggle with keeping Yogi and Nora so contained for so much of the day in the wake of a broken invisible fence and a winter of too many ugly days. The voice of the artist is struggling to express just what is there instead of thinking too far ahead. And the voice of the little girl wanting to be fussed over for her big day doesn’t want to yield to the mature voice of the grown woman who has chosen daily solitude and beauty.

After too many days following a schedule of work inside, I finally got back into the woods yesterday. Just a simple meander through the mostly clear of snow ground that is primed for warmth and new growth. The brook is running fast and furious and the smell of spring is finally in the air.

I took Yogi with me. On leash of course, because once he began to take off and follow his nose last year, I had to stop letting him off leash. Because he, unlike Nora, is a dream on leash. He walks calmly beside me, without a hint of a pull with his strong ninety pound plus body. We become one in the woods in a way that feels safe and easy.

I think back to the days when I would walk the woods with both dogs romping off leash around me. When the wild woman voice in my head said this was what they needed. And yet how tense I was, so worried that they wouldn’t come back. Worry that finally bred the result of what I feared most. That Nora would make trouble in a neighbor’s yard, and that Yogi would disappear, only to be found on the main road amidst speeding cars. So, this period of construction, with all the change it has brought and will continue to bring, has given me the space to do things differently with my beloved canine companions. We are finding a new way together that includes giving Nora the safety and love that a good house dog needs and letting go of the belief that she can only be happy if she is running free and wild in the woods.

It is my son Ben who is making the fuss about my birthday this year, determined to take me out to dinner at a new restaurant he has been wanting to go to. ‘I will pay,’ he tells me. But making a real plan has involved collaboration with his resident advisor, who helps Ben take charge of the plans he is so intent on making and executing. My need to control voice wants to make it easy for him, wants to just make the plans for him. But the tough love Mom voice insists he call me and tell me where we are going and what time I should meet him. He resists. He offers his characteristic, ‘I don’t know’ response. But I don’t budge. I even laugh when he says his advisor will tell me. I don’t spare his feelings or let him off the hook. A voice of doubt and guilt becomes loud for a moment, telling me he is intellectually disabled for God’s sake, give him a break. And then like the tide shifting and moving in the other direction back out to sea, Ben speaks up in an empowered voice of his own and clearly tells me the plans.

I was telling my Mom this story this morning, sharing the relief of knowing that he CAN, and that he DOES know. Mom simply said, “He thinks with his heart, not his head.” And wouldn’t it be grand if we could all do that. It’s not easy. The voice of the student in my head is humbled. The voice in my heart hopes to keeps learning from the wisdom of Ben.

a day in the life after a year: making squash soup

This particular Friday morning I did not stop moving. It was still dark outside. Washing the dishes in the sink led to pulling everything away from the back of the counter to wipe away the last traces of cocoa powder that had exploded out of the box as I shook it the day before. which then  led to cleaning the stove top of a weeks worth of cooking debris and grease splatter. I spied the butternut squash that had been living at the edge of the counter behind the stove. Remembered the half of another in the fridge waiting to be used up. I turned the oven on to 350 as I held onto the image of squash cut in half, faces rubbed with olive oil, and slowly roasted. I filled a baking pan just so, and popped it in the oven. Light was just starting to line the edges of the windows. I finally sat down with my first cup of steaming black coffee. Maybe I would make soup.

The rhythm of these days is kept in the cycle of short daytime light and long nighttime dark. Of the warmth of Yogi stretched out alongside me on top of the covers and Nora curled in a ball in her bed on the fur rug next to me. Of waking in the middle of the night to come down and feed the wood stove, of a few hours of meditative moving to my own beat after the dogs have been fed and played with, and before the crew arrives to begin construction for the day. Mom is coming to live with me. We are both getting excited now with the reality of the addition to my house taking form. That the framing is almost complete and the snow has held off this long, feels like a blessing. Beautiful color filled days belie the fact that we are already in the middle of January.

But it has been cold. Making a pot of hot sweet chai tea each day for the crew doesn’t seem like enough. I want to start making pots of soup for them too. I have soup on the brain.

I cut a large cauliflower in half and break into small florets to add to my four quart pot. Add chopped onion. Sprinkle dried ginger and crumbled summer savory. Just cover with water and cook with lid on until soft. There is chicken broth in the fridge. And half & half. That’s going to be the soup. I move through a moment of judging myself for not efficiently adding the squash to the pot to cook with the other vegetables. But this is a process. Besides, the house is now filled with the aroma of the baking squash and the kitchen toasty warm from the oven. I wouldn’t have traded this for the efficiency, no way. I let the fork tender and browned skin squash cool enough to handle and with my hands, peel away the skin and squeeze the just warm squash into the pot with the other vegetables. Yet another benefit of roasting. My cranky morning fingers, stiff with cold and age and constant use, relish the warmth. The rich orange releases another burst of scent before making its final descent into the pot. I add  a pat of butter and some chicken broth, stir it all around, and let it sit covered on the stove until later.

An hour or so before mealtime. I will smooth it all together with an immersion blender, add some more chicken broth, heat until steaming, then add half & half, salt & pepper. I’ll roast some sunflower seeds in a small cast iron pan and add some tamari at the end. To sprinkle on top of the creamy savory soup.

It is now January 19 and the weekend. A different kind of rhythm will set in. A storm is coming. The crew finished putting the windows in and have tarped the entire addition to protect from the onslaught of predicted snow. I will bring in many loads of wood, eat steaming hot bowls of squash soup, and feel the incredible poignancy of this day in the life, of a year after Dad passed. A storm is coming. I like to think it is Dad saying enough, it is time for snow already! In our last years of time spent together I was lucky enough to share his version of morning meditative time when we visited, when he wasn’t on the slopes skiing, especially in the quiet of snow, when the rest of the world still slept and it was just the two of us and the dogs. We’d drink our hot black coffee with the fire, talking quietly, or not talking at all. I miss him so much. He would have liked how home here is transforming. I remember him going through a phase of making squash soup too. He liked to put maple syrup in his.

Cream of Squash Soup

1 large butternut squash, cut if half lengthwise
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 large head cauliflower or 1 small head, washed and broken into small florets
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. summer savory
2-3 cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup half & half

1. Preheat oven to 350. Rub cut faces of squash (I leave the seeds) with olive oil and place face down in backing dish, fit snugly together. Bake until fork tender, about an hour. Remove from oven and cool until just warm.

2. While squash is baking, add cauliflower, onion, ginger and savory to a medium soup pot and just cover with water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

3. While squash is still warm, remove skin and seeds and add to pot with rest of vegetables. Add 1-1/2 cups of chicken broth, bring to a boil, add the butter, swirl it in, and turn off heat. At this point you can continue with finishing the soup, or let it cool and continue later.

4. About 30-40 minutes before you are ready to serve, blend contents of the pot until smooth (I use an immersion blender right in the pot). Add more chicken broth if too thick. Heat until just bubbling, add half & half, cover, turn heat to low and heat until just steaming. Add salt and pepper to taste.

5. Garnish with tamari sunflower/ or pumpkin seeds (roast in cast iron pan until just browned, turn off heat, splash with tamari, stir until completely coated and let cool in pan.