The other day around dusk, I was standing on a trail behind our house. I was feeling a little daydreamy, glad to have time to wander through the woods with the dog before dinner.
Beneath a spot full of vine maples, I waited while the dog finished sniffing a deer fern. Suddenly, I heard a strange, rapid noise. Click-click-click-click-click! Then again, and yet again. I looked up to see leaves the size of my palm vibrating against one another in the wind. Click-click-click-click-click!
I stood for a moment then glanced down at the dog, who was now waiting for me. Well? Shall we go on? his expression seemed to ask. I remained still, listening.
In that moment I realized for the first time since living next to the woods these six years that the sound of the wind is not one entity, a single whoosh tearing through cedars and maples, thimbleberry and birch. It is made up of many small clicks, snaps and reverberations like that of the leaves now vibrating around me.
Such a thing may seem small, not worth holding onto. But it was a reminder to me of what our former Washington State Poet Laureate, Sam Green, calls "small noticings." At a workshop of his which I was able to attend in June, he explained that these tiny, everyday details are what make poetry come alive.
I would also argue that these "small noticings" are a lot like catching fairy dust.. When we have these miraculous particles in hand and are able to fold them into ourselves, we inevitably become more alive.
Sam Green also spoke about his daily practice of writing at least three "small noticings" in a notebook. I think it's a practice worth emulating. Do it for a few days and I swear the noise around you will dampen down while what you'd otherwise miss comes more sharply into focus.
Here's one thing I noticed today as I drove by the lake near our house:
The waves on the Lake, crinkles on a woman's dress.
The dog and I eventually continued on. We looped around until we returned home, where it was time to get back to the flat reality of domestic life and finish cooking some dinner. I had soup ready, but I wanted a flatbread to go with it.
The dough was already made and had been sitting on the counter while the oven heated up. I began peeling my squash, cutting it into thin slices while considering the wind and its many incarnations. Some, like these, whose very names impart magic...Papagayo. Mistral. Typhoon.
Spelt Flatbread with Butternut Squash, Sage and Brown Butter
A flatbread is just a flatbread, right? Not always. This one is sweet, nutty and savory, with crispy bits of aromatic sage. If food could be described as being as delicious as a poem, this humble Fall flatbread would be it. (No exaggeration!)
Dough barely adapted from Jim Lahey.
Makes two 12-inch flatbreads.
For the brown butter:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 generous handfuls of large sage leaves
For the dough:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (263 g)
1 cup spelt flour (123 g)
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 1/4 cup water
To complete the flatbread:
1 small red onion cut in half then thinly sliced
1 small butternut squash, peeled, cut in half, seeds removed
freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 500° F. If using a pizza stone, place stone on top rack.
Make the brown butter:
In a small saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Once barely melted, add sage leaves and allow to crisp. Remove sage and set aside. Keep a close eye on the butter, as from here it can quickly go from brown to burnt. When brown and nutty, remove from heat and set aside.
Make the dough:
In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, yeast and salt. Add water and mix together using a wooden spoon. The dough will appear quite damp. No need for alarm. This is okay.
Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. I like to place a kitchen towel on top as well. Allow to rest at room temperature for 18 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Divide the dough in half. On a floured surface take one portion at a time and gently fold it four times, starting with the right side and going around counterclockwise. Shape dough into a ball. Repeat with the other portion. Cover both with a towel while you prepare the topping.
Prepare topping and put it all together:
Very thinly slice butternut squash using a knife or even better, a mandoline if you have one. Make enough slices to cover the surface of a 12-inch round of dough (about 12-14 slices per, you may have extra depending on the size of your squash). Set aside.
On a piece of parchment paper stretch out one round of dough until it is approximately 12-inches in diameter. The dough should be quite thin once stretched out.
Places slices of butternut squash on the round of dough. Scatter crisped sage leaves. Drizzle brown butter over the squash. Brush edges of dough with more butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Slide onto pizza stone and bake for 11-12 minutes, until golden and crusty.
Repeat process with remaining dough. If you really want to live large, drizzle more butter over the finished flatbreads.
And now, for a little poetry...