The shore is striking and desolate, pelicans and wet-suited surfers on warmer days the only ones who brave the waters now. Sea glass and feathers press into the wet sand unstirred by crowds. It's new to me, such a drastic slowing down of a season, having never lived in a true small town before, not to mention an island.
I won't lie: six months in a new place, and the mountains have been calling to me. The people there, too. To walk into a bustling downtown, take my pick of coffee shops and bookstores and benches to people-watch. I see now that I took that for granted, and on days when a brisk wind whips across the intracoastal and work doesn't fill my time enough, what I wouldn't give for a walk into town to a warm cafe to meet a dear friend; I miss croissants and coffee and foggy window panes and humming streets.
There's a steeper learning curve than I expected to find here; or rather, I tucked the knowledge of that neatly away in favor of the more appealing romantic vision, and it's only now surfacing.
But no matter; it's here now, and I'm becoming more versed in solitude.
If ever there were a time to sift through the mud of my desires, it's now, with soft blankets and warm socks and a fickle cat to take comfort in.
I've been tinkering with baking sourdough bread, the kind with day-long-rises, wild yeast, and near-burnt crust. And water kefir, a delicious probiotic drink I've been brewing daily for months now. I flavor it with vanilla extract, which makes it taste like cream soda, only very low in sugar. It works wonders on digestion. Next up, pickled daikons from our front yard garden, and milk kefir, once I find some grains.
Maybe I'll post soon about my various exploits with this fabulous method of preserving, baking, and brewing.
Besides puttering around in the kitchen, I've been reading more than I have in ages. I've taken to researching books online and ordering them from our tiny library here, which sometimes takes weeks or even months to get books in. It's like Christmas when I get the email that a book has arrived (or sometimes, the sweet ladies there like to make a real phone call to make sure I know).
Some of my favorite winter reads:
Imbibe, by David Wondrich. In this clever, fascinating look into the history of classic mixology in America, cocktail historian Wondrich introduces us to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, a trailblazing American bartender in the 19th century, who, for one thing, is reputed to have sported a Derby hat with the occasional accompaniment of white rats. Wondrich includes in depth recipes for more commonly known cocktails like the Tom Collins (which, we learn, has over the years become obscured from a poem written by one John Collins) as well as ones that have been lost in the vault, like the Japanese Cocktail ("Quoth the Minneapolis Tribute in early 1885: 'The Japanese cocktail is [a] liquid attack of spinal meningitis. It is loaded with knock-kneed mental ceramics, and is apt to make a man throw stones at his grandfather.'" ) I plan to try Jerry Thomas' recipe for classic hot spiced and buttered rum on the next cold day that implores it.
As for fiction, I devoured Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller. Whether or not you're familiar with Greek heroes or the Illiad, this deeply imaginative portrayal of the Trojan War is a sensational work of fiction, at turns heartbreaking and exhilarating. The classic elements set the stage, but Miller's modern day spin turns the lens on the forbidden yet budding relationship between Patroclus, an exiled young prince, and half-divine Achilles, fated to become the best fighter of his time. Some scholars and reviewers took issue with Miller's sensual and "Judy Blume" treatment of the epic, but I loved it for those reasons, too. "Song of Achilles" is a delicious and poetically told coming of age story set in a time of an epic war, and let's face it, I'm nothing if not a fool for poetry and romance.
Here's a short list of other titles I've recently read and appreciated.
"The Night Circus," by Erin Morganstern
"A Gesture Life", by Chang-Rae Lee
"This is How you Lose Her," by Juno Diaz
"Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West," by Dorothy Wickenden
Bye for now, and happy cozy-times to all!