Notes from C: November 2013

It's been a while since I've made a post inspired by the little notebook I carry around with me. I think I'm rather seasonal in my creativity and thinking and am drawn to these types of ponderings in the colder months. And colder it is, at least here in Minnesota. Saturday morning at 8am Evan and I, along with his sister and brother-in-law, were at the starting line to our Turkey Trot ... with temperatures just reaching 4 degrees. Lesson learned: if you only wear one layer of winter running tights you will be nursing your numb legs back to health for a good half day. Also, chicken noodle soup is a necessary post-race treat.

As I was saying, the change of seasons feeds my creativity, and fall is the start of my new creative year. To be more precise, it's actually the weeks that follow those colorful peak days that are my favorite of all. Yup, call me weird, but I like to watch the colors gradually fade, when the textures and patterns of tree branches become the main attraction, and the entire landscape settles into one of muddied, muted tones, contrast and mystery. Give me a quiet, chilly scene and top it off with a vibrant sunset that only November can produce and my mind is more alive than on a sunny day in July. Only when it gets cooler and the world begins to turn inward do I have access to those scenes and thoughts.

This time of fall makes me want to be a painter, so I can capture every blurry smudge of color, the long brush strokes of branches, the texture. It's past the peak, the "show" is over, but life continues on. Trees don't wear life solely in their branches; their life is within, calm, steadfast, determined ... resilient. I think this is why I love the coming of winter. It strips away your "accessories" and shows who you truly are. There is less of life around, but the life that remains is persistent and true.

Wouldn't it be nice if we saw aging like this too? Where "past-your-peak beauty" was more striking than prime-time youthful beauty? Wrinkles are just life's way of adding more contrast, texture, shadows ... I'll try and remember that.

Imagine this if you will: you're driving along your usual commute that takes you across a large four-lane bridge. Downtown St. Paul is on your left, Minneapolis in your review mirror, and the hustle and bustle of an international airport is just over your right shoulder. But what most drivers don't realize as they speed along on their way to work is that just below them is Fort Snelling State Park, and from the bridge you are privy to a unique peak down into that world. One day in late autumn as you're driving along, you get distracted from the road (just a little bit, it's okay) by something bright down below. There's this tree just bursting with color, surrounded on all sides by a tangle of leafless trees. The contrast is shocking and somewhat unbelievable - why would one tree stay living while the others wait for spring? Yet there it stands, with golden tendrils reaching out in every direction, as if trying to poke the rest of the forest awake. 

This is a true story, and one in which I was almost tempted to break the law to capture this mystery tree. See, I was so obsessed with the glimpse I caught of this striking scene that I wanted to go back on the bridge with my camera to photograph it from above. But alas, after scouting out the area I soon realized there is only a pedestrian lane on the west-bound side of the Mendota Bridge, which does not provide a view of said golden tree. So instead of scaling the illegal side of the bridge, I resorted to driving in the right-hand lane for the next few weeks, obsessively glancing out the side window like a child looking for Santa Clause. I had to watch and see what that magic tree would do. Turns out the vision of gold was none other than a weeping willow, just entering it's prime color-changing season (which, is much later than the average deciduous). 

I really don't know why this tree had such an impact on me or what the symbolic meaning could possibly be, but I still think about it every time I drive over that bridge. And now maybe you will too when you're driving over bridges. Watch out for those weeping willows!

Yes, it's just some marketing for an expensive yoga shop, but take away the logo and you can appreciate some of these nuggets of wisdom. 
My favorite? "dance, sing, floss and travel." What is yours? Although I would organize them as floss, travel, dance, sing ... just cuz flossing is important.

Have you ever listened to Dvorak's New World Symphony? I just performed it with my community orchestra last week and highly recommend you at least listen to it on YouTube (or better yet, a recording on iTunes). It's great for the imagination, and makes for fun driving music, especially if you have ever been (or dreamed of) being a pirate sailing. Can't you just hear the camaraderie on the ship, the hoisting of the sails, the fierce waves, the first glimpse of land?

I love coffee but for some reason it doesn't really like me. Well no, that's not true, it really likes me. So much so that I have one cup o' joe and I am over-caffeinated and loopy. Trust me on this one (or ask Evan). So I started making my own caffeine-free warm and cozy drink to enjoy this winter. But beware, this one really is best closer to bedtime since the milk will make you want to toddle off.

1 cup milk
Microwave until HOT (about 2 minutes)

stir in a drop or two of vanilla extract
1-2 squeezes honey (to taste), stirred
If you have one of those froth-maker tools, whip that out now
Top with a little whipped cream (I am partial to Reddi Whip)
sprinkle some cinnamon on top

Now you need a good book to curl up to with your warm cup of sleep potion cozy vanilla steamer, right? You might have to pay $27 cover price or wait on the library list for a month like I did, but this book by Colum McCann is excellent. It's about the first mail carrier flight across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Ireland, and other stories spanning 150 years, all connected in some way to Ireland, woven and tucked in together. Anyone in my book club will tell you that you can gauge how much I like a book by how many quotes I jot down in my notebook; if I spend half of my reading time not reading but writing down quotes from the book, that's a good sign. And this has been a late-night quote-writing kind of book so far, and I'm only 100 pages in. 

And with that, I'm off to plan my contribution to Thanksgiving dinner this year. I'm thinking sweet potatoes, because they are my favorite. Yup, better than stuffing, cranberries, and even turkey in my book. But nothing beats pumpkin pie. : )

Here's the story behind Notes from C here.

Read past Notes from C here.


  1. Such a nice post Carolyn! I particularly like the story of the tree and the bridge. Happy Thanksgiving to all! Off to prepare our stuffing and sweet potatoes.

  2. Thanks! And glad to see the email notification is working for you! Gobble gobble.


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