The First Food

Fill a cooking pot with ripe apples.

(I pick up the fallen ones from under the trees.)

                         Williams Pride Apple Drops, August 12 — one of our early apples.

                        Williams Pride Apple Drops, August 12 — one of our early apples.

Empty the apples into the kitchen sink and rinse them with water.

Take them out and quarter each apple with a sharp knife.

Throw them back into the pot — peel, seeds, core and all.

Add 1 ½ cups of water and begin to cook, covered.

Enjoy the chunk of apple that didn’t make it into the pot.

Ask that all beings enjoy peace, refuge, and healthy food.

Give a stir now and then to move the apples from the top to the bottom.

Keep a cover on the pot so it’s steamy inside.

When the apples are half-cooked, if you are going to use a sweetener, add it now.

(I added ¾ cup of organic sugar to this first batch.)

Ask that all beings find their own sweet spot.

Cock your head like a robin and listen to the kitchen sounds.

Smell the emanation of apple permeating the house.

It there is too much water, take the lid off and release some of the moisture.

Stir a little more.

Cook until all apples are soft.

Turn off the stove and let the pot cool with the lid off.

Pause to absorb the moist scent of cooked apples.

Laugh out loud, though there is nothing funny about a pot of smushy apples.

Offer gratitude to the trees.

After the apple glom cools, ladle large dollops into a food mill.

Rotate the crank around and around.


 Watch as the strained sauce stained pink (from the peel)

eases its way into the large bowl below.

While it cools do something else.

Have the courage to follow your truth.

Fill a bowl with enough applesauce to eat over the next few days.

Fill containers for freezing.

Stack neatly in the freezer in the basement.

Return to the kitchen and enjoy a taste while the sauce is still warm.




A Teapot, a Woman, and maybe a Boat

One of the problems with making large-scale outdoor sculpture is that you have to store your work when it comes home from an exhibit.

   Compost Tea  , Linda Hoffman & Gabrielle White, leaves and chickenwire

Compost Tea, Linda Hoffman & Gabrielle White, leaves and chickenwire

A few years ago, Gabrielle White and I made Compost Tea. This large teapot was exhibited in two shows and, since then, has been steeping under our back porch. Several weeks ago, we needed to clear this area for washing vegetables. The dilemma — should we dismantle the teapot? I’m one for moving on and getting rid of things. Gabi was reluctant. “Let’s float the teapot,” she suggested. Gabi made a test raft with four five-gallon plastic buckets and a wood pallet. When I returned home that evening I walked on it — and slid into the pond.  I later learned that Gabi had fallen in several times. The raft supported our weight — which meant it would support the teapot, but was not very stable.

However, by the next evening the buckets had filled with water and the raft was floating under the surface. Gabi and I stepped into the muck to unstrap the buckets from the pallet and empty them. We searched Craigslist for larger plastic barrels, but southern Connecticut seems to hold the monopoly on used 33-gallon plastic barrels — too far to drive.

Then I thought of the boat. We had been working on a sculpture inspired by the line, The Boat Returned Flooded with Moonlight. I have a little boat that a neighbor gave me years ago. Gabi and I had hauled it out, painted it, and then bought some chicken wire. Gabi is obsessed with the way light shines on and reflects off of chicken wire sculptures. We made a wire figure of a woman seated in the boat with a billowing skirt, a bit like you might imagine Emily Dickinson boating along the Thames. But our Emily kept falling out of the boat, and the sculpture never came together.

Meanwhile, the teapot was now behind my studio awaiting the construction of a raft. At our next session of work, Gabi had the brilliant idea of putting the lady in the teapot. We removed the teapot’s broad-brimmed hat and placed the woman inside. She was visible from the waist up, a jack-in-the-box figure with her own wide-brimmed hat.


The sculpture was intriguing. Then, encouraged to find a solution to our raft difficulties, I said, “Let’s put the teapot in the boat.” I knew we might have to forgo the woman. A boat, a teapot, and a woman was getting a little complicated. Out went Emily. We carried the boat from inside my studio to the teapot and temporarily installed the teapot in the boat with spout pointing towards the bow.

It had a certain presence. They seemed compatibly sized for each other. Then we decided to remove the teapot’s broad-brimmed hat and push Amelia down into the opening. Gabi calls the lady, Amelia, while I prefer Emily. We always enjoy our collaborative way of working even when we disagree. We now had a boat, a teapot, and a lady captain who seemed to be piloting the boat from her teapot quarterdeck. One of her slender arms was resting on the rim of the teapot and the other was gesticulating, as if photographed in mid-sentence. Who was she? Where was she going?

On Friday afternoon, Gabi and I met again to continue work. We wanted to see the sculpture afloat on the pond. 

 Gabi, Mike Labonte, farm volunteer, Bruschi, farm dog, and I preparing the sculpture for a test voyage.  Photo: Farmer Kevin

Gabi, Mike Labonte, farm volunteer, Bruschi, farm dog, and I preparing the sculpture for a test voyage.  Photo: Farmer Kevin

We don’t yet know what the final piece will be. The woman needs work, the teapot is unsteady in the boat, and Bruschi isn't sure about any of it. You'll  have to come to Old Frog Pond Farm’s annual sculpture exhibit, Around the Pond and through the Woods to see for yourself what we decide. This year’s exhibit opens on Friday, September 8 and continues through Columbus Day. The opening reception is on September 10 from 1 - 4 pm. And, as long as the teapot stays afloat, storage will not be an issue!

 Gabi in the canoe taking our sculpture for a tour of the pond.

Gabi in the canoe taking our sculpture for a tour of the pond.

Consider the Miracle

My son, Alex, sent a family text.

Here she is! Born 7.13.17 6 lbs 5 oz! We are calling her Lui or Lou (short for Lucia). I was a little worried I wouldn’t love her as much as Vita but the heart has this amazing capacity to open wider than you ever thought possible.

 Alex, Connie, Vita, and Lucia Matisse minutes after Lucia's birth.

Alex, Connie, Vita, and Lucia Matisse minutes after Lucia's birth.

We have all been waiting for this birth. Connie, Alex’s wife, was certain the baby would arrive early, like her sister Vita two years ago. But no, Lucia was almost a week late! 

I know what it is to carry around a baby, well past the due date, in the heat of summer, getting bigger and rounder, the skin stretching tighter around the massive tummy. Then there is only the waiting for the body to begin the birthing process . . . the light contractions, the practice before the hard work, then the pushing with maelstrom force to ease the new being out into the world, the mother directing total allegiance to each hard push until the final slipping out, and the moment of relief and delirious happiness.

Women remember their births. I once spoke with an eighty-three-year-old woman who could distinctly recall each one of her five children’s. There is no other experience that requires such perseverance and fortitude, such complete giving away of one’s self for another.  I remember hearing of a woman about to undergo an emergency Caesarian who was asked if she wanted to live, or if she wanted her child to live. It was one or the other, and she had to decide in that instant. She chose the child. “Take Chad out,” she said, making the choice without hesitation.

I am beyond words with gratitude that Connie and Lucia are both doing so well. Lucia already knows the heartbeat and smells of her mother, and she is easily held and comforted by others’ arms. I imagine that Lucia already knows the rhythms of her family’s waking and sleeping and even the sound of words that are repeated often with emphasis, like ‘Alex,’ ‘Connie,’ ‘Vita’; the way in our house, our parrot learned to say ‘Ariel,’ because I called my daughter’s name so loudly each morning urging her to hurry downstairs for school.

I wonder about the sounds one hears in utero. I can remember when I was three or four and already familiar with language, amusing myself with my own made up sounds. I would say nonsensical syllables with intonation, as if I completely understood the content and context. What was so satisfying was not that I had my own language, but that this language was familiar, as if it was the language I had heard in the womb or when I was an infant. It was a comforting language for me to speak. It had emphasis and cadence, but the sounds were always soft and round, nothing harsh, like hearing a conversation among ocean waves.

Now, this little being, Lucia, hears the comforting voice she has heard in utero as she gazes into her mother’s eyes. Connie speaks to her with warmth, love, and kindness. Lucia is learning to connect the language of deep comfort to a face she will come to trust and adore.

 Lucia's Birthday!

Lucia's Birthday!

She hears the deeper voice of her dada and a new heartbeat when she sleeps on his breast. She begins to trust the other. She is learning the voice and antics of her older sister.

Lucia was only 6 pounds 5 ounces at birth, the size of Vita’s favorite doll baby. I look at all the adults around me, and I know that Lucia will grow up to be one of us. But for now she is a miracle, one of those miracles that happens every day, all over the world. One day she will feel her own heart beat. She will discover language and her own voice in the world.  

Lucia Marcel Matisse, may you find the courage and wisdom to sow love in this world. For surely, then, the world will reflect only love back to you. Congratulations to your family! We can’t wait to get to know you better!

                                    With love, Ama & Baba