Good traffic

Traffic on my commute to work this week was amazing.

On the lower spur of Woodland Avenue, Jonah had a great story to tell from the front stoop. Something about a girl with a dress and, well, I didn’t quite hear the whole thing — there was an interruption for tears when Jonah’s mom got into the car to go to work, but it was short-lived, and soon the rest of the story came out and I was on my way again, waving goodbye to Peter, Ben and Jonah (from left).

PeteJonahBenOn the Old Town speedway, just where morning coffee traffic lets out of Capital City Cheesecake, an incident involving gasoline-powered leaf blowers created some rubber-necking and chatter: nothing but a local activist observing a city contractor using the pollution-spewing machines despite a ban on use by the city’s own crews.  The incident meant pulling over to the sidewalk for a chat. “Hey, those are illegal!” the activist called to the contractor moving the blowers out of the back of his truck. The contractor just looked confused.  More neighborhood list serve traffic can be expected in this area later in the day.

At the intersection of Carroll and Laurel avenues, there was a slowed bicycle and subsequent review of last night’s conversation between friends –spurred by the movie Suffragette — on the link between the the right to vote and contemporary women’s freedom to own property and have custody of our children. Could we even link my ability to ride my bike to work to the vote for women? Anyway, I am so grateful for those risk-taking women who came before me. So grateful, and so adamant about expressing that feeling, that the delay on the street stretched long.

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Finally there was a back-up at the bike racks, trying to find a spot where I didn’t have to wiggle in between one bicycle’s kid seat and another’s extra-wide front basket. I don’t mind though. All those people biking to metro. It’s great.

It’s the best kind of traffic.

BikeRackErkin

 

Because we can

DerailleurThe grace period between when you notice your bike tire is a little softer than usual, when you begin to pump it every morning before the ride to work, and when you have to admit it needs patching or replacing ran out today. So I email the boss–“flat tire” — to buy some time to fix it.

I am no longer a college student, or a 20-something scraping to get by. I am a pretty well established person with a steady income. I could pay someone to fix this flat.  Like the friendly mechanics at Takoma Bicycle shop. But I believe everyone should be able to change her own flat, perhaps especially those of us tempted to outsource our chores. It’s my attempt to stay grounded: Walk the dog. Mow the lawn. Rake the leaves. And since I haven’t done it in quite a while — relying instead on my more bike-saavy son — I know it is time to fix the tire myself.

Bike Hero

Be your own bike hero.

Patch kit: found. Tube: removed. Hole: pinpointed, sanded, patched. Tube and tire replaced.

My fingers are black with bike grease, though somehow I have kept it from smearing on my work clothes. I am nearly finished (an embarrassingly long 20 minutes later) when I get snagged on how to route the chain around the rear deraileur. The chain hangs loose — so clearly I’ve missed something. The clock ticks on, and finally I abandon the project and walk to Metro.

A friend, riding his bike, stops to chat and I scrutinize his chain — running in front of that funny lower sprocket, then back.

Two days later I recall that configuration, reroute my chain, replace my wheel, finish pumping the tires and ride to Metro, triumphant.

Why would I go to a bike shop to change a flat tire? Because I can?

Why would I fix my own flat?

Because I can.

Intersecting with art

Moveius Contemporary Ballet

Moveius Contemporary Ballet

Recently I got out to see a live dance performance for the first time in too long. Hello! The arts! The city! How is it that I forget about this vibrant urban center minutes away from home? Oh yes, winter – I think I’ve been hibernating.

The performance was on H Street, a quickly developing neighborhood (yes, gentrifying) full of creative folks full of ambition – restaurateurs, artists, and that trolley line that keeps getting delayed (when is that going to be up and running, anyway?). I read about it in the news, but visiting is an entirely different experience.

Things were especially lively the day we visited: the lobby of the Atlas Performing Arts Center, a focal point of the neighborhood, was hopping. Kids were everywhere, many of them milling around members of the Capital City Symphony at their instrument “petting zoo.” The musicians were showing the children their instruments up close and personal.

The Atlas is much more than a theater, which is one of the things I love about it. I once attended a rehearsal for a dance mob in the studio there, and there are regular classes, camps, films, storytelling, interactive performance, music, poetry and more, year round (yes, even when I am hibernating). On this day it was hosting the third weekend of Intersections, a festival designed to allow artists to mix it up across genres. For audiences, that means dance, music and lots of artistic collaboration all in one place. How did I miss this? It was the last of three weekends jam-packed with performing art. I vowed to pay more attention, read beyond the movie times in the Washington Post Weekend, pick up City Paper, check out the dance websites for performances around town.

AtlasOur show was upstairs, a thought-provoking and moving dance about global warming, presented by Moveius Contemporary Ballet, a local company. It was technically challenging – in a good way – and included some top-notch ballet dancers who were so convincingly fluid I wept for the melting glaciers, depicted not only in movement but also on a suggestive video projected behind the dancers.

Another advantage to living so close to the city: Everything connects. Moveius was partially funded by my town, the City of Takoma Park, according to the program – I am guessing it includes residents of Takoma Park and/or we wanted to support its environmental exploration of global warming. Also Capital City Symphony, performing out in the lobby, includes several Takoma Park residents, and performs regularly at our community center.

And third, one of the dancers works in another department at the American Federation of Teachers, where I write about higher education. He is the reason my friends, also colleagues, suggested the outing in the first place, and we were tickled to pick him out on stage before we got swept up into the performance itself.

I am grateful to him, and to so many others like him, for pulling us all into the arts – and for going the extra mile to maintain an artistic life outside the confines of a day job. I get so caught up in my own life, I don’t even get out to see these performances, much less rehearse and present them myself.

Thanks to Moveius, and Atlas, H Street (especially the fabulously fun and funky Dangerously Delicious Pies, where we went for an après-show snack) and the friends who invited me to explore it all: The arts are back on my radar screen.

Look for me at the theater.

Risky business

JacksonAve

Jackson Avenue in the snow

The snow was still coming down when I went walking yesterday. Fat flakes blanketed streets and cars, a cushion of snow encased tree branches and everything seemed about 20 decibels quieter than usual. It felt adventurous to be out in such weather – even though I was hardly alone. My friends were just returning from cross country skiing in Sligo Creek Park, where I also saw people hiking the wooded paths and walking their dogs along the paved path.

The real adventurer came rolling down Jackson Avenue, a steep neighborhood street that leads into the park. The road was mostly unplowed, still thick with snow and slush. He was on a bicycle.

He had a light. And snowpants. His tires were wide, I think, wider than my commuter bike tires – though it was hard to tell through the snow that coated them. He looked prepared. But really, who rides a bike in 3 inches of snow?

My first thought was for his safety. If he made it home with no major spills or injuries, he would feel like a hero, admired for his grit, determination and sense of adventure. If he was hurt, say, sliding down Jackson and onto Sligo Creek Parkway, where there might be a car driving by, or slipping off one of the bridges that span the creek and into the icy water, the story would be different. Admiration would quickly turn to disdain for poor judgment.

How quickly we go from brave to reckless.

The thrill of risk is what drives me to try things that could be considered either. My risks are not really life-threatening – leaping from a 40-foot cliff into the ocean is about as dangerous as it gets, and I jumped only after watching a line of people do it before me. I climbed onto a ski lift one night, even though I wondered where the rest of the skiers had gone, and found myself alone at the top of a dark, icy, black-diamond ski slope, dodging blasts for snowmaking equipment — but I made it down the crusty edge of the slope safely. And the one time I went rock-climbing, that first belay brought my heart to my throat, but I was in a climbing gym – hardly 127 Hours, the movie where a climber gets stuck in a crevasse for days.

I’ve had a couple of adventures on bikes, as well. Riding along the Mount Vernon Trail after a night at Alexandria’s Hard Times Cafe, my old biking buddy and I would hold our breath pedaling along the wooden boardwalk that took us through the spooky swamp along the Potomac River. Who might be hiding around the next curve? And why didn’t we have bike lights? I can’t remember. And there was the afternoon my honey and I rode along the Northwest Branch Trail to Franklin’s Brewery, where it got dark before we’d finished dinner. On the way home we wound up stranded on an unfamiliar stretch of highway in a sketchy neighborhood, then unsure which direction to take along the dark trail through the park. This time, we had one bike light between the two of us, and I followed its beam, every muscle tensed, until we made it out of the woods and home.

It was sort of thrilling. But mostly uncomfortable, and certainly not high adventure.

Still, these experiences flip the adrenaline switch, goosing me with an electrical surge that knocks me out of the everyday and into new possibilities. They make me feel invincible. I can use that sort of boost.

I will never climb Mt. Everest. But don’t be surprised if you see my biking down Jackson Avenue in the next snowstorm.

PopTarts

PopTartsOnce in a while I take a bite of something so divine that I just want to stop, and never have any other version of whatever delight I’ve just experienced, because there will never be one that is quite as good.

Like right now.

I am eating a PopTart.

No. Not that kind. This is a home-made PopTart from Patty. I am always excited when she brings goodies to sell at the Takoma Park Farmers Market – and that is not every Sunday, since she is also running a farm. When does she even have time to bake? I don’t need to know – I’m just happy when she does.

Patty is part of Audia Farms, which sells herbs and organic veggies and fruits – plus turnovers, pastry-wrapped baked apples, and something called a butternut squash ho-ho. But usually I can’t get past the PopTart. It is amazingly flaky. When I get home from the market, it is just the right amount of warm from my toaster oven, a little brown on top. The insides are oozy with pear jam that Patty made herself. How much purer can you get than that? And she was right when she wrinkled her nose at my remark: “I like the kind with frosting!” Too sweet, she said. Turns out she’s right. This PopTart could not be more perfect, and there’s not a dot of frosting on it.

When I was little, old school PopTarts were part of the standard breakfast rotation – Cheerios, PopTarts, raisin toast, corn toasties (who remembers those?). I loved PopTarts, so much that when I was a young, crunchy-granola mom, I was tempted to buy them even though the commercial variety is full of evil things like preservatives and corn syrup. I did occasionally buy the health food store variety. They were not so great.

Then a couple years ago I discovered home-baked PopTarts at a bakery in Charlottesville, Va. Oh, man. Awesome. They were in a heavy pastry, and gaudily decorated with white icing and colored sprinkles. One was almost too much to eat at one sitting. But I wanted more of that, please, closer to home.

SONY DSCHence my delight when I saw Patty’s PopTarts, with their much-lighter pastry. Maybe I could recreate this at home? In fact, I’d love to try my hand at some of the classics I remember coveting from other kids’ lunchboxes: Hostess cupcakes with a squiggle of white icing on the top, Ho-Hos, Twinkies, Snoballs. I don’t actually love the taste of these things now – too sweet – but the idea of them still charms me. And we don’t have to swallow what we’re given: We can re-invent it to be something even better.

Or we can let Patty do it. Thanks.

Snow day

SnowyWoodsAnticipating yet another snow day last week (#sooverwinter), this one with significant accumulation and super-low temperatures, I was sure we’d lose electricity. In preparation, I mentally checked the cupboard (plenty of canned beans and rice), then made a luxurious list of all the

things I would do if the internet went out.

Baking. Because we cook with gas, I could while away the hours in the kitchen — plus it would help keep the house warm when the heat went out. I would bake all the things I think about but never have time to make: whole-grain breads with nubbly seeds and nuts studding the crusts; pies with different fillings and crusts and crumbles; little loaves of sweet breads I could freeze (when the power came back on) so I’d always have something delicious to offer with tea, like the Southern ladies I imagine opening their doors in the afternoons, greeting their neighbors before settling down with iced tea and a treat on the front porch.  I could bake a casserole for dinner, and one to freeze (when the freezer came back on), or put on a pot of stew or soup. Or how about shape cookies to decorate? We could have that cookie decorating party I never got around to organizing at Christmas. We could make snowmen.

Cleaning. I actually love to clean – as long as I have hours to do it. I get intimate with every nook and cranny of my home, and as I dust and scrub I appreciate the texture of the bathroom wall tiles, the grain of the wood floors. I remember that the floors were reclaimed from the house up the street, and think about all the feet that have tread on them before me. I snap the bedsheets before re-making the bed, and remember the fresh puff of air the top sheet would make on my face when I was lying in bed as a little girl, with my mother tucking me in to clean sheets at night. I feel the smooth glide of linseed oil as I polish the end tables, and remember my mother dusting the piano keys, which played a disjointed sort of tune as she swiped. I dust around the books lined up on the shelf, and consider which I’ll read next; rearrange family photos and remember when the children were small. And when I’m finished, there’s not only a clean house, but the contentment of a life reviewed.

YoungGirlReading-RenoirReading. Most of my reading happens in the few minutes before I fall asleep, and the fragmented result is that I am constantly flipping back to try and remember how we got this far. Imagine sitting down for an hour or two, absorbed in a seamless story. Heavenly.

Sewing. The pile of scraps has gotten out of hand. I could create that quilt, those napkins, the mini-purses I’ve been meaning to sew. By hand. How “Little Women” would that be?

Play the piano. Every time I sit down at the keyboard, I feel like I’ve exercised a part of my brain, and my heart, that refreshes me unlike anything else. More of this, please.

Write letters. It’s like having a little visit with the friends and family I write. And what a treat to shuffle through bills and advertisements to find a real letter in the mailbox! Maybe they would write me back.

Plan the garden. The seed catalogues have begun to arrive. We could plot out the whole yard: Tomatoes! Peppers! Berry bushes! And be totally ready for the first planting day of spring. We could even dig out the starter pots and lamps and start seedlings. Maybe we need two snow days. Or three.

Walk in the woods. On a snowy evening. The pillowy quiet of snow falling and the embrace of tall trees erases the frantic pace of everyday life, and slows me down enough to hear the poetry in each moment.

As it turns out, my snow day never came. Kids were home from school, yes, and I heard them playing outside, liberated from routine. I stayed on the internet and worked.

But I’m creating my own snow day. Shutting off the computer and all the pressure that comes with it, excusing myself from all things internet, and enjoying some of these snow day indulgences myself. For a whole day. Because we all need snow days, even when it’s clear.

Handyman

This morning I got up and it was 62 degrees in the house. This is not because we are thrifty and environmentally virtuous and hardy enough to set the thermostat that low for energy savings. No, the thermostat was set six degrees higher, at 68. But there was no heat coming out of the system.

This is where I am so very grateful that my honey is the capable guy that he is. He suggested I turn off the thermostat, wait a few minutes, then turn it back on. Always the first step: reboot. When that didn’t work, he finished his breakfast (another thing I love about him: unflappable, methodical, no panic) and took a look at the furnace.

Within 20 minutes the issue was resolved: the tube that carries condensation away from the unit to the outdoors had frozen, and we simply had to thaw it out.

Back when I was on my own, this 62-degree morning would have looked entirely different. I’d have been exasperated, for one thing. Impatient because my work day was delayed, feeling burdened by a responsibility I had to bear alone, with no partner. Beleaguered. I’d have taken the morning away from work to call HVAC repair places, and worried whether the pipes would freeze before they arrived. Because: I don’t know from freezing tubes and condensation from the furnace.

That’s why my gratitude for this capable man I married is so profound. In short, I love a man who can fix stuff around the house.

Is that sexist?

No. Rosie the Riveter is my hero: I once had a bobble-head Rosie, and I still have an image of her hanging in my kitchen. I love to do things My Self, with help from no man – or woman, for that matter. And, when I was living on my own, I learned to fix a toilet, clean the gutters and and use a cordless drill.

Women can be just as handy as men. Let’s celebrate that! Wielding a cordless drill is empowering! Next: The chainsaw!

But there are a couple of complications.

One: I don’t have much vocabulary for handy-manning. I’ve written about this before.

Two: I’m beginning to think I like the feeling of having done that handyman task much more than actually performing the task, which frequently involves uncomfortable sweating and swearing and general frustration at my ignorance of all things handy.

And: There’s the flip side to the fact that women can be just as handy as men. Which is: Just as being competent with household repairs can be part of being a woman, being hopeless at them can be part of being a man.

Yes! Not every man is handy!

Just because you’re a man doesn’t mean you automatically know about condensation tubes freezing up, or which toilet parts need replacing, or how to find studs (or that you have to find studs) to secure a heavy mirror to the wall. My honey knows all these things not necessarily because he is a man – but because he is a particular man who grew up with a father who taught him about How Things Work, then went on to figure out a whole lot of things on his own, and then went even further and became a contractor.

But here’s the guilty admission: If I were married to someone who did NOT know all things handyman, I would be slightly annoyed on the 62-degree morning if he couldn’t help me any more than I could help myself. I would sigh (hopefully to myself) and take up the task like the martyr that I am, and take care of it My Self.

Would I feel the same if I were married to a woman – one who could not save me from my un-handyman-ness? I hate to admit it, but probably not. I would more likely work with her and together we would figure things out, translating the language of handyman as we went. I would not have the expectation that she should know all this handyman business already, and I would not think less of her if she didn’t.

That’s not really fair, is it?

I’m going to work on that. And when it comes to handymanning, if there ever is anything my honey can’t figure out, I won’t hold it against him.

Also: Maybe we should start rethinking that term, Handyman.

Incidental beauty

SligoCk

Sligo Creek in the rain

I had an epiphany a couple of years ago. No surprise, I was at the beach, where epiphanies come easily to me. Here it is: I can go to the ocean, and simply being there makes me feel grateful, more whole, more a part of the universe. I don’t have to hit a particular heart rate, or nail a dance combination, make a certain distance on a run or even run until the endorphins kick in. There is something about sea air that shifts the molecules in my body, and all I have to do is be there and breathe.

Incidental beauty.

This happens near home, too. On the trails of Sligo Creek Park trees tower over me, loamy earth cushions my step, the sound of burbling water cascades down my spine like a caress. Every day I am there, even for a few moments, these gifts register beauty in my bones.

Cumulative beauty.

Put yourself in the way of beauty. It is around us all the time. Even when we are not looking.

Birds of wonder

Bird1The chickadees are shy.

They see me, I am guessing, and flit away.

Other breeds are bolder. One fabulously handsome fellow with black and white polka dotted wings hangs nearly upside down on the edge of the feeder, almost as big as the feeder itself. The wise-looking nuthatches are the smartest – they rest on the perching bars and reach in for seed, just as the humans who designed the feeder intended for them to do.

All this is happening just three feet away from my desk, right outside my office. I attached a small birdfeeder, a clear plastic globe with two big portholes for accessing the seeds, to the outside of the window (thank you Barbara!) and now I’m enjoying a spectacular display of wildlife.

It’s as if a portal to another world has opened, and a chorus of birds has invited me in. Really? Me? Thanks!

Now that I am a close observer of this feathered community, I worry about some of the smaller birds – one got herself all the way into the globe, perched in the soft bed of seeds enjoying the abundance, then took long time finding her way back out. A few birds, of all sizes, fly straight at the feeder and bump into its plastic walls before they finally figure it out. But one of the most beautiful things about this arrangement is that I have no responsibility here, no real part to play, except to keep the feeder full. All I am allowed to do is sit back and watch how the birds take care of themselves.

They feast – delicately, seed by seed, or ferociously, depending on the breed. The woodpeckers make me laugh out loud — no wonder Walter Lantz chose them for the comic Woody Woodpecker, they are hilariously herky-jerky and deliriously unaware of their outsized energy. They attack the pile of seed, jabbing and poking so that bits and pieces flies everywhere, the way food flies from a baby’s highchair. I imagine bird friends picking up the mess on the deck below.

Then there are the super-quick sparrows, furtively stealing seed and flying away as if staying more than a millisecond would be far too dangerous. There is the banded chickadee, with a handsome red bracelet around its leg – probably a specimen from the Smithsonian research conducted in our area over the last several years. There’s a flash of crimson at the edge of the window – Papa Cardinal considering whether to join the feast.

Who is that speckled black and white fellow with the bandit mask? And will that bluejay make it over from that tree branch?

For a week now I have been observing them all, and I am still awed by the whole display. But I am also accepting this flock of new friends as part of my day. A little house wren lands and first I catch my breath, in wonder once again – then settle in to the knowledge that she is a sort of companion, a part of the rhythm of the neighborhood – I can just see her more clearly now that I have invited her to come closer.

Christmas venison

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One of the youngest Salatins on slaughtering day; his job, emptying the crates of live chickens, is done. Chalk one up for country living.

I feel as though I wrestled a beast and won, though this is not entirely true. In fact, for the man who actually did most of the wrestling it is laughable. But it is a first step. And I am celebrating it.

My honey and I were invited to a holiday party in Poolesville last week and while there was much to recommend it – fun, generous people, cozy home, great shepherd’s pie, delicious enchiladas and fine whisky – it was most remarkable for the level of country acumen collected in that kitchen where, just like the old adage, we all gathered. Many of these folks, our host included, know a whole lot about growing and pickling vegetables, raising farm animals – and slaughtering them. Many are also experienced hunters.

One guy told us his friends had bagged four deer earlier in the week – is that right? Can you “bag” a deer, the way you bag a duck? Anyway, Mike went on about the quality of the venison from upper Montgomery County, where Poolesville is located – the deer graze on farmland full of corn and soy so they get nice and fat and flavorful (unlike the scrawny specimens nibbling their way through “downcounty” Sligo Creek Park. Though it should be noted, one downcounty hunter felled a buck in his neighbor’s yard anyway, spurring the predictable outrage in Takoma Park).

Mike had dressed four deer that day, an enormous task when you think about it. Which I did, for about a minute, then stopped. Because that is where the real wrestling lies: killing, then “dressing” a living animal, dressing being an odd term because actually you are undressing it of its animal-ness, and making it into a naked piece meat. For these men, it is part of living in the country. I’m not quite there yet.

But I have taken baby steps to embracing the fact that the meat I eat was alive once. When I stumbled on slaughtering day during a visit to Polyface Farm outside Charlottesville, Va. (for a story about the local food scene there), I loved it. The family had gathered, from Grandma to 6-year-old brother, and the clueless white-feathered birds went so quickly from flapping around in the back of a truck to quietly and inanimately wrapped in cellophane, it felt like processing vegetables for canning. But it is true I did not order chicken at a nearby restaurant that night.

Back in Poolesville, I enthused about the venison, caught up in the spirit of the party. I said things like, “Wow!” and “Four deer in one day!” and “I love venison!” And this generous man offered to share.

What a treat!

But there were a few caveats. Mike, a tall guy with a kind face, a quick laugh and an appetite for beer, explained that this was a big hunk of meat. It was the loin – and he slapped his own hip, several times, to be sure the point was getting across. It might have some hair still stuck to it – not skin, of course, but hair, left from the messy process of butchering. He explained that I’d want to cut the bone away, and the silvery membrane that clings to the outside of the meat.

It’s going to get messy, he warned. I told him no problem. He said get a sharp knife. I said I have one. He said cut close to the bone. I said like filleting a fish? I can fillet a fish. And I felt for a quick second like a capable country man myself, like one of the gang, “Yes! I can dress a fish!”

We talked a bit longer about how to cook the roast, until Mike signaled the conversation was over by telling me there’s always YouTube. My visions of Little House on the Prairie disappeared. But I was still convinced my best source of info on all things venison was Mike, and the others in Poolesville who had cooked deer meat the way I’d cooked stir-fry veggies and rice and beans – about a million times. I vowed not to turn to YouTube, but also stopped asking questions and moved on to other topics, like the bowling game going on at the Wii in the next room.

Later, I looked up recipes in Joy of Cooking and, briefly, online, and then put together my own plan of action. But my best sources were real people: first Mike; then my neighbor who, as we chatted outside my house during his daily dog walk, advised that I be sure the venison didn’t dry out; and, finally, my sister, who has turned countless deer from her hunter husband and sons into family meals – she also stressed the importance of keeping the meat moist, and added that serving it hot is key. Unlike beef fat, venison fat congeals quickly and unappealingly. Ew.

I decided to prepare the venison for Christmas Eve family dinner – my kids, my honey’s kids, my honey and me, a special but low-key meal. The night before, I marinated the meat – a technique suggested by a couple of web sites, and one that sounded like a good idea for tenderizing and flavoring – but the tricky part was that I didn’t remember this step until 11:30 p.m., after another late-night holiday party. But this was part of the adventure! Wrestling the beast into submission!

So  after my honey had gone to bed and while the children were still out playing with friends (no nestled all snug in their beds for them), I took the beast out of the extra refrigerator I am so thankful to have in our basement (otherwise, where do you put a whole loin of deer – tap your own hip here?).

It wasn’t so messy, really. There were a few weird, coagulated-looking blobs tucked into the curvy bits, but for the most part it was a smooth, very big hunk of meat. I found the bone and cut it out, as instructed. I peeled back the silvery part. I cut it into two roasts, trying to visualize serving-sized slices to determine how much each person would eat, remembering it might shrink as it roasted (but shrink less than a beef roast, I’d been told). I froze one roast for later, then tucked the other into a Ziploc bag swimming in red wine and half as much olive oil, an entire bulb of crushed garlic, a big handful of dried sage from last year’s garden and a spoonful of dried thyme.  Then I put it in the frig and went to bed.

As it turns out, all that advice paid off. Before the roast went in the oven, I seared it to seal in moisture. I placed a loose tent of foil over it and put a little water in the pan, to keep it from drying out, and I added quartered onions for flavor. I started it at 400 and then immediately turned the temperature down to 325 to cook it slowly, for two hours. I based the time on my estimate of its weight, since I don’t have a kitchen scale – it weighed a little less than a five-pound bag of sugar.

I held my breath when I sliced it, and had my own private moment of “hooray!” when it looked exactly as I wanted it – pink, but not too pink; firm, but not tough. Then I tasted it: perfect.

I am grateful for all the advice. I am grateful this bit of country living made it into my suburban kitchen. And I am grateful to this upper Montgomery County deer for one of the most outstanding Christmas Eve meals ever.

Amen.