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Almanac November ’21

November Almanac

By Ashley Wahl

 

November is the rush of wind through leaves, the rush of leaves through wind, a cradle song before a long night’s sleep.

In the garden, the unblinking statue has seen it all before, will see it all again: birds, here and gone; the explosion of color; the great release; the withering; the nothingness; the sweet and glorious rebirth.

Today, light feels soft and precious. The air is cool. The garden statue, barnacled from yet another sleepless year on watch, holds a stone bird in cupped hands — the weight of the world; the burden and the gift of the silent witness. 

As tree limbs bend and sway on high, leaves and squirrels scatter across the earth in dramatic bursts.

Soon, when the wood frogs sleep, the roving cat will make its way from the rose bed to the back porch, press its paw against the glass panel door, give up its wanderings for a place by the hearth. The crickets play their final tune as the snake enters brumation.

In its quiet meditation, the statue sees and hears what most do not. It knows that summer’s light is still here, pulsing within all living things; that spring is autumn’s waking dream; that there is magic in the heart of winter’s stillness. 

A whirl of golden leaves descends. An aster blooms. And in the fading autumn light, a pregnant doe plucks freshly planted bulbs, nibbles dwindling grasses, steps boldly toward the night.

The statue neither smiles nor frowns. It simply watches, listens as the world goes quiet.

Pass the Gravy

Autumn’s color show does not stop at the swirling leaves. Inside, where golden milk simmers on the stovetop, the spectacle continues.

Behold a rainbow spread of roasted beets and carrots. Collard greens flaked with red pepper. Cranberry-pear chutney garnished with orange peel.

Come Thanksgiving, add warmth and color any way you can. We all know it: The mashed potatoes need the contrast.

Despite how you serve them — smooth and creamy; hand-mashed and skin-on; loaded with garlic and butter — there’s no denying that mashed potatoes remain a holiday favorite.

Unlike green bean casserole, which Campbell’s introduced in the 1950s through their Cream of Mushroom soup, mashed potatoes have been a Thanksgiving staple since the 1700s.

Sure, add a dollop of sour cream and a little cheddar. Or fresh rosemary from the kitchen garden. Just don’t go messing up a good thing. 

 

Hold the Dairy

How to make vegan mashed potatoes? Two words: vegan butter. And as for vegan gravy? Ditto. Sub pan drippings for nutritional yeast, soy sauce, Dijon mustard, onion powder and the like. There are dozens of recipes out there. No need for the vegan you love to go without.

 

I love to see the cottage smoke

Curl upwards through the trees,

The pigeons nestled round the cote

On November days like these . . .

— John Clare, “Autumn”

 

 

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