Archive for the ‘food and cooking’ Category

the dog with no sense of time

Whenever I ‘m in the kitchen,  I can usually time pretty precisely just when I’ll hear the patter of ever bigger paws, rising from whatever reclining position He and They may have been in, trotting around to INSPECT.  Looking, licking his lips, and pretty much saying, I don’t care what it is, I want some and when will it be ready?  Not yet, is my general response. Unless it’s coffee or something and then he gets told it’s Not For Dogs.  He’s getting better, in that he usually only comes back once more to assess just HOW MUCH LONGER????!!?? and I remind myself, every time, that this Dog does not know how to cook and thus has no idea about anything other than that stuff he likes comes from this area and he….must…..patrol…..not…..miss…..anyofit…..so he’s engaged and curious. Yes.  Good things!

I also try to cultivate in myself his for the most part consistent joy in things that are pretty much always the same and he greets with OH BOY! MY FAVORITE! YIPPEE!…notwithstanding the times he has to be Very Parliamentary and look just a tiny bit like a dog George Clooney, with his paws crossed in front of him.  Ball, stummy rub, cooking shows where they’re making hummus (a favorite), the morning routine, the afternoon routine, the evening routine, checking out the kitchen, switching seats on the couch, the morning kiss, hippopotami, the paw hold when he gets hiccups….everything, in short.  Except baths which he has recently developed an aversion to- he either retreats to his bed, snoring ostentatiously, or most recently, tries to fake us into letting him outside right before he’s to be put into the soapy drink.  He loves baths, actually, and closes his eyes in bliss as the Partner soaps him up, rinses him,  helps him out of the tub and whatnot.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking, which may or may not be a good thing.  The being in the now is the joy thing with him.  It’s all good to him, for the most part.  He doesn’t have a lot of preconceived notions or opinions although he does have some ever lessening remaining trauma from his challenging early weeks.  Really, he doesn’t have fear or trepidation either.  He just assumes, correctly as it happens, that everyone is going to like him.  So far, he’s been right except for two times which is an average one might profitably take to Vegas.  Clearly, there’s something to the way in which he assesses things.

The thinking struggle I’ve been engaged in, however, ranges farther afield from NOW and covers the knottier topic of knowing who to listen to.  The Dog ignores us at times but for the most part, KNOWS he benefits from listening to us.  Would that I had that kind of clarity myself, let’s just say.  I try to take his happy appraisal as a model and implement it in my own day.  It was going really well for a while. But as usual my ongoing issue of listening to the wrong station at the wrong time reared its head.  I realized that I had almost lost faith in myself.  I put too much emphasis on what I was hearing, in essence, without keeping the housekeeping detail in action.

I think about faith a lot.  I am not religious but I do have faith.  This faith tells me that love is the truth, do unto others as you would have them do unto you is the rule.  Hard as hell, but true and rule, nonetheless. While most of the things our cultures deems “wrong” appear on reflection to be nothing more than exertion of social control and an extension of the separation between us and everything else that seems to have happened about 5000 years ago, the things that really ARE wrong get no attention and it is quite common to hear people, in a variety of settings, say that there is no right and wrong.  But, there is.  It is wrong to hurt people or condone it when others do it. (Even though we hurt people all the time just by being alive; we step on bugs unwittingly, our housing tracts kill animals, everything our society is based on just about causes some harm. So already we’ve got cognitive dissonance up the wazoo.) It is wrong to damage the earth. It is, in fact, wrong to think that you are better than anyone else- or than any animal, plant, rock, or body of water, on some level, as well.  In a way the discourse about there being no right or wrong has morphed into an acceptance of awful behavior as long as you agree with it yourself. It’s almost a bit doctrinal, when you listen to religious people talk about the world now- and with SEVEN “god channels” on the tv here, it’s unavoidable. The religious texts, it seems, tell you so.  Yes, there ARE a million ways to stack dishes after you wash them, a million ways to clip your fingernails, all those things we so often let drive us bananas- tuneless humming, et al.  None of those things are wrong although they are often cast as so.  But I happen to think it is wrong to discriminate against people or situations or things simply because you want it all to be more like YOU. It’s wrong to make others suffer because you refuse to do the proper thing in a situation.  It is wrong to accept shoddy thinking and behavior as accepted and installed wisdom just because it benefits you, or so you think.  Given that we are all one, we have some responsibility to each other not to be total idiots. Even though, of course, THAT HAPPENS.

Is it about considering the source? I wonder.  Real Source is, after all, ineffable.  We get glimmers and hints and outright blatant messages but it is still all so much bigger than we are, as we get carried along with the cosmic parade.  Current source, not so much.  In fact one of the main things to be said about it now is that it constantly contradicts itself.  (Which may be better than say in the mid-20th century when essentially untruth was the message for the most part)  Researching a simple thing like is dog saliva a good thing for dog owies gives you a zillion answers that all refute each other. Information pretty much equals propaganda unless you’re the type to spend a lot of time in the real or metaphorical library.  Perhaps it is more about the fact that since we don’t know, it really is better to greet each moment with the joy it deserves rather than trying to figure out how to get it to do or be something other than what it is.  Which we don’t know anyway.  The information we REALLY need is, for the most part, available to us, right there in front of us.  It’s a question of who we listen to- who tells us what we’re seeing.  And that person we listen to should really be US- as long as we are willing to put in the work every day, pay attention, learn how to truly think for ourselves, greet the day with joy, and hope for the best.  Then it kind of doesn’t matter, or at least not as much, who’s talking because you can listen, think, trust YOUR source, and make better decisions.

So far, having crawled out of the Hole of Seemingly Complete Across the Board Powerlessness of last month, I’m equilibrating myself one day at a time. Traversing the hills and valleys of taxes, delicate but crucial negotiations, County Inspectors, health insurance weirdness,  memories and current time attitudinal snafus, I’m Remembering that I CAN trust myself, so I’ve cooked, the usual fallback after breakdown.  Butternut squash/olive/white bean pizza (initially looked at askance, liked very much later), homemade green Thai curry (did not send myself the memo about the part where I decided I’d make all this stuff from scratch so there was a good half hour snipe hunt in the refrigerator for the non-existent jarred stuff)  soup with more of That Squash, homemade garam masala dusted over roast chicken for the luxury portion of the trip, and variations on our new old favorite, tetrazinni.   Not to mention the Achiote-on-the-brain extravaganza, more of which to come later. Since so much, including whether or not we have basic services or any income whatsoever, seems beyond my ability to effect OR affect, I’m finding that preparation of every successful dinner has a very salutary impact on my quivering brain.  Marx said that people do things like crafts and knitting and complex cooking I suppose as an antidote to alienation.  I think he was right about that.  As for what comes next? I’m trying to cultivate the Dog’s approach and see the good in it.  While reserving my right to bark and give a good nip if the good turns out not to be there.  And I think, Gentle Reader, you know what I mean.

Blessings and thanks!

running on fumes

And, you know what happens when you do that, Gentle Reader.   Eventually you hit a wall of some sort.

It finally came to my attention that ongoing crying jags mean I Need A Nap.

I mean: after the mammoth power clusterfuck, after the serious Dog injury, after spending literally my last dime on the clusterfuck thus having to Fix Dog Ourselves (and may I say? YAY SUPER GLUE!), and after the Partner got ill again? I found myself at the sink with tears literally squirting out of my eyes.  More than once. The fact that I made absolutely zero money in the last six weeks is not a happifying thing, either.

So.  I said, SELF? ARE YOU IN THERE? to which the response was a muffled whowantstoknow? YOU DO, I said.  Let’s just walk ourselves through this spot we’re in, whaddaya say? Gurgling sounds happened, which I took as an OK to proceed.  As we all know, I said, getting my selves gathered round the inner podium, it’s been way, way above standard high soul destroying impact lately.  We’ve all done really well.  Especially considering we’re doing some fairly heavy lifting on the healing and rebuilding frontier of ourselves while contending with rampaging Godzillas everywhere else.  What have we learned?  Speak UP! and, it turns out that a big thing we learned is not to take things personally.  Please sir, may I NOT have some more? if you will.

Part of not taking things personally is not coming from a place of fear.  It’s realizing that that pounding in your chest is composed of many things, and the only one you can do anything about is your own concept of what that pounding is.  Undifferentiated anger permeating the atmosphere isn’t necessarily directed at you.  Even if it is, you actually don’t have to pick it up.  When people do things that cause you difficulties, you can say what that is, and let them carry their own trash out.  This takes a lot of practice and I am far from mastery of the technique.  But just realizing it as a possibility, dawning into a reality and a Thing, has been huge.  In a situation involving a lot of manipulation? You do what martial artists do.  Use that energy against itself by deflecting it back from you.  Calmly and with intent.  And love of course.  No, you say, thank you but no.  It’s this way.  Of course you have your training to fall back on in case more incoming shows up, bob, weave, shoot arrows.  But it has at least partly to do with not feeding whatever it is that’s eating you. So to speak.  We’ll see how this works in upcoming discussions with….well, the people lobbing the incoming at the moment.

I’ve had several occasions in my life that have shown me that once someone realizes you are not afraid, unless they’re totally crazy or wearing battle dress they back off.  For me of course this is a tricky balance because I have huge fear in me.  But as I go on, the fears rise up and reveal themselves and mostly? They go.  Of course we all must have food and shelter and warmth and the getting of these things seems to get more difficult exponentially.  That’s scary.  But the reality is we don’t always see things the way they actually are, and the good thing about that if indeed there is one is that the very mis-seeing creates what we might think of as wiggle room.  It’s not cast in some indestructible substance, this thing we’re viewing.   Anyway.  Not taking things personally actually frees up space in the cranium, and once you calm down, it’s possible to progress.  Anyway I shall entertain that as a possibility.  Loser of the Popular Vote notwithstanding.

In the meantime, as we proceed further into what really does appear to be the end of time as we have known it….the challenge is to balance the necessity of a future, in the sense of yes I’ll plant this garden and feed myself and others, with the collapse of the present and all of the things of the past that seem no longer to persist- like money, and infrastructure, and common courtesy.  How can I plant my garden when I don’t know where I’ll be?  Or, in ever more evil frequency, if I can’t use seeds that aren’t fake? This leads you into the metaphorical winding paths of,  plant it wherever you are, blahblahblah, which while of course being true is also a bit sophistic leaning as it does on various concepts of what that garden might actually be.  Other than a physical squash or bean plant.   Even the Dalai Lama says it’s tough to have equanimity when your physical survival is challenged.

Still.  What I think now is this.  So much of the fear we all experience is literally fomented by the powers that be. It comes from outside us, actually.  If we are not afraid and off balance, we’re not as gullible and liable to abdicate our own authority.  The “resources” like money, fuel, water, food are controlled by the tip of a hierarchy.  They’re held at the top and in some very important ways none of us lower down have any of them.   This means that we need not fear not having them, actually.  Since we kind of don’t.  We can make our own structure, however humble it may be.  A structure that relies on energies and beliefs from a time way before ours.  This is true of more personal emotional issues too, naturally.  So what if your family didn’t support you in any way? That was THEM, not YOU- it isn’t a measure of your actual worth, altho the lack of support and resources to be magnetized to may mean your social position is more or less non-existent.  Still. That is not YOU.  Admittedly it takes some stern stuff to forge ahead in the midst of such things.

When we get it reasonably and consistently warm in here again, I’ll be baking bread.  Lately, however, it being cold and all,  I found myself immersed in the mysteries of whipped cream.  We had blood oranges that needed to be used, and I found a recipe for a gingerbread upside down cake with caramelized blood oranges.  Spectacular if I say so myself.  The Partner requested whipped cream.  Not something I think of much since I’m lactose intolerant, still I always have at least one of those sterile paper packaged long life whipping creams on hand for emergencies.  Thank you, Trader Joe’s.  So I made the whipped cream, and, as with the fried chicken episode, a whole new world opened.  It is in fact fantastic stuff.  So I am focusing on the amazing properties of cream instead of the still present, looming large challenges strewn hither and yon.  What is important, after all? You gotta keep your strength up to keep going on.  And now is most definitely not the time to give up however much one may wish to.

Blessings and thanks.

in which feeling returns to the limbs

Yes, Gentle Reader, semblances of normality are peeking out from under the dog fur bunnies under the TV.

I have to say, Telemundo has helped, even though my Spanish is not always up to the task.  One weekend a couple of weeks ago they showed an entire Saturday of: The Mummy Returns, Snow White and The Huntsman, and Indiana Jones and the Cave of the Crystal Skulls (or whatever it was called).  Today we’re watching Salt, and I read this week’s New Yorker.  The section on Sixteen Writers on the Election is well worth your time.  I’m in love with Junot Diaz anyway but his piece is wonderful.  Highly recommended from the Rehab Wing here.

Otherwise daily life continues to remind me that Truth and Beauty are still with us.  On one day I saw a HUGE rabbit bound up our “driveway”, with four white paws and a very tall stature.  Then, I saw about 24 wild turkeys and a few feet up from them, a HUGE covey of quail.  They all seemed to be looking at me (especially the rabbit) and saying, hey! you can’t accomplish anything THIS way! Lighten up!

This lightening up was duly accomplished at the end of a long day of cooking.  Although the Partner and I both are unsympathetic to the Pilgrim version of Thanksgiving, I have managed over time to impress him with the fact that the FOOD is wonderful.  I usually bake whatever bread we’ll use in the stuffing the day before, and this time it was sourdough.  Quite the endeavor this bread, taking an entire day to proof and all.  I was really happy to see my now almost 25 year old starter is in tip top shape, too.  The bread gets baked in a dutch oven (Tartine recipe) which is, admittedly, heavy.  I had struggled with removing the whole shebang from the oven for the first loaf and the Partner said: I WILL DO THE NEXT ONE.  YOU ARE NOT SUPERMAN.  I huffed a bit but at the time of doneness, I said, OK.  As I watched him, with one expert swell foop, remove the heavy pot from the oven and turn the hot loaf onto a rack, suddenly from the television came the William Tell Overture.  Somehow it all converged, how I’ve always thought I had to do everything myself, ‘specially since nobody else ever stepped up, and how ridiculous that is.  And how good the Partner is at so many of these things and what an excellent thing cooperation is.  It’s good to receive as well as give.  And it all struck me as supremely funny.  The crescendo of the music occurring at the precise moment loaf hit rack, for example.  I laughed so hard I cried and pretty soon we were ALL laughing, having our now mandatory group hug with the Dog.  See how easy.

Then came the actual day, and more cooking.  (Although simplified from the days of yore I can hardly imagine doing, but there it is. I used to even cook my own pumpkin for pie.  JEESH.) It all went easily, actually, and well.  The Dog ended his Thanksgiving by retiring to the couch (after his small bits of turkey meat and baked squash) and snoring.  Loudly.  And Longly.   He was exhausted, of course, by his day long patrol of the kitchen area and relentless are-we-there-yetting.

I felt, almost for the first time, a profound sense of Belonging.  My family is here, so now, in a way, I know where my house is.  I decided to let the happiness and joy from that inform whatever else it is that may come, whatever may require doing.  I still feel a huge pain in my heart but I also feel far more equal to the task of simply being a decent human being and standing for what is true, for beauty, for hope.  And for love.  Somehow I am not so afraid as I was.  I guess I can endorse a course of Telemundo action films and some turkey as restorative measures when all seems lost.

I leave you with some of what Junot Diaz wrote in the November 21, 2016 NEW YORKER.  I do believe that a non-violent person with a base in Nature and Creation can resonate with this and move forward with strength and capacity.  There are many ways to deal with darkness, after all.

“….For those of us who have been in the fight, the prospect of more fighting, after so cruel a setback, will seem impossible.  At moments like these, it is easy for even a matatana to feel that she can’t go on.  But I believe that, once the shock settles, faith and energy will return.  Because let’s be real: we always knew this shit wasn’t going to be easy.  Colonial power, patriarchal power, capitalist power must always and everywhere be battled, because they never, ever quit.  We have to keep fighting, because otherwise there will be no future- all will be consumed.  Those of us whose ancestors were owned and bred like animals know that future all too well, because it is, in part, our past.  And we know that by fighting, against all odds, we who had nothing, not even our real names, transformed the universe.  Our ancestors did this with very little, and we who have more must do the same.  This is the joyous destiny of our people- to bury the arc of the moral universe so deep in justice that it will never be undone…..”

Blessings and thanks for reading, as always!

quo vadis, with recipe

It’s not getting much better yet, Gentle Reader.  The nausea and pain are prevalent every waking minute. ( Even The Dog barfed and forgot his house training for a minute- it worries him when I cry.)  The good news, besides the fact that People magazine finally picked the right guy as sexiest man on earth (THE ROCK!!!!! YESSSSS!!!) is that our local PBS station has a World channel, which now is exclusively showing First Nations Experience programming.  So it’s all natives, all the time. WONDERFUL.  We switch between that and their cooking show channel:  New Scan Cooking, a favorite, is always calming.  And hilarious as we watch the Chef lug around the exact same cast iron wood stove we have (a Jotul) to do outdoor smoking and whatnot.  In Scandinavian calm and ice.

I’ve been cooking to get my mind off how gobsmacked I am by having to behave as though people who voted for Trump are not bigots, racists, sexists and climate change deniers.  I find my face shaping itself into The Scream every time the tv accidentally rests on the news and I see that Bannon and Sessions are lined up for positions of power, but this is actually totally in line with everything that was said during the campaign. Let’s just say this about voting.   Aside from the fact that the popular vote means nothing in this country, apparently.  If a person voted for Trump, and wants to say they do not support any of the often expressed aforementioned attitudes and beliefs,  it seems to me that either such a person was not paying much attention to what was going on, or, they made a choice for conscious ignorance.   I’m not at all sure that even his supporters will be thrilled with what’s coming down the pike. It makes going outside now pretty scary, although I have to say I have found some comfort in the numbers of people (women, for the most part) I hear in the grocery store saying they are crushed and  can’t even watch the “news” any more.  The mayor and police chief of neighboring Chico felt it necessary to go on  local tv programming and say, strongly and unequivocally, that they would not be rounding anyone up for any reason, like, say, deportation.  There are a lot of kids there going to college who are now at risk, just for starters. ( And doesn’t it seem smart to deport people who are educating themselves at their own expense?)

SO.  Despair doesn’t get us much forwarder, I know.  There are a million shades of green outside right now, and a lot of golden dead leaves flying through the air with the bluebirds.  The cows eat peaceably in their pastures, the deer come out in the evenings, and the turkey are wisely sticking to heavy cover as they always do during this time of year.   In the meantime I have finally perfected cooking fritter/burger/pancake things made out of vegetables.  Here is something that actually turned out very well:

Black bean “burgers”: I cook my own beans but you can, of course, use canned.  The eggs are pretty essential but if you’re really into Vegan cooking you probably know a suitable substitute.  Depending on quantity, obviously the ratios will change but it’s pretty simple…..

2 cups of cooked black beans, drained and rinsed if canned.  1 medium sized yam or sweet potato, grated.  Two cloves garlic, minced, and about a half cup of chopped cilantro.  You could use parsley if you don’t care for cilantro.  You also want 1/8 cup of spice mixture, equal parts cumin, coriander, and black pepper.  Plus a small chopped jalapeno (or other pepper if you don’t want ANY heat).  Mix all these things together, and add about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs- I have found that using Panko makes a world of difference as in you can actually flip the things as though you know what you’re doing, mush free.  Mix in the crumbs, then stir in 3 beaten eggs.  Salt to taste.  Use a 1/4 cup measure and place in a heated frying pan with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a bit of butter. (Or whatever you prefer.)  Flatten the mixture a bit, fry til browned on both sides, and serve.   We like them with rajas and crema.  Mayo works great too, or yogurt with lime juice.  The usual suspects, in short.  I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving because cranberries! so there is, yes, always something positive if you only look.

I guess I’m hoping that focusing on the good, the simple, the basic, and on kindness will get me through this extended spate of difficult mental states. I’m handing out my You Matter cards like crazy.  Thank you, as always.

 

until you don’t

Also, the Real Problem with Fried Chicken.

Recently I was in the Land of Fun known as the laundromat, and a story came on the radio about how people were found to be happier later in life than in their twenties.  Whoa.  Newsflash!!! Anyway it went on to say that as people got older and went through more adversity they were better able to cope and stay in balance.  The owner of the laundromat was there, swishing a mop around and suddenly that mop went ballistic.  UNTIL YOU DON’T! he yelled.  YOU’RE NOT BETTER ABLE TO COPE!! and so forth.  He turned a bit pink and I reminded him to breathe and lower his shoulders.  I happen to know that he’s had a pretty large adversity serving the past few years, and I said: True.  You cope til you don’t.  Then you have a massive snap fest, wind up face down on broken glass, struggle to get up and wait til the cuts heal.  He actually laughed, looked at me, and said that somehow he knew I’d get it.  I was, after all, the one who was there the day the Big Washer Broke and the entire laundromat was two feet deep in water in about 15 minutes.  A man wearing a t-shirt saying he’d given himself to Jesus made a call to the posted emergency number that was so astonishingly inchoate it made me glad Jesus accepted the poor lamb. I may have mentioned all this at the time.  Anyway, I called the number, rustled up some help and soothed the jangled nerves of the person on the other end of the phone who was still assimilating the incoherent prior call.  IN the meantime, before help arrived suddenly the water? was up to the washer bottoms and sizzling noises were beginning to happen.  I was in rubber shoes, too.  What to do? All the dryers were running and the washers were starting to sound ominous.  With help from a handsome young man (where’d HE come from???) I found the water turn off on the original, offending washer, opened the doors to the laundromat and whooshed water out.  Given we’re in a drought the resident birds were delirious with joy, taking baths and drinking in the now torrential flow.  The cavalry arrived shortly and all was more or less well.  In any event the laundromat owner thinks I’m a good person.  I’ll take it.

Perhaps this is what they’re talking about, in saying that you’re happier as you get older.  What I think it is? Is you just know at long last that not only is there no time to waste, there is DEFINITELY no time to freak out.  I suppose that can give a person a sense of calm mastery from time to time.  While they’re picking broken glass out of their face.  After an until you don’t moment.

So.  After another more recent day during which tempers flared, milk spilled, and I indulged in some blubbing while cleaning up and sorting yet again through the boxes in my storage shed known that day as MY RUINED LIFE, I thought actually about the laundromat flood and ensuing kafuffle.  Thought about how really having to be right about things is missing the point (re flaring tempers and just who Jesus will save), and how spilled things are just spilled things and you do the best you can with the Whole thing.  In the spirit of snap fest past, I decided to do something I’d never done before.  Which is make fried chicken.

My mother was, I think now, pathologically concerned with me not being overweight.  I became well acquainted with cottage cheese and Ry Krisp.  And thank God, not fat.  In any event we didn’t have fried chicken much and I thought: too hard to make.  Too messy.  FATTENING.  See where this is going? Another thing I thought I couldn’t do.  And now I’m getting a message that my draft isn’t being saved so we’ll see if I can even do THIS.

Anyway, the real truth about fried chicken is this.  It is as easy to make as falling off a log.  Easy, we may say, peasy.  The problem then becomes you can have it WHENEVER YOU WANT.  It doesn’t even have to be unhealthy if you use the right oils and keep temperature.  That still doesn’t make it something you should have every day or even every week.  It’s something you have to hold in regard and have once in a while.  It is, thus, one of those things in life that’s like a tiny party you can have for yourself when you’re picking the broken glass out of your face yet again.  And this, I thought, was quite a wonderful revelation.

It seems to me that if we all remembered that we can step forward in adversity, and there are rewards and joys no matter what happens, especially if we put the other person’s feelings and well being at least on a par with our own (I was actually worried about the laundromat guy’s water bill that day- almost as much as I worried about my own imminent electrocution)(the Partner had been mooning around about fried chicken, so even though I was Mightily Peeved with him at the time…..), we might even survive this ghastly election.  Anyway, we need to and to do that, getting back to basics seems to be in order.  In that vein I feel happy to be the one to tell you you can in fact make your own celebratory fried chicken in the event you can find a decent chicken.  You can coordinate with people you don’t agree with, might not like even a tiny bit.  It all moves things forward in a positive way.  Instead of a fear based, anger mongering, stupidity exacerbating way which seems to be disturbingly pervasive.   Onward, then.  And as Jacques Pepin says, happy cooking- which covers a LOT of ground.

Thank you!

 

following the nose

In keeping with the spirit of the times we’ve been shifting and changing and tilting and whirling.  The Partner’s birthday came and went and on the whole? it was a success.  Roast chicken with herb butter, Popovers,  Mexican chocolate cake with coconut cream caramel frosting.  Yes.  If I say so myself.  The Dog got his current favorite treat, a Whimzees Vegetable Ear, and he also got some chicken breast wrapped in a bit of popover.

There was more to it, of course.  While The Dog zonked out in a blissful full stomach stupor, an injury the Partner had inflicted on himself a day or so before (to wit, whacking his knee with the wood maul) worked its way through his system and resulted in a seemingly strange symptom- lung congestion and the cough from infernal regions.  So we were up all night long and I wrestled, for the most part, with Dread and Powerlessness about once again entering the fray and trying to secure a doctor appointment while wondering what in the world to do NOW. ( This appointment business means dedicating a day to calling various and sundry official places and going through various and sundry assumptions of the position.) (A few days later I DID actually get this wrestled to the ground.)  I managed to get myself to a neutral position about it all, remembered to say the Cosmic Please and Thank you, and asked for some insight about this new and unwanted development.

In about an hour I opened my eyes but before that happened I saw a picture of what had possibly happened to the Partner’s lungs.  Reviewing my text book (because my brain is a literal sieve) I saw what had happened.  And, it had to do with the flow of energy through the body, as it goes through various meridians and organs.  The whack on the knee initially involved the movement of liver energy, which passes through the knee and ends where the lung energies begin to flow.  So we had an impingement on one flow that wasn’t usually problematic, but which went directly into one that has been a lifelong project, thereby creating a temporary blockage.  Adding to that the fact that the injury itself occurred at a time where another bodily energy was moving  which is not the strongest element in the P’s constitution, and? You have a disruption of the lung energy as it begins its circuit through the body.  And the infernal coughing began at the time the lung energies begin to move, and ended at the time they move into the next thing.  I was even able to explain this understandably.

The big thing about it though, over and above the fact that I finally, reflexively understood something I’ve been doing for a long time, was that the fear and anxiety level for both us was immediately gone.  We both understood what was going on, and what would be of assistance, and sure enough in another day or so, everything was fine.  And really there wasn’t anything “to do” except be kind to the affected areas, lessen inflammation and keep a good fluid intake going.

So of course I thought about it all.  Things that seem so intimidating, so complex at the outset really do open up with simple Attention.  When I initially began studying all these things, the plants and botany and anatomy and sidereal time and all the rest of it, I thought I must’ve been nuts to think I’d ever “get” it.  But something prevailed against that residual lack of confidence and now? Cake and understanding a cough in the same day? There’s hope, and it can be brought to life by just Letting It Be each time you think something is impossible or whatever word you use for OMGletmeoutofhere sorts of things.

Not to mention the other big thing which is the very imperative current necessity to disregard what seems like “truth” coming from what seems like “authority”.  The sense that you cannot handle whatever it is that is in front of you, and some larger “thing” is going to have to “do it” for you.  Or to you, or over you, or whatever.  As in, oh dear, we have to see a doctor and there are no doctors and this is going to be AWFUL. Or whatever the case may be.  “Things” seem so overwhelming it’s easy to let everything you see in a day bleed into everything else.  You know- terrorterrorterror, or whatever other fear inducing message is being murmured about.  In fact? Not so much.

SO.  It may have been the Partner’s birthday, but I feel like I’m the one who got the present.  Love and Understanding.  Not to mention dog kisses.

success with pineapple

In all the excitement around here of late, I may have omitted proper treatment of one of my bigger accomplishments, Gentle Reader.

Which was the replication of an acceptable al pastor, for tacos.  Al pastor is one of those things I love deeply, sometimes even more than carnitas or rajas.  Naturally I was deterred from making it at home because you always see it being grilled on a rotisserie-like thing.  Which I don’t have.  So I thought, oh dearie me, too hard.

Well, not so much.  Turns out? all you really need is a good basic adobo recipe and PINEAPPLE.  It’s nice if you have the canned chiles en adobo but since I didn’t find mine until after I made the recipe, I can say it isn’t crucial.  You just then have to use a mix of roasted dried chiles and herbs and stuff, and the crucial pineapple, and whoosh it together…..and then you have a marinade to put on protein of your choice (I mean, in theory, you could use tofu- and tofu actually is not bad in rajas….) and……suddenly you find that you have accomplished something that seems huge.  And it’s basically just a recognition of what the elements of a thing actually are, and the relative sizes of them and you, and proceeding accordingly.

Bucked up by that glorious achievement, I have tried to approach the various and sundry things that seem to be hell bent on making me lose what little mind I have with what I am now calling The School of Pastor Approach.

In practice it’s kind of like stop, drop and roll in a fire.  Something happens, you pay attention to it, remain calm, and get out of harm’s way.  This means not losing even a tiny bit of composure which is always the part I struggle with: the inner Donald Duck.  In any case, the other day something happened which actually was pretty big.  I was taken aback by how quickly I went from zero to sixty on the Completely Upset Track.  (“I can’t do this” sort of thing.)

While the situation, had it been as bad as it might’ve been, was definitively not wonderful, it was also not as world ending as my feelings toward it indicated.  I realized that it was my attitude about it which was causing at least half of my distress.  Again.  This allowed me to calm down enough to not make things worse by untimely displays of inchoate emotion and yelling.  And to realize? that it was my expectation about what a given thing meant and thus should do that caused a relative inability to function.  Kind of like not being able to make pastor without a rotisserie.  Not, actually, the point.  What does this thing consist of, and how should it be approached?  How do I get on the right level here? In terms of pastor, the crucial thing is not the equipment, it’s the ingredients.  I suppose you could say the same thing of The Situation- it was the ingredients- the thinking- that made it seem impossible to navigate.  In the case of pastor, it was an addition (the sweet).  In the case of the Situation, it was a subtraction (the prickly bits- so pineapple still works as a metaphor!).  The thinking was the same, though, really.  I’m hoping this means progress has been made; over and above, that is,  the sheer joy of now being able to pretty much have pastor whenever I want.

Thank you!

what muscles look like

The heat here has been, frankly, unbearable.  Having to be out in it for about four, scattered, and ever so slightly back breaking hours a day has been something I decided to view as Training, like for a marathon.  Fortunately we have a 50 foot long hose that weighs about ….oh, who knows how much.  But it’s heavy and has a mind of its own, we know that much.  I’m thinking I should do a You Tube video with it, a new exercise program- this could really be something!

Anyway it was fun when I went to the doctor (no more visits now! honestly, but everything takes about ten times longer than it needs to in the brave new medical world) and he said, wow, look at your BMI! You’re overweight!  I started to giggle, at which he actually looked at me.  Do I look overweight or inappropriately or excessively jiggly to you? I said.  He shook his head no.  OK then, feel THIS I said, extending my arm to him.  OH.  He said.  Yes.  I said.  Muscle.

So muscles are another one of those things that can be there but be unseen.  The usual adherence to preoccupations and entrenched ways of thinking can be continued without interruption.  Everyone’s prejudices and biases can remain intact.  I ruined his diagnostic day, sadly, as he was about to launch into the cholesterol and weight loss speech but realized it was totally off base. ( IN fact at this most recent appointment I had lost a fair amount of weight due to the above mentioned training regime.  And sweating, and stuff.) As he gathered himself, the eventual bright spot was the undeniable truth about my lungs to which he now had to attend.  In last year’s medical fun fest it turns out that in the process of collapsing my lungs, then filling them with fluid, then using god knows what crap to empty them?  Permanent damage was done.  I am pretty sure I can heal this up, actually, and more on all that soon because I am working on Something Big!……  But I am also going to file a formal complaint against the surgeon and anesthesiologist, because the past 18 months of not being able to breathe or do much and having my lungs crink up like squashed dixie cups in the middle of the night? has been hell.  And I don’t think they should have carte blanche to do it to someone else to whom, in their paradigm, attention need not be paid.

So.  You know.  This may be what passes for fighting the evil empire at the moment.

Other than that, it’s largely been armed struggle just to keep things alive out here this month.  We did get straw bales placed against the outside of the yurt, and they do provide some much needed insulation from the heat.  It’s still 85 in here all day but that, GR, is a whole lot better than 95.  Given that it’s about 112 outside, lowering on some days to 95 at midnight.  The Dog has reluctantly understood that it IS too hot out there for his paws and limits his excursions accordingly. We’ve had some Bad Dog Mornings, where he does naughty things like run down to the main road and eat dead things, returning up the driveway skulking and later? for extra fun, emitting the fart to end all farts.  Which, of course, hung in the heat for longer than it needed to.  It seems like a miracle that our garden is still alive and to the naked eye, flourishing.  It’s  really  too hot now for the vegetables to do much but we do have a LOT of cucumbers and chard.  We’ll have a few tomatoes but the plants have suffered since I am not nearly as good as the Partner is at picking those noxious hookworms off the plants.  Still, I’m feeling pretty good about it all at the moment.  There look to be enough San Marzano tomatoes to make some sauce, anyway.

Having it be too hot to cook has been a cha cha cramping sort of thing, too.  But!  I butterflied a game hen and marinated it in shallots and turmeric and chilis and stuff….not too bad, really, cooked in a grill pan.  The surprise was the aroncini I made with the end of it and the left over rice which was its accompaniment.  Aroncini are those wonderful croquettes made from risotto, with vegetables and cheese inside and crisp exteriors.  I thought, OK, left over shredded game hen, rice, let’s make those.  Imagine my excitement when I remembered it wasn’t arborio rice I’d cooked, but basmati in coconut milk. Deciding to do it anyway was touch and go, Gentle Reader and I feared ghastly failure.  I couldn’t get them to cohere (a lot of that going around….) because arborio and basmati are two really different creatures, and bit my lip as I plated their reasonably shaped in the end crispy selves.  Also important because the Partner has not been eating through this illness so whatever I do give him needs to be good.  And you know what? they were.   So further encouragement not to give up, dear friends.  Anything is possible and with a bit of effort, can happen.  From rice balls to evil empire, we can do it.

Thank you all, as always.

what sustains us

I find, still, that when I’m at points of transition or challenge, I cook a lot.  Given that adventure is often my criteria (get me OUTTA HERE!), I make a lot of stuff for the first time and the Partner winds up on extended trips to exotic locales while I work on pickles, chapattis, pasta, Asian noodles, reproducing roasted vegetable dishes from fancy places, or experimenting with cooking whatever protein our friends bring from their various enterprises.

However, of late it’s been tortillas and tacos.  And tamales.  Salsas, rajas,  multi colored rice, and the real mind blower: chile rellenos.  The interesting thing about this is I always thought that ALL this stuff from scratch was beyond my ability as a cook.   Which kind of dovetails with the realization of late that somehow I NEVER think I can do things.  (Which of course is ridiculous since I do things all the time, attempt things, and generally scramble through the air on a fiery trapeze with all the accompanying accidents and revelations.)  All the self doubt which has accompanied me from childhood turns out to be rather hard to let go of.

But I did have what might be a productive insight.  A memory came up in relation to all this flailing about, and although it was REALLY old, it had a lot of current power and pain.  I was blown away by the energy this occurrence turned out to have and how much the event had shaped my attitude about things.   And how inappropriate that attitude is, was, and always will be.  Not to mention that none of the other people involved in the situation probably have any memory of it whatsoever.  But it had a decisive impact on my sense of self and it’s been banging around with me- and all this time I could have just set it down.  Now it almost feels like a body part but really? It’s got to go.

SO.  Last night I ventured forth where I had not dared go before. Ta da, I thought.  Not, perhaps, a huge big deal Gentle Reader, but I made pita bread.  And it tasted like pita bread, split on the interior like pita bread.  Really easy and fun to make, as it turns out.  It went very well with the falafel I made, too.  The thing of it is, there’s so much you can accomplish if you just let yourself.  Give it a go, and shut up while so doing.

There’s still the whole magic question and the what am I now that I’m grown up question, of course, but I think that’s probably a matter of inadequate definitions.  The magic issue generally boils down to whether one functions to build power or express love.  Magic happens both ways but the end results are not the same.  Like non-violence, sometimes it can take a long time but haste is not always the best way.  In that vein, my next project is going to be routinely getting dinner on the table in less than an hour (thus addressing part of the grown up thing).  Balancing the long range with the productive goal of having dinner before total darkness descends.  In short, the middle way.  Still looking for it, but tacos are an immeasurable aid in the quest.

bees, temporarily

And yes, it is VERY exciting indeed, because now we’ve got cucumbers and squashes and several melons happening.  Even a few tomatoes!  Some unknown fruit pits have sprouted in the compost- I think they’re peaches but only time will tell- and lots of last year’s Anana Amerique melon seeds sprouted in there too.  Despite the often high levels of demoralization we experience around here, this stuff never fails to thrill me and put a smile on my face.

There was, also, an epic dessert disaster.  A friend who is gluten intolerant is coming to visit and I naturally thought, oh for sure there must be something sweet to eat.  I made an experimental fig gallette with coconut flour and cashew flour instead of wheat flour, using both coconut oil and butter.  Somehow, something got lost in the translation and although the taste was fine the appearance was gnarly.  In a way it was calming to realize that, actually, I don’t have to do that, don’t have to stretch into a rhomboid shape to have things be workable.  We’ll have fruit.  Simple and nothing wrong with it.  Especially since it’ll be from the garden.

This may be the tiny nugget finally and at long last retrieved from recent challenging brain excavations: In fact, things are fine.  No high falsetto handsprings need be done in an attempt to prove worthiness, or anything else for that matter.  We are enough as we are.

The ongoing question of what to do about the state of the world remains, of course.  But we had an interesting discussion about the shape and consistency of evil this morning, and the Partner’s opinion is that we are getting closer, through all current space exploration and photography, to seeing the origins not just of our world but of good and evil as well.  Imagine if evil and its attendant beleaguering effects on us all was essentially an old blast of cosmic bad breath?  We might all see that finally and our minds might change and then….well.  Then we’d start to enjoy ourselves once again, and things might be a whole lot clearer.  It’s kind of like we might realize that we don’t have to run around trying to impress anyone with anything- we just have to BE.  Or, bee, actually.  I’m going to stick with that for now.