First things first. It’s cold this morning, with some snow, and the birds have emptied the feeder once. When I went to replenish, they were skittering around, impatient for more. I try to feed the Steller’s jays on the post outside the sliding doors to the deck because otherwise they monopolize the feeder. They chase the smaller birds away. So I spread some seed on the bare ground in the woodshed, swept snow away under the feeder and sprinkled some seeds there, and put more pumpkin seeds out for the jays. They prefer peanuts but you know what they say about beggars.
Inside we are warm. We’re burning fir, which gives a long deep heat. It’s John’s birthday and the plan was for a couple of friends to come for a celebratory dinner: homemade chicken liver pâté with green peppercorns from Madagascar; roast lamb stuffed with olives, pine nuts, and herbs; tattooed potatoes; focaccia with flaky salt and rosemary; and chocolate torte with sour cherries. I gave John a bottle of Hester Creek Cabernet Franc, which would be perfect with the lamb. The friends called earlier to say that they don’t think they can come because of the snow. In our area the highway is kept clear but many of us live down hilly winding roads that become treacherous in weather like today’s. We’ll see what happens to the snow by late afternoon. Whatever transpires, alone or with friends, we will eat well tonight.
This morning, in the quiet kitchen, I was thinking about the years. When we met, John was 31. Today he is 75. To me, he looks pretty much the same. He has the same laugh, gets a particular look on his face when he reads something really good — this morning, it was the first poem in Phil Hall’s The Ash Bell, a stunning book (and another birthday gift). One grandson sent a picture he drew for Grandad, a boat with 2 funnels, and all of us on it. He loved that.
The years. This is the season when I feel their accumulation, their bounty, and also their sorrows. For so many years, a large group of friends came to celebrate John’s birthday. I remember one snowy afternoon when they kept coming to the door, having left their cars down the highway because our long driveway was too difficult to drive up, bearing gifts, flowers, overnight bags (because several came up for the event from Vancouver; 3 of them are now dead and one has ghosted us for her own reasons), and it was like being in a Chekhov story as beloved friends came in out of the snow, stamping their boots, and bringing the brisk cold air into the kitchen. The fire was blazing, as it is this morning, and maybe lamb was being stuffed with rosemary and slivers of garlic, wine on the sideboard, bread baking, a cake waiting in the porch for the sparklers to be lit, the old songs sung.
I put a cd on the stereo earlier, a compilation I asked my daughter to make probably 15 years ago, maybe longer, when we had slow dial-up internet and she was at university with high-speed; I wanted to hear all my favourite songs at one go. “Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands”,
With your silhouette when the sunlight dimsInto your eyes where the moonlight swims And your matchbook songs and your gypsy hymns Who among them would try to impress you?
Through the storm, we reach the shoreYou give it all but I want more And I’m waiting for you
And this is why my eyes are closed
It’s just as well for all I’ve seen
And so it goes, and so it goes
And you’re the only one who knows
I feel like I’m knockin’ on heaven’s door