|Outtake from the Family Photo Session|
|Fall Transitioning to Winter|
|The Murder Moves In|
|Decorating for Thanksgiving|
|Kyle on Schweitzer|
|Cabinets & Pond Oreille|
|Schweitzer Ski Village|
|Kyle, Drew & Allison|
|Castle #2 Kitchen|
|Castle #2 Bed|
|Collection in Castle #1|
|Help With Author Headshots|
|Table of Love|
|A Lasting Gift of Love|
Our barns are bursting with rounds of wood and we make a run to WinCo in Coeur D'Alene for the best deals on food in the region. My ripe pumpkins await the oven, a dream I had all summer that we might all gather for pumpkin pie.
By the time the migratory birds move out, the cold settles in along with our winter guests, a murder of crows. Elmira Pond is silent, a shell of ice as if it were incubating until spring. Crusty snow fills the pastures and reveals the trails of wildlife. One of our big bucks is bedding down beneath the hemlock outside our bedroom window. I try to see him in the moonlight, but he remains shadow.
The Midwest children arrive on Sunday with beer, games and love. Allison and Drew have gifted me with their presence and that of Kyle's. They bought him a plane ticket with their mileage points and drive from Houghton, Michigan to pick him up in Menomonie, Wisconson where he's working on his masters in IO Psychology. They fly in from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Missoula, Montana where Brianna lives. They drive three hours to Idaho, crossing their third time zone and fourth state to get here.
I'm blessed with a happy heart.
My house is filled with good cooking and laughter. The games begin, and I serve Christmas fudge out of holiday sequence, while getting our 22-pound turkey drunk on Clean Slate Riesling. It's our favorite brine that even wins the approval of Chef Josh when he and Brianna join us later in the week.
Time stands still and I hear the beating heart. In between games of Dixit and Catan we eat and interview. This year we are eggless, having discovered that it is the culprit of Allison's food imbalance. I got so good at holiday cooking gluten-free and dairy-free that egg-free has thrown me for a loop. We eat squishy pancakes and I later learn from Josh that tapioca is essential to egg-free cooking and baking. He even shares with us his egg-free squash nog and pies.
The interviews are the result of a new writing gig, one that gets me out and about the Panhandle of Idaho to catch stories of businesses, entrepreneurs and lifestyle. First we go to my favorite breakfast house to be stood up for my first interview. The next place is closed. Worried, I call my third interview because he lives on top of Schweitzer Mountain. He's still willing to do centerfold shots, he tells me. It's a joke, but I'm grateful for back up nonetheless.
We climb the switchbacks above Sandpoint and park the car on an icy plot of flat ground at the ski resort which dominates the mountain. Far below the fingers of bays weave in and out of mountains and forests. From our vantage point we can see the craggy peaks of the Cabinet Mountains and the expanse of Lake Pend Oreille. My third interview of the day shows up in his truck to take us to his castle.
The owner is a character and a delight to interview. And what could be better than getting to tour a mountain top castle with three of my grown kids? Experiencing an earthquake in the middle of the interview. It rumbles like an avalanche and shakes the stone structure. My son-in-law is a geologist and he gets excited -- it's his first quake. Now all he needs to do is see lava and stand on a glacier.
While it's not lava, there's hot water surrounding the entryway of the main castle like an interior mote. We get a peek at a collection of authentic ancient armor and arms, a real Viking's sword and Revolutionary War era pistols. We even cross a drawbridge to enter the main castle. Yes, there are two. One is our host's home and the other is a guest-castle. For a nightly fee, you can sleep in style on a mountaintop in northern Idaho and ski to the biggest resort in the state. Earthquakes are random and not guaranteed.
Brianna arrives with Josh and their dog, Barley. We break out the Cards Against Humanity and laugh ourselves silly. Josh perfects the drunken turkey, showing me how to brown it at the end. We serve all the trimmings, the last of my garden, and make a killer gravy out of drippings, potato water, giblets and Riesling. I forget to save back wine and I make everyone tip their glass to the gravy. We have a red wine for dinner, but the turkey likes his Clean Slate.
We are so full we hold off on the pies until breakfast.
It's six a.m. and I'm whipping cream, holding back a flood of sadness. Soon the beating heart will diminish to a murmur. Already I hear the kids rising, packing. The Midwesterners have an afternoon plane to catch in Missoula; Brianna works tonight; and Josh is going elk hunting. We eat left-overs and pie, huddling around coffee and the woodstove. They load up the two cars. Drew and Josh ride together and I envy the car that gets to hold my three children for the duration of the trip.
My heart breaks as they leave no matter what I tell myself.
Todd and I sit by the fire holding hands. Brianna rushes back in -- she forgot her purse. We laugh and I try to hide the tears, that flow again once the door shuts. Todd retreats back to bed with the dogs, and I clean up, needing physical activity. I know I need to hit the keyboard with five articles due in three days and two more interviews to hold, plus the one I missed.
Upstairs I find a heart, shaped from Allison's turquoise scarf on top of my computer with a love note to watch over it for a while. She knows it's one of my favorite colors and I really liked her scarf. She and her sister used to make off with mine all the time. Now it's my turn.
I hear the heartbeat return and know the truth -- while there is yet love, there is life.
It pulses more rapidly when we are all together, but home is where we are, thinking of loved ones, welcoming loved ones and even missing loved ones. Soon I'll decorate for Christmas and get ready to welcome one of Kate's granddaughters to my home. I'll get to see Kate's family and share an unbreakable bond of love. I hope this spring to get to visit Todd's parents again; in May to see my son receive his masters; to see Allison and Drew's new house in Michigan; to see my cousin's son graduate high school; to visit Kansas for love; and visit Brianna and Josh in the off-season in Montana.
Home will go with me. And so love continues.