We have been going out determinedly and despite rain and gale. Winter began this morning. Often by the time we’ve come home and had our breakfast, the weather clears. The other day was the first morning in months that we had not heard the begging juvenile gull: weak, weak, weak! But it was back the next day. It follows a parent, sometimes inches away, and sometimes the parent manages to put a few yards between them. The “baby” is every bit as big as its parent but hunches down, tips it’s head up to expose the bright pink interior, and begs for food.
This behavior is typical of juvenile gulls, but most of them are over it by mid-summer. I’m not sure this youngster has much of a future. At what point does it fend for itself? At what point does a parent say enough is enough?
We humans are begging too, hoping for safety in a year fraught with threats and for a future warmed by love and family obligations. Maybe that gull is not so out of line. When do we stop feeding the people we care about?
Yesterday, a pit bull threatened a Black man on the beach and briefly us. It eventually went back into the rental house without actually hurting anyone. Hackles up, low wag, furiously barking, rumbling deep in its chest, it circled the man who had been searching for his child’s hat or scarf in the rocks. The man stood very still. The owner called and called and tried to catch it. The dog moved away and then returned to circle the man and did not respond to the owner at all. “Friendly!” shouted the other owner. This calling and circling and growling went on for a long time. (The last “friendly” pit bull we met on the beach slammed her head into my face. It happened so very fast I did not have time back up far enough to avoid the blow entirely. My face was bruised but not bloody. Sometimes people with aggressive dogs they cannot control will apologize.)
Speaking of blood. I am making vegetarian mincemeat. The last time I made it was the way my grandmother made mincemeat, with suet and venison. A friend had given Gary a venison roast and he was disappointed that I minced it for pies. Four quarts using a hundred year old recipe, canned more than thirty years ago before I gave up meat. I added more apple to fill the pies. The final quart was my last deliberate meat meal other than seafood.
Yesterday, I did not find a single recipe online that called for actual meat in mincemeat, as if that bit of tradition was lost. I search both British and American websites. Several sites insisted that the suet was the “meat” in mincemeat. (My mother used to call it “minced moose meat” though I do not know that her mother ever had access to a moose.) Someone posted a comment below a recipe that her grandmother had used always game in her mincemeat. So someone else remembers.
My new mincemeat has no suet or meat, but two kinds of raisins, dried cherries and cranberries, lemon and orange peel and juices, spices, brown sugar, and a small amount of butter. I warmed the mixture in the oven, but if it is still too soupy, I will have to look for my old recipe. I hesitate to cook it down and trust it will thicken as the dried fruits soak up more of the juice. After I turned off the oven last night, I added a few ounces of flavored brandy found at the back of the shelf that even Gary will not drink.
My grandmother’s mincemeat pies were served with vanilla ice cream—an addition considered controversial when I was a child. (Because sweetened cream with meat?) They were large American pies, eight or nine inches in diameter. I will make small handpies in the British tradition, made in a muffin tin for Christmas. At least that is what is planned. Curried pumpkin soup, sourdough loaves, and roasted broccoli for the holiday meal. Gary found berries I stashed in the freezer and have hoarded since the summer of 2019. Maybe a huckleberry cake for New Year? Food is something I can do. A neighbor shared chutney and jam that I am hoarding. I usually make rugalach this time of year, but a full batch for the two of us sounds risky to our health. Gingerbread, my mother’s powdered sugar cookies, even pumpkin pie. Gary says he can do without these treats.
This has been a different year.
Today is the shortest day of the year, the Solstice, though my tide table shows that today is one minute longer than tomorrow. Either way, this is the ending of darkening and the beginning of lengthening days. It is a dangerous time to embrace false optimism, to slacken vigilance, and risk infection.
We expected a package last week that did not arrive. Today, we will make an extra trip to the Post Office to check again and also put a last minute gift into the mail. A friend’s little boy outgrew the hat I knit him last year, so I have made him a larger one, finished yesterday and packed up now, waiting to go. We hope the weather will lighten up enough to allow us to walk the beach.
The weather is fierce, like the newly proposed Secretary of the Interior, Rep. Deb Haaland. “A voice like mine has never been a Cabinet secretary or at the head of the Department of Interior,” Haaland wrote in a tweet last week. “Growing up in my mother’s Pueblo household made me fierce. I’ll be fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land. I am honored and ready to serve.” When confirmed, she will be the first Native American to hold that post or any post in the Cabinet. I say when.
Further priorities have been announced for the new covid vaccines. We are not old enough to merit vaccinations in the second (1b) round of covid vaccines. I suppose that is both good and bad news. Our tenant is old enough for the second round, but he comes too close and Gary backs away. We wish he was more careful, but he is among those who are fatalist about the disease. It is a dangerous attitude.
Essential workers such as teachers and grocery workers are included in this next round—people who must walk out because their service is essential to the rest of us. Postal workers and people who fix things.
Gary and I are essential to ourselves, to our families. The best we can do is stay out of the way. We are careful 100% of the time. We do not see our children and grandchildren except on the internet. We stay at least fifty feet from other beach walkers, sometimes climbing high into the rocks to avoid less careful people. We mask, of course, and stay more than six feet away from others whenever possible. We venture out only when necessary. (no grocery delivery or home mail delivery in our area.) I email neighbors who live close enough we might shout at one another—we do not do that. Until at least February when the third round (1c) of vaccinations become available, we will continue to shelter.
We have a great deal to live for.