The garden no longer needs watering, just saving every night from frost. Insects are no longer a threat – yesterday I watched with a little wistful fondness a grasshopper springing around the lettuce. It’s almost like living in reverse, here in October, like backing down that long ramp that launched us into the wild carnival of summer, undoing and unstitching all the open windows and forever-light days, re-dedicating ourselves to kale and sunshine. Each stray honeybee I spy in the fading hollyhocks is like a visitor from a strange and faraway planet buzzing out a little song about impermanence.
Oh this? Just the little river that runs through our town.
Right now all the changes are so fascinating – it’s like being stoned 24/7. Wow – look at how the trees are all glowing! Now look how they’re all dropping skirts of yellow leaves at their feet! Wow! WOW!
And confessionally speaking, all this beauty makes me a little anxious. Not about winter coming (winter is the dark pause necessary to illuminate every other season). No, what I’m anxious about is how to fully inhabit and appreciate the technicolor fireworks of fall itself. It’s all so fleeting and breathtaking; it literally makes me gasp. Every day we sit at the kitchen table watching the crab apple trees flare deeper into color. And then just today I noticed the leaves were starting to dull. And I felt a small pinch of despair in my chest. Did I love it enough?
The crab apples.
Inside, Col tells me, “I feel like lighting something on fire.” He rolls paper cigars, melting wax and wood shavings into the center, and I suddenly see the wisdom of channeling boys into sports. Rose has taken possession of my old cell phone, and stripped of any communication abilities, it simply plays endless rounds of ringtones. She dances to Gaga-techno, and Patriot-band tunes, and my former ringtone, jolting my nervous system into reaching for a phone call that’s actually a 7-year old prancing in her undies to musical soundbytes.
Suddenly all I can think of to offer the kids for snacks is apples and kale chips. The first time I made kale chips, Col said, “These are really good and also really bad.” I take this to mean: I like how these have the salty crunch of potato chips, but I’m also a little disappointed that they’re not actually potato chips. Fair enough.
And yet, they’re compelling in an unclog-your-arteries and holy-antioxidants! sort of way. Col’s friend, Sebastian, told us wistfully yesterday, how he loves kale chips, and I said, with zero parental grace, “Did you hear that, Col and Rose? He loves them.” (Sebastian is my fantasy child: he comes over and exclaims, “Your cabbages are amazing, Rachel. Can I pick some raw chard?” He hangs out in the chicken coop trying to hold each hen, loves hiking and thanks me profusely when I foist zucchinis on him. I have other fantasy children: Mathew, so polite! Stella, always asks for seconds on my meals. Iris keeps herself hydrated without reminders.)
In my fantasy world my children are eagerly massaging oil into kale leaves, bright sunny faces never having contemplated a particle of unwholesomeness. When really, Col’s outside lighting faux cigars and Rose is mistaking tinny 30-second ringtones for actual music.
And yet, I’m thankfully programmed to love this life, to find a way to appreciate the crab apple trees in December, bare and iced. To walk outside to a garden laid low by frost, and marvel over the kale, standing tall and leafy. To fearlessly put a bowl of kale chips (which really are delicious) out to a crowd of kids as if I didn’t know they prefer shrink-wrapped hydrogenated oils. To hand Col the lighter and dance along to “Club Mix” with Rose.
One large bunch kale
1 1/2 TBSP coconut or olive oil
2 TBSP nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 TBSP coconut oil
1 TBSP chile powder
juice of one lime
1/2 tsp salt
Remove leaves from stem, wash and then thoroughly dry kale leaves. Preheat oven to 350F. Melt coconut oil in a jar in pre-heating oven, remove carefully and add salt and nutritional yeast (or the alternate: lime juice, chile powder and salt) to jar and massage into leaves. Place on baking sheet. I’m not too fussy about keeping the kale from overlapping, in fact, I cover the baking sheet entirely. The baking should take approximately 20-25 minutes, but after 15 minutes, check on kale and flip leaves around with a spatula. You want the kale to crisp without burning.
Post-massage but pre-cooking.
Really, truly delicious. Promise.