Autumn Tree

I wrote about this recent experience in my own private journal, but felt I should also share it here. To me, this experience is a bit of a metaphor–although it did happen. Taken at face value, it can seem a little “first world problems,” but it is meaningful to me when I think about how the Lord works with me in other, more important times. The Lord is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

I am a planner. I can live my day-to-day life in a fairly loose and spontaneous way, but when it comes to anything significant, I Plan. Some part of me feels things have to be perfect in order to be truly meaningful, and the way we achieve perfection is through planning and then adhering to the plan.

So when Marianne and I decided to return to New England this autumn, I wanted to plan. I had planned two previous trips that had worked out perfectly, and been beautiful, but this time, I decided, I was going to wait to plan until we knew where the beautiful foliage would be during our trip, because experiences with stunning autumn views were our happiest days on previous adventures. (And we had significantly less time on this trip.) I obsessively checked foliage reports, webcams, and any information I could find. Would it be in Vermont? The Berkshires? Where would our adventures take us for the most stunning views? Continue Reading »

Comfort Me with Apples

Hello again, Barton Cottage! It’s been a long time.

My love of apples has grown steadily over the last few years, and I usually eat at least one every day while I’m in school, but over the last two weeks my love has become a full-blown passion–nay, an obsession.

One lonely midnight when I couldn’t sleep, after talking to Elinor about attending an heirloom apple tasting on our upcoming trip, I started browsing online for apple cookbooks and some information about the history, propagation, and different varieties of apples.  I was falling under the spell even then, but when The Apple Lover’s Cookbook arrived, my fate was sealed.

Cider glazed onions–I couldn’t stop raving about them.  Even now, my mouth waters at the thought of them!  Homemade bread and butter apple pickles–they will change your life, as they changed mine.  Pear, apple, cranberry galette–more beautiful, more delicious, and easier than pie! Apple risotto…you get the idea.

I’ve gone through more than a dozen apples and a gallon of cider, and I’m learning the delicate, distinctive tastes.  I still love McIntosh and Honeycrisp, but I’m quite taken with Cortlands, and I’ve even rediscovered the humble old standard Golden Delicious.  But…BUT….BUT! There are so many THOUSANDS more out there!  My life’s dream at the moment is a Cox’s Orange Pippin, and I’m longing to try a D’Arcy Spice…and…and…NEXT WEEK I well might!!

And here’s where my obsession gets a little more crazy–I can’t get over apple propagation; it absolutely fascinates me that God made them the way he did.  To put it as briefly and as simply as I can, no two apple trees would ever be alike if it weren’t for grafting.  So all the McIntosh apples out there are descendants of the tree that first bore that particular fruit.  And here’s where it’s amazing–because apple trees can’t self-pollinate, they rely on pollination from other varieties of apple trees.  The fruit that’s borne will match the “mother” tree–the one you’ve planted or grafted–BUT the seeds will all contain a unique, magical, mysterious blend of the DNA of BOTH the parents…and you often have no idea who the Dad tree is!  So every time I toss an apple core into the bushes, I’m pretty much Johnny Appleseed.  I mean, every seed is a wild card.  The Ginger Gold apple was developed in Virginia after Hurricane Camille, because an orchard was largely washed out, but this mysterious new tree started to grow.  And now it’s commercially huge.  I mean, does this blow your mind or is it just me??

My consuming fantasy is to go buy a farmhouse with enough land to plant a small orchard, and to spend my days painting watercolors and building dollhouses and, of course, eating apples.  I’m going to change my name to Tasha Tudor.

Let me sum up: I literally dreamed of apples all night last night.

I used to poke around on my family tree as a kid, on my mom’s computer full of ancient PAF files. My mom is a world-class family historian.

But I grew up in Los Angeles. I had a love of early American history and American literature, but had never been to Plymouth or Salem or Boston or any of the other places my family seemed to be from. What’s more, it seemed unlikely I’d ever get to.  The internet was around, but google wasn’t yet a verb and I didn’t search for the names of these people to see if they were anybody beyond a name and a date.

When I finally did get around to visiting the grounds of my fathers–Massachusetts, mostly–it had been ages since I had paid close attention to the names of those who preceded my Mormon pioneer ancestors, those who had left their heritage and livelihoods behind in New England. I knew beyond the pioneers there were Mayflower Compact signers. I knew some of them lived in Salem, and some of them in Quincy, and some of them in Boston, and some of them other places I was visiting, but I didn’t remember who lived where. I visited Massachusetts three times with only the vague notion of “oh yes, my family is from here.”

Marianne and I are planning another New England trip this fall. For the first time since she’s started her MFA program, her autumn break falls just before her birthday. I’ve been staring at maps, trying to make a long list of anything we might remotely be interested in doing. (I love planning!) On one of my map hunts, I stumbled across a “Stoddard, NH.” I thought it entirely possible these were my Stoddards, so I googled the name of the founder of Stoddard then went to my own family tree to see if he fit in. He didn’t, but it soon became irrelevant, because I noticed what I knew must be a mistake on the line.

You see, familysearch.org is full of mistakes in your family tree–some computer-made, some made by lazy research. In this case, my direct ancestor, Solomon Stoddard, was listed as being married to some Scandinavian woman I had never heard of that I knew did not actually belong in my family tree. So, on a whim, I googled Solomon Stoddard. And I found out a few things. One: he was kind of a big Puritan deal. Two: he was born in Boston, but spent his adult life in Northampton. His house was literally 15 minutes away from Twin Maples, where Marianne and I always stay. WHAT?

Suddenly, in a very real way, my family was alive to me. These were people that lived and died in places I know and love. These were also people who needed someone to go in and fix the lines on familysearch, proving the correct and accurate history as much as possible. The more I read about my family, the more I realized they are entwined in the very places I ache for and long for. Maybe my desire to go back there all the time also has a little something to do with my earthly heritage.

I discovered other things that surprised me, too–like I’m also a direct descendent of Anne Bradstreet. I’m sure of that line, but they’re some other people that show up in my family tree that I’m curious to see if they actually belong.

My mom has spent her whole life working on lines on her mother’s side of the family, who mostly lived and died in the South. I’ve never felt overly interested in doing the research she does, but assumed that some day I’d have to take it up.

Somehow, last night, looking at my dad’s lines, I felt a call to find who was missing from them. These are my people. I see their names in my lines and I get excited! I want to find out more about each and every one of them, not just the famous (or infamous) ones. I want to know where they lived and died and anything more about their lives I can find.

Suddenly, I finally see, it’s as if my own natural interests and passions have prepared me to do the work of finding my family. And I think I’m ready.

Little Women

I wrote a few months ago that we were writing Little Women. Well, we’ve done it. It opened last weekend. Writing it was an exercise in relying on God and receiving answers to prayers, a sacred experience from start to finish. A handful of photos (and plot spoilers, if you don’t know Little Women) under the cut.

Continue Reading »

My Niece

As a tall girl, I will always find this episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show funny.

Toulouse-Lautrec is One of My Favorite Artists

Red Apple Farm

So the following is what I wrote a year ago when beginning this post, chronicling the last day of our 2010 New England Autumn Trip:

It’s funny I should be working on this post today when I miss Red Apple Farm so acutely. I feel physical pain from the separation. It makes me poignantly sad that it is August–the time Marianne and I have been planning New England trips in previous years–and we have no plans to go anywhere, especially not to New England. Continue Reading »


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