Gifts from a generous forest

It is set in motion now. Big changes. Life will not be the same going forward. Just a scant few days ago, our winter housemate, Lauren, moved in. Never in my life have I lived with a roommate—husbands, yes, significant others, yes, but never a roommate. Lauren is one more piece of a big new puzzle Carter and I have tossed into the air. We are excited to see where all these new pieces will fall. Will they come together into a meaningful picture we can understand, or will they drift down in a crazy jumble, leaving us to muse “now what?”

In two weeks, we will be going to Oregon on a scouting mission for a new home. Not a house, exactly yet, but a new “home base” where we can build our dream for joining our families more closely together. Carter’s son Johnny and his wife Candice and baby Taylor are looking to relocate closer to Candice’s family, and to their west coast friends. Johnny and Candice currently live in Tampa, Florida, and are feeling a longing for a continental shift to the Left Coast.

My family lives in very northern California, on the coast. I have many friends back in Oregon from the days when I lived on BrightStar Farm, and wrote my first books. Carter’s dearest life-long friends live in Southern California. The west is calling us. Will we be able to create a family compound for ourselves and Carter’s kids? What a grand dream!…

We made a plan this summer to test those waters this winter by taking and extended visit in Tampa, and feeling it all out—and talking it all out—with the kids. An added bonus: Some precious time with our grandbaby, Taylor!

How do you leave home and travel west, and then east, when you have dogs, cat, and an opossum? Enter Lauren, stage left, to live with us and to step gently into house and critter care in our absence. Change, change in every direction! And big ones.

A new roommate! Sheesh! What will that look like? Will I lose all my privacy? I’ve become protective of the close and uninterrupted time Carter and I share together. I’ve been looking forward to Lauren’s arrival with excitement and trepidation. But so far, Lauren being here has been nothing but an absolute delight. It is wonderful to share girl-talk again on a daily basis, and to see Carter talk about his life and views with someone other than me. Illuminating!

Cookie wants you to know that she helped make the pesto...

Lauren and I share a deep enchantment with the forest. Today, we took the dogs on a long, long walk into the woods and came back loaded with a bundle of fresh puffball mushrooms. Along the way, we studied the forest weeds and said to each other, “Do you think we can eat that?” The smartweed was an adventure: my lips are still stinging from its peppery, tiny blooms, which have been used as a spice for centuries.

Lauren has a great eye—she spotted a lovely little Gray’s Tree Frog resting high up on a dead tree trunk. Not to be outdone, I discovered my very first spotted newt! Home again, we rendezvoused in the kitchen. Having another person in the house has spurred me to grander culinary events. I love feeding people. While Lauren cleaned the mushrooms, I made up a fresh pan of pesto from the last of the basil and herbs in the garden. Tonight, I think I’ll make a green tomato pie with lard-cornmeal crust. Yum….I can feel my smaller capillaries slamming shut just thinking about it!

What a glorious new beginning: great food, great conversation, new friendships hatching, and new plans in the works. I can’t remember an autumn quite this delightful in a long time. I think I’ll just enjoy the hell out of it.

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