This picture was taken two nights ago at what may well be the nicest, and certainly the most magical, Solstice celebration I've yet been to. The weather set the stage with Siberian snow, then friends and neighbors provided the rest: a bonfire of two giant Yule Logs burning brightly in a snow-covered stone-wall-bordered field, mulled cider, music (both Celtic and gypsy), and a great deal of laughter to see us all through the darkest night of the year.
That's artist Rima Staines on the accordion above, artist & folklorist Thomas Hine on fiddle, runic jewelry designer Jason Hancox on drum, mythic poet Tom Hirons on clarinet, and Thomas' wife, writer Lunar Hine, and baby looking on.
Howard joined us with a second accordion, and sang a haunting Celtic duet with artist Susie Yorke. (It was Susie who snapped this picture, by the way -- used here with her kind permission. ) Dogs and children ran through the snow in packs, young Tilly (being the sociable critter that she is) in raptures among them. All in all, a thoroughly enchanting night. Many thanks to Jason and Ruth, our hosts, for helping us mark this mythic turning of the year.
The snow shows no sign of leaving us soon, our car is still buried in a snow drift, and our end of the village is still largely impassable. We're stocked up on food, thanks to a kind friend with jeep (bless you, Nick Baker), but there are presents that won't make it through the post in time, both ones we're expecting and ones I've sent out. (I'm so sorry folks; I tried!) Nevermind. Our daughter made it safely back home to the village from London yesterday, and that's all that really matters: we're all here, safe and sound.
Howard has filled the house with boughs of holly and ivy gathered from the woods, and last night I made the kiffles (traditional Christmas cookies from the Pennsylvania Dutch side of my family) while corny Christmas tunes play on the stereo. The snow has slowed the world around us down into a place of white beauty, soft contours, and silence. Tilly is glad that her family is all under one roof again. So let the holidays begin.
Here's a kiffle recipe that is close to the one handed down through generations of women in my family. (Sorry, the exact family recipe's a secret!) It takes a lot of work, admittedly, but I aways think of my mother, grandmother, and great-aunt Clara -- all of them gone now -- while I'm kneading the dough and that makes the task both a sacred ritual and a pleasure. Use 8 oz. of ground walnuts with a tsp. of sugar for the filling, though, not prunes or apricots -- that's sacrilege! And they should be made only at Christmastime...making kiffles at any other time of the year is just so...wrong.
Well, it's still a Winter Wonderland around here. I snapped these photos when I took Tilly and her friend Lyra on a walk earlier today. We forded the stream behind my studio, passed through groves of holly, stands of birch, and then made our up the slope of Nattadon Hill, slip-sliding as we went.
From the the hill, the view looking back toward the village was heart-stoppingly beautiful in silver winter light.
And then down again...
...where we followed the stream...
and, snow-covered, headed for home.
Today's desk comes from Adrienne Martini, author of two books I happen to love: Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously and Hillbilly Gothic: A Memoir of Madness and Motherhood. I'm not a knitter myself, but after reading Delia Sherman's review of Sweater Quest (scroll down to the Nov. 21st blog post), I ordered a copy and adored it for many of same reasons, knitting obsession aside, that Delia did. I'm halfway through Hillbilly Gothic now, and I blame Adrienne for all the sleep I am losing because I can't put the book down at night.
"I live in Oneonta, New York," writes Adrienne, "which is just on the Western edge of the Catskills. I am a writer, mostly, but also teach at the SUNY school here. I also knit, as you might guess, and make piles and piles of things. In addition to the two books I've published, I also write regularly for Locus magazine and blog at www.martinimade.com. Without the whiteboard in the first picture, none of this would ever get done."
If you'd like to contribute a picture to the "On Your Desk" series, you'll find more information (and the address where you should send your photo) in the first post of the series. Please note that you don't need to know me personally in order to contribute to the series -- all readers of this blog are welcome.