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Monday, October 10, 2011

Beacon Bits -- Autumn Flow

Sunrise and sunset are spectacular in the Hudson River Valley especially during the autumn months when the skies are either crisp and clear or misty and foggy with all the clouds that have romantic names like cirrus, strato-nimbus, and alto-cumulus. Artists, past and present, captured the light around dawn and twilight for posterity, as well as for their sheer pleasure of living in the moment. Whether you gaze at a Fredric Church treasure at Olana or visit the Kingston gallery of contemporary landscape painter Jane Bloodgood-Abrams or super-realistic photographer-painter Russell Cusick in Beacon, you'll revel in the way in which hues of pink, yellow, gray, orange, purple, and red along the horizon line become luminescent beyond belief.

Color is the operative word for the season. The leaves on the trees. The sweaters people dig out from summer's storage. The farmer's markets with tables strewn with rusts and golds from the hearty harvest. The apple orchards with ample numbers of pickers. The pumpkin patches ready to be made into Jack O'Lanterns. Jars of honey gathered by local beekeepers. The placards posted alongside the road in anticipation of Election Day.

Everything seems to be moving fast forward. The squirrels scurrying across the roads as they gather nuts and seeds. The leaf peepers driving to get to the very peak of the season ahead of schedule. The football teams warming up before their homecoming games. It's a season of transition and change, full of energy and activity. Weekend events compete for attendees. There's almost too much to do. The annual Sheep and Wool Festival in Rhinebeck where sheep shearing, dog trials, yarn vendors, spinners, and dyers occupy the tents at the Dutchess county fairgrounds. The Pumpkin Festival at Riverside Park in Beacon, sponsored by the Beacon Sloop Club. The Apple Shindig for Friends of Boscobel. The numerous arts and crafts festivals, auctions to benefit local charities, 5K runs, birding and hiking events and food and wine festivals abound to get everyone outdoors for those perfect 'in the moment' moments. With all the distractions, it's hard to settle down and just 'be'. But the enjoyment of doing and living into this glorious season captures every one's heart in the Hudson Highlands. There's no other way than to keep apprised of all the events and keep moving up and down the roads that lie parallel to the river.

Some food for thought: With the passage of summer into fall, there are also melancholic moments when fleeting feelings of loss and death appear out of nowhere casting a poignant spell over the festivities.  Marked by the earthy smell of decay in the fields and the baring of trees as leaves begin to dry and crumple as they scatter in the wind, they remind us of how fleeting life can be. This week, we heard the news of Steve Jobs' death and his words spoken during the Stanford commencement in 2005 resound for their simple eloquence and honesty about life. I believe he speaks to this feeling of the autumnal blaze of glory when he says: "When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: 'If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right.' It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has be 'no' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've every encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything -- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.'

So feel the urgency and rush and hurry of getting places and doing things. The season is the epitome of having each day matter more. Make this autumn a memorable one until the last leaf falls and the last apple is picked. Winter will be here before we know it. Relish the shorter days as we move towards turning the clock back. Have no regrets and no misgivings. Be in the autumn flow.

Simply Apples
There's nothing like coming home at the end of a busy and beautiful day
to something home-cooked that's a classic taste of the season.
Peel, core, slice and dice 2 to 4 dozen apples into 1" pieces.
Place into a stainless steel pot.
Squeeze the juice from 1 lemon over the apples and add 2-3 tbs. water.
Shake or grate some spices (nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger) over the apples to taste. Cook and stir for about 1/2 hr. until some apples create juice and
then add 3-4 tbs. of your favorite local honey. Cook about 15 minute more until thick.
Serve warm over ice cream, preferably Jane's French Vanilla,
or serve cold with Greek yogurt,
or mix into your morning oatmeal.

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