Growing up, everyone I knew and loved lived in such close proximity. I knew that Baba and Dido’s families were in Ukraine, but my people were never far away. Now it’s so very different. The world is smaller in many ways, and our circles are larger to include beloved friends and family across the country and over the ocean.

12182601_10206251093530217_4899569065728051142_oI wish I could see them more often, but I am grateful for online glimpses and treasured times when we do reconnect. Ultimately my world is richer for those connections.

My friend Alison and I met in Germany 13 years ago when we were each pregnant with our first child, and she was family from the start. We’ve stayed in touch through ups and downs and moves back and forth across oceans. Our kids have grown up together, sharing the occasional holiday. Some of my favorite Thanksgivings have been spent with them.

Alison came for a too-short visit that was mostly coffee and chats squeezed in around kid schedules and teaching, but we did have one night where I was able to give her a taste of Chicago’s stand-up and burlesque, Gypsy jazz at the Green Mill, and some of the best Ethiopian food (mmmmm). And just like that, she’s back across the ocean and life goes one. The wheel turns.


Am thinking of you, so many people I love who are too far away and those who are gone from us too soon. I suppose it’s one of the gifts of October and Autumn and Halloween/Samhain–missing loved ones, sitting with nostalgia and longing as we prepare for the season to change.


Photo by 8 Eyes Photography.
Photo by 8 Eyes Photography.

I left the house early to run errands, and as soon as I sat down in the car, one of my favorite songs came on, the acoustic version of an oldie. I love it when that happens; those songs always feel like gifts–little touchstones to launch me into reverie and remind me of people and places that are often no longer in my life.

Maybe it was the music, or the way the wind felt on my face, or the way the air smelled, but I felt like I had slipped into my childhood skin. Do you know that feeling? One part deja vu, one part daydream. It hits at random times: stepping into an empty classroom, visiting an ice cream shop in a vacation town, waiting for someone at a restaurant, swinging on the swings in an empty park. I love the sensation, like time folding in on itself to give us a peek of something past.

Even after I returned home with groceries, unpacked them, and got into the business of the day, I felt residual nostalgia. Things I touched felt like allusions to other things, more so than usual: my broken rainbow coffee mug reminded me of my circle of girlfriends, Nutella brought me back to eating crepes on the Fressgasse in Frankfurt, cider evoked sitting around a campfire, and so it went all day long–little wisps of the past.

Today is the Autumnal Equinox, one of two days during the year when day and night are in balance (the other is the Spring Equinox). I started writing this at dusk, on the threshold of light and darkness. I love thresholds. I  believe that there’s magic in those in between spaces, so it doesn’t surprise me that the past was slipping in all day– looking to be remembered.

As I finish this, the sun has set, and the balance has shifted. This next half of the year belongs to the darkness, to cooler temperatures and the landscape of nature dying, to hearth fires and candles, to blankets and loved ones, to stories and dreaming and everything that keeps us warm.

Blessings of a bountiful harvest to you and yours.



The Season of Tea

I’m sad for the end of October. It’s my favorite month for so many reasons, not the least of which is a burst of productivity that usually follows as the children settle into their routine and I into mine.

But this October was busier than I would have liked. Too many other responsibilities kept me from my usual month of writing furiously. Next year, I need to protect October.

So now November, and the Season of Tea begins (for me anyway).

I love coffee. Anyone who knows me, even online, knows that I love coffee.

I love it with a mostly-uncomplicated devotion. It has been a constant in my life for over 20 years, and I love the taste, the smell, the ritual of grinding and brewing, the swirl of milk, and the first hot sip.

Certainly coffee comes in different incarnations (espresso drinks, Turkish, Thai, café au lait, etc.), but for me it is a spectrum of one similar and familiar flavor. There are some beans I love more than others, and there are definitely bad cups of coffee. But for all the subtle nuances of roast and blend, I rarely attribute a memory to a particular cup of coffee. Instead they fall under the larger category of “memories of coffee and conversation.”

Tea, on the other hand, is more distinct. I have many favorites, and each has a taste and smell that brings me back to specific times in my life:

Lipton tea with honey is a Thanksgiving memory, served in a glass teapot by my mother’s mother with our desserts at the family table.

Maté tea, strong and earthy from Argentina, reminds me of tea with my first love and his parents in their apartment in the Ukrainian Village.

Earl Grey brings to mind black cast iron kettles and tiny cast iron mugs enjoyed during college, usually at the Bourgeois Pig Cafe in Lincoln Park. I was so impressed with their wall of teas from around the world, each in its own large glass canister. I would open each, pick one that suited my mood.

Vanilla rooibus tea evokes Autumn in Frankfurt, Germany, with my friend Al. I need only to open a box, and I can be remember sitting with her, talking about the joy of travel and trials of motherhood.

Loose leaf English Breakfast steeped in a china teapot and sweetened with sugar enjoyed with my Russian friend and her daughter on cozy afternoon teas in their Gurnee kitchen.

The best Indian Chai was savored with my Indian friends in their Frankfurt apartment during our second time in Germany. Such hospitality and delicious food, such beauty in their homes and preparation. The best chai. Ever.

I’ve had a tea cabinet as long as I’ve lived on my own, and it remains well-stocked each year as friends come by for holiday celebrations and bring some new blend as a gift. So many teas, so many cherished moments. It’s nice to think that I can call them up with a pinch of aromatic leaves and boiling water, like magic. A sensual companion to photographs, they are memories accessible in tea bags and tin canisters.

So I wonder, do you have a favorite memory of tea?

November begins on the edge of so many celebrations and the icy darkness of winter. Whether tea or hearth fire or the arms of a loved one, I hope you are surrounded by warmth this upcoming season.