Don’t look now, but …

Change is coming.

There are signs. It was dawn when I woke this morning at my usual time, but the sun hadn’t quite topped the crown of the Sierras and my room was still dim, bathed in velvet twilight. Yesterday, as I drove home from an outing to the grocery store, I noticed that the deciduous trees were starting to get that look they get at the tail-end of summer, though it seems a bit early. They look sort of tired, sort of stretched, like a strumpet sneaking back to her own hotel room after a long night of debauche, stiletto heels hanging by their straps from her fingers.

Change. The first autumn leaves are showing on the occasional Chinese pistache. Nothing showy, yet, though those trees are the showboats of the region, originally planted by misplaced, nostalgic easterners desperate for fall color. The change is only a wee dab of rust amidst the vivid green just now, but it’s a certain harbinger of the future. Other signs: Some of the local oaks are dropping acorns; some of the Ponderosa pines already have a scatter of blousy cones at their feet.

And like ol’ Uncle Festus, I can feel the change in my bones. I creak mightily upon rising in the morning. I stump  carefully down the stairs, gripping the handrail tightly, wary of my persnickety hips. The joints feel loose and achy. My hands growl ominously, twinging with glass between the joints as I fill the coffee jug with cold water and spoon fragrant coffee grounds into the filter.

Change. My cousin turns 36 today. He and his wife and two little boys, one four years old, the other nine months, will be at my aunt and uncle’s house this afternoon to celebrate. I’m making his birthday cake, a spice-and-poppy-seed concoction with raspberries and mascarpone frosting between the layers. It’s ironic: In my younger years, I never baked, period. This refusal was a source of twisted pride; my mother and my aunt (the same one we’ll be seeing later and who I help during the week) defiantly thwarted female family tradition by refusing to bake pies, cakes and cookies during the holidays. They figured cooking turkeys and the trimmings were quite enough, thankyouverymuch. My sister and I joined the cause with glee.

But after I reached the half-century mark myself, I discovered that baking from scratch can be fun, a sort of hobby and creative, edible art. To my surprise, I liked it. I started with simple bundt cakes and progressed to peach pies. I don’t bake very often—only for holidays and special birthdays—but my Mom, aunt and sister regard me with disgruntled bemusement nonetheless. I feel like a rebel.

I’ve sat here writing and sipping hot coffee, a cat warming each hip, for long enough. It’s time to move. The sun’s well up. I’ve a cake to create and a party to attend, rheuma and bursitis be damned.

Change is coming.

Note: Image and poppy seed cake recipe are from the fabulous cooking blog “Not Without Salt.” If you like to cook, take a look.

9 thoughts on “Don’t look now, but …

  1. I feel change coming my way too Wren. I don’t know what it it is yet but something within me feels a new change in my life coming. it is exciting. (Not the end of summer though. I am already dreading that as I am a warm weather girl!)

    Like you, I found out later in life that I enjoy cooking. To me, it is almost meditative to cut veggies and prepare a meal. Also, I have discovered it is a wonderful gift I can give to my family each and every day.

    This post was beautifully written Wren. I hope the birthday celebration is nice.


    • Cathy, thanks so much for the compliment. Writing is such a affirmative and satisfying art when it goes well, but like most writers, I can rarely tell whether my efforts are noteworthy. Getting feedback is lovely. 😉

      As for cooking, I’ve also discovered that what I used to perceive as tedious chores–chopping vegetables, washing dishes–now calm and relax me. And you’re so right. Cooking something as basic and vital as a meal for others to share is deeply satisfying.


  2. Mmmmmm…the art looks edible 🙂 Pass it my way please. A big delicious slice in honor of the birthday boy. I hope the celebration went wonderful. You are a true artist not just with a food a palette but with words as well. A lovely, reflective post that I enjoyed a great deal.


    • The cake was a hit at the party, Deb. A funny moment, though, when my cousin’s four-year-old son plucked a raspberry off the cake and popped it into his mouth… and got the oddest look on his face. Dad said, “What’s wrong?” Son answered, dismayed, “THAT’S not a Gummi!” Seems he’s eaten Gummi raspberries many times, but has never tasted the real thing until now. Seems he prefers the candy. 😉

      Thanks for the kind comment regarding the writing. Warmed m’heart, it did.


  3. Mmm ….. I’ll have some of that cake! 🙂

    The onset of autumn is amazingly early this year over here too – we’ve already got blackberries on some of the bushes and acorns and chestnuts well formed.


    • Wish I could send you a slice, Polly. It DID turn out delicious. I used fresh raspberries instead of strawberries, though, because I’m allergic to strawberries and I knew I’d be eating my share of cake. It’s pretty easy to make, if a bit niggly since it’s all from scratch. Give it a try!

      I’m hoping that the signs of an early autumn are genuine. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the colors, the cool, crisp air, wearing cardigans and the scent of woodsmoke on the breeze that autumn brings as gifts each year. 🙂


  4. Hi Wren,

    I smile every time I read your articles, as they read smoothly — there are never any awkward cadences, due to imperfections in punctuation. The Editor in you shines brightly, lighting the way for your articulate writing prowess. It’s like “Tai Chi of writing” for me — such a calming, pleasant and focused experience. 🙂

    Your dessert sounds delicious. I too love to bake. I have tabled my pie crust from scratch since RA onset, but that’s hopefully a thing of the past very soon. Cookies I can do again. I look forward to becoming reacquainted with my comprehensive, baking repertoire! 🙂

    By the way, how did you memorize how to spell “dessert” as a child? Was it “strawberry shortcake,” or something similar? 🙂 Any editing pet peeves you wish to share? I’m curious. 😉


    • “Dessert” is one of those pesky words that slide right off the side of my brain, Thrive. I’ve never been able to memorize it; instead, if I mistake the spelling for that of a dry, sandy region, the “look” of the word alerts me. “Strawberry Shortcake,” indeed. THANK you for that bright mnemonic, and thank you for the writing praise. Wow. “Tai Chi of writing.” Aw, shucks.

      I love baking cakes and cookies, but pie crusts intimidate me. I buy them. I tried to make a pie crust for piroshkis way back in the olden days, when I was 20. Came out hard as a rock, but the filling was tasty, at least. That was my last pie crust. Someday I’ll try it again… maybe…


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