Seasonal living and the sensual, sensate life.

Author: Karen Auvinen

Don’t Call Me a Lady

Don’t Call Me a Lady

Call me Brash.  Call me Bossy.  Hell, call me the other B word.  Just don’t call me a Lady.  I’m a bit old school when it comes to the “L” word.  In my mind, those four letters are a gilded cage, a choke collar fastened […]

Brave New World

Brave New World

When Miranda utters these words in The Tempest, it’s clear they are the words of a naif.  She’s young and sheltered and–frankly–lusty. Her “brave” means handsome; Miranda is all about the surface.  Most who invoke these words miss Shakespeare’s irony or haven’t read Aldous Huxley’s […]

A Mind of Winter

A Mind of Winter

Cabin in deep snow
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs 
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow; 

And have been cold a long time 
To behold the junipers shagged with ice, 
The spruces rough in the distant glitter  

Of the January sun; and not to think 
Of any misery in the sound of the wind
In the sound of a few leaves, 

Which is the sound of the land 
Full of the same wind  
That is blowing in the same bare place 

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.

            —Wallace Stevens, “The Snow Man”
When I lived in my little cabin on Overland Mountain, Christmas was one of the darkest times of the year for so many reasons. The landscape outside had long since frozen over, raked with relentless high altitude wind between pockets of deep snow.  Inside was dim and dark–a combination of wood walls and the cabin’s placement (in the hollow, facing west) produced a formidable gloom.  Lighting was poor.  The owners had run lines across the exposed upward angle of the roof that ended in a single light bulb in each room suspended twelve or fifteen feet in the air.  Even during the day, my home was cave-like—the halo from the bulb overhead ineffectual and frankly, ugly, so that I relied on a single floor lamp and strings of white lights wrapped around the floor to ceiling tree stump along the south wall  to make my space merry in the darkest time of the year.  

Elvis and Me
Those were the days when it was just me and my dog, Elvis.  We spent so many holidays alone, armed with a fistful of movies (for me) and some delectable piece of meat to share.  I’ll admit that it was a lonesome time.  The absence of light; the short frigid days; the illusion that everyone else was reveling in some kind of warm holiday embrace packed a bitter walloping punch.  Most years, I just grinned and bore it.  Winter, I told myself, was the price of all those glorious summers on the mountain.

But, I was wrong.

I would learn what it means to be human at the hands of winter.  To see understand that there is a difference between being lonely and alone.

Aspens, Watercolor by Greg Marquez
Eventually, I came to understand the beauty of a barren landscape, to see the presence in absence.  In that future, one morning, out before dawn in the shivery early light of a February sky to get my paper, I watched a satellite break up, shedding parts like incandescent diamonds, across the star-filled horizon.  Snow lay sparkling beneath a full moon and the whole of sky and land shimmered silver and white.  I felt like I’d stepped into a painting.  It would be one of the most beautiful things I would ever see up there.  And its price would be the winters I collected, nine months of practicing being quiet, practicing stillness, on the top of Overland Mountain.  
Cooking in the Age of Anxiety

Cooking in the Age of Anxiety

Smell Rome might very well be burning.  There is no denying the smell of smoke in the air and a horizon that looks so much darker than it did a just a few weeks ago.  I have spent my days out of focus and a […]

Taking Stock

Taking Stock

For a week now, the freezer door has refused to stay shut.  I will close it, only to have Greg complain it’s been cracked open all night, a puddle of water the damning evidence on the floor. Both of us have tried in our own […]

Oh Fall! How do I love thee?

Oh Fall! How do I love thee?

Let me count the ways.

I love thee for cooler days and the return to roasting succulent cuts of meat, for rich sauces made from boiled pan drippings, and the serene pleasure of mashed potatoes larded with butter.

I love thee for sweet baked squash paired with pork, for pan-roasted Brussels sprouts, for Greg’s chicken curry and green enchiladas, for spicy green chili served with apple-jack quesadillas.

Cranberry Sauce
I love thee for cranberry sauce.
I love thee for the return of foods that warm and comfort and transform home into an opulent elsewhere with candle lit dinners and evening baths, red wine and Beethoven.
The Big Pancake
I love thee for Sunday mornings when the sun angles through bedroom window, and Greg and I take many indolent hours with The New York Times, the big pancake and River .

River and The New York Times

I love thee for the jars of San Marzanos suspended with basil and garlic, every bit of it grown by our own hands, and the knowledge that the first blizzard’s spicy rigatoni will have its seeds in July’s hundreds of yellow star-like blossoms, in August’s ripening heat.

Spicy Rigatoni

 I love thee for the color of aspen lighting the mountain, the sound of leaves skittering across the road, and for the return of winter birds:  Junco, chickadee, nuthatch.

I love thee for all the flowers of the garden in their last poignant bloom.  I love thee for the fields steeped in honeyed gold, for the last thunder of the year and the anticipation of first snow.
Greg’s Black Hollyhock – photo by Greg Marquez
And finally, I love thee the most for cozy nights when I can crawl into the skin of sleep—after too too many months of nights too hot for touch—suspended in my artist-lover’s embrace.  
Dog Days, Part 2

Dog Days, Part 2

When I introduced River in this blog a few months ago, I announced in a tongue and cheek way that he came from a Texas kill shelter with “a suitcase full of yet to be revealed ailments,” lamenting a case of very treatable but not inexpensive cancer […]

The Clock of August

The Clock of August

In the yard this morning Let’s face it, August is heavy with expectation. We’re all thinking about what’s to come, all the while larding our calendars with things to do before the golden days of autumn settle in, before the evenings are too cold to […]

A Menu For Change

A Menu For Change

Okay listen. Like you, I’ve been unable to look away from the daily idiot-grams tweeted by the Demagogue Who Would Be King.  Inside these last burning days of July, I’m boiling, not because of the heat dome currently centered over the nation, but because one loud-mouthed pied piper whose only credential is that he has made some money is piping a tune straight out of the Third Reich.    
Into this end-of-the-world-as-we- know-it scenario, I have inserted a little fantasy. In the Isak Dinesen’s story Babette’s Feast, a French Chef, a refugee who has been working for two dour and stripped down Danish sisters, makes one memorable meal for her benefactors.  It’s clear as one course replaces the next, the food has both regenerative and transformative powers:  A romance is rekindled, crabby pettiness is replaced with neighborly joie de vivreand sensuality breathes life into Scandinavian stoicism.
Ignoring Herr Millionaire’s latest call for foreign nations to meddle in his fight for the House He Would Make White, I tried to come up with a menu that would transform the Big White Shark from Jaws into an animal whose size matches his I.Q.  At the very least, my goal would be to wipe the sour from his puss and reduce his testosterone emissions to within normal limits.    
For starters, I’d serve Agadashi Tofu—creamy tofu surrounded by a translucent fried batter and sunk lovingly in a warm salty broth.  Tofu ranks high on the list of foods packed with estrogen, a hormone that would immediately cause Mr. Reality TV to replace his too often touted “I” with a more communal “We.”  Bonus, it might also soften the frequency of references to his “member” in political debates, if not the member itself. 
The first course would folllow with YUUGE platters of raw oysters, big fat ones like Kumamotos, which would be served by a nice pairing of gorgeously round and fleshy women dressed as bondage mistresses and are-those-real-or-are-they-fake drag queens. Of course, No cocktail sauce allowed.  After which I predict like all good fascists, The Emperor Who Has No Clothes will embrace his inner Submissive and go hence forth on his knees.  
The main course has to be Deep Fried Brains. We’ll say they’re croquettes.  Immediate improvement as he gobbles them all.

Dessert?  I can guarantee he gets none until he stops behaving like a two-year old in a gold-plated sandbox.  

Unless of course I can find a recipe for Humble Pie. 
Letting My Yolks Run Over

Letting My Yolks Run Over

There really isn’t any food as erotic as the sunny side up egg.  Think of the way the synapses in the brain sizzle at the sight of a golden yoke oozing its buttery pleasure in brothy soup, on top of a pile of greens, or […]