Monday, October 27, 2008

The Beauty of Dahlias

I have always gardened in an area that is subject to frost, Zone 6, if you know anything about gardening in the continental United States. At this time of the year, the temperatures are beginning to drop to near-freezing at night. I have begun my yearly ritual of deciding on which day to bring all my tender potted plants into the garage for the winter. It is a tug-of-war on my heart because just now is when all those tender, warmth-loving plants are at their most beautiful. Bringing them into the garage for the winter means that they will languish and some will die, but for a while, I will continue to have fresh herbs for my meals and flowers to cheer me through another few weeks despite the frost. When I designed this dream house of ours, I made two mistakes. One was that, although I provided for three large windows in the garage, I failed to provide for heat. The other was a pre-fab fireplace that is way too small.

handle the frost situation in a very interesting way. My gorgeous riot of colorful flowers and lush foliage wither away into dry nothingness during the cold days. I have to remind myself to water the pots from time to time during the winter because they appear to be completely dry and bereft of any life. There are actually tiny tubers left in the soil that amazingly bring forth new shoots shortly after I bring the pots outside in the spring. By this time of year, I am awed by the vigor and beauty that result from warm sunshine, water, and a little plant food. How awesome that these flowers resurrect themselves every year from dry nothingness and multiply in strength and beauty! My youngest grandchild, Daniella Izzy, has the Hebrew name Dahlia Yaffa, which means "beautiful dahlia." I hope she will be as resilient as these flowers.

I was shut in most of this past week, unable to arrange for coverage for Mom during the last of the two holidays of this High Holy Day season, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. During Shemini Atzeret, there is a yizkor service during which we remember loved ones who have died. I asked Saul to recite yizkor for my father. Simchat Torah is a joyous celebration that marks the end of the Torah-reading cycle for this year and the beginning of a new cycle where we begin again at Beresheet, or Genesis. It is marked with dancing and singing and an opportunity for everyone to have an Aliyah, the honor of being called up to the Torah during its reading.

When I was a child growing up secular in a Jewish neighborhood of Philadelphia called Logan, the celebration of Simchat Torah was my only exposure to my religion. A few houses away on the block on which I lived was the home of the dynastic Tolner Rabbi, Moishe Twersky, at 8th and Rockland Streets. On the evening of Simchat Torah, the very Orthodox congregation would spill out of their tiny confines to dance spirited horas in the wide driveway that ran down the back of our homes. On that night, they did not seem to mind the rest of the neighborhood joining in their celebration. The rest of the year, what the serious, black-coated and hatted men from the neighborhood did inside was a great mystery to me.

Being home-bound is not a great hardship for me. Once my work deadline was met, foodie that I am, I spent whole days cooking things to use up leftovers in the refrigerator. Frequent shopping at Costco results in over-purchasing beautiful produce at remarkable prices. This week, I made bread pudding, apple-plum compote, spanakopita, sauteed mushrooms with linguine, cream cheese and olive spread, gruyere apple spread, Israeli salad, kohlrabi coleslaw, purple sweet potato cake with brown sugar glaze (which looked pretty horrible, but was very tasty), chicken satay, leek and potato soup, vegetable miso soup, two carrot cakes, and more pumpkin cookies. Only Beth joined us for dinner on Shabbat. She had a great vacation in Arizona and came back tanned and relaxed. Unfortunately, she told us that Ed, after his knee surgery, and against his doctor's advice, had taken a vacation in St. Lucia. When he returned, he developed a blood clot that broke apart, and he is currently in the ICU at a hospital in Florida, near his parents' home, so that the doctors can thin his blood to break up the clots and make sure they do not travel to dangerous areas.

I also read a book this week, given to me by my friend, Jan, who sits next to us in synagogue. Jan is a hospice nurse, and the book is called "That You May Live Long" by Richard F. Address and Hara E. Person. It provides advice and insight to caregivers from a Jewish perspective and was very helpful to me because reading about the experiences others have had in dealing with this difficult situation made me realize that my problems are not unique. Neither are they as bad as many of the situations described. The book clarified some of the stickier moral issues of my dilemma as well. The only quibble I have with it is that, because it is a collection of the writing of many authors, certain points are repeated over and over, and these are some of the drier, more abstract, and less practical aspects (read boring) of the moral lessons.

Saturday night, the Philadelphia Phillies won their second game of the World Series. The beginning of the game was delayed by rain and they did not begin to play until almost 10 p.m. Because of that, we were up until three in the morning. Yesterday, I cooked and baked while Saul began preparing the garage to accommodate our leafy bounty. At 3:30, Adele came to stay with Mom, and we made the hour-long drive over to visit Saul's Mom at Lion's Gate. As usual, she was delighted to see us and looked relaxed and well-cared-for. After an hour's visit, though, she seemed anxious that we get on the road home. Perhaps that was because it was beginning to grow dark outside, or maybe it was because we were interrupting her routine. She told us that some friends from her old neighborhood had come to visit her recently and were very impressed with her surroundings and new lifestyle.

This coming week, I have arranged for Agnes to stay with Mom during the weekend so that we can travel to Baltimore and Washington again to visit our children and grandchildren. Leslie Fine from Fine Care will be coming today to make a new assessment of our situation.

I have also decided to set up an additional blog, coming soon, that will be linked to this one and will contain the recipes for a lot of the food mentioned in here. Roxy sampled the kohlrabi coleslaw last week, loved it, and I didn't really have a recipe to give her. My niece, Erica, also had wanted to make it, but my general description of how I concoct it did not produce the proper results. Yesterday, as I was making a fresh batch, I measured my quantities so that even I can duplicate it exactly the next time.

You may have noticed, if you are a regular reader, that Saul has tweaked the blog to include more advertising, New York Times headlines, a new search engine, etc. Please feel free to take advantage of these new features.

For now, I am hoping I am able to maintain my balance as the cold weather approaches. If I am destined to have cabin fever this winter, I hope to make the cabin as warm and comfy as possible so that when spring returns I will be able to meet it, like the dahlias, with renewed vigor.


Anonymous said...

I like your idea of the recipes which i can't wait to try.It is really nice to hear what is going on at your side of the world. Regards to all
Sylvia from Israel

Ari said...

Wow, I never really saw the resemblance before, but Dad really looks quite a bit like GG Sima.