Thursday, April 29, 2010
honey fills the jar
with the concentrated sweetness
of countless thefts,
the blossoms bereft, the hive destitute.
Though my debts are heavy
honey would pay them all.
Honey heals, honey mends.
A spoon takes more than it can hold
without reproach. A knife plunges deep,
but does no injury.
Honey moves with intense deliberation.
Between one drop and the next
forty lean years pass in a distant desert.
What one generation labored for
and yet another gives thanks.
- Connie Wanek, Honey
from On Speaking Terms
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
There was the day my camera arrived, or maybe a few days after that, when I finally got around to opening the box. I'd wanted it, been eying it for so long that it hardly seemed possible that it was there in front of me. I sat down on my mattress, there on the floor in the center of my new house, and began to unpack the contents of that parcel, so full of possibility that I felt almost unqualified to open it. There was a body, sleek and dark, just heavy enough to give weight to the hand, shaped to be held, not a switch or button out of place...and when I opened the cover to peer inside, when I glimpsed the mirror there, the guts and workings of that beautiful machine, it gave me such a thrill I lost my breath for a moment, while my heart skipped like a sun-kissed stone across open water, I must confess. If ever I have known a love at first sight, I did then.
Since then this magnificent creation has become my small and steadfast companion. Despite my fears that I could not begin to know, much less master, its controls; that I would not be able to translate my vision into its language; that I might just suck at finding, seeing, pushing, sifting, and even learning; that this was nothing more than indulgence; that it was more than I needed or could use or even handle, what I have instead come to find is that my camera simply makes me very, very happy. Minutes and hours pass easily through my lens (oh how dearly I do adore thee, VR zoom!), each click of the shutter splitting time like a meditation bell, my inner child playing the xylophone, an electric current snapping through the frayed wire that's hanging overhead. I lost myself yesterday afternoon, blind, and then I lost myself seeing. Only what's there.
The images are mostly raw, yet, because I still have so much to learn. I wield a tool that vastly exceeds my skill. This can lead to a dangerous situation in the case of motors or blades, or an embarrassing one when it comes to microphones or whip cream, but with my trusty light-box in hand things usually turn out okay, and what doesn't is easily forgotten. I don't know what I'm doing half of the time, or most of it, and I keep forgetting to adjust the exposure compensation and change the speed, try the rear flash instead of the slow one (if I can stand the flash at all), reset everything again...I can barely focus. Shutter, aperture, still a mystery. Basically I'm a total idiot when it comes to this thing, but every now and then--maybe often, even-- something sort of miraculous happens, when what I see is captured, magically, and returned to me as the poem I could not speak, the canvas I could not paint. This I love. That it happens sort of randomly now is a pleasure. That I might one day know enough to bring something new to light, that is my hope.
Oh, and have I mentioned how my kick-ass and totally worth it battery holds a charge forever...............?
On another note, tonight the moon is full, in Taurus and Scorpio, a powerful combination. My birthday's close at hand, and my energy is high as I turn into the next year of my life, the next season of my being. A couple nights ago I came to the sudden realization that not only must I, but I do, love this body of mine, this earthly companion (so small and heavy and full of light), and moreover I will love it, this new and aging body of mine, and no longer will I hope to cast it off, as long as I am breathing. In the temple of self-portraits I have entered a new hall, where my wrinkled skin tells stories about me while I sleep, dances wild and slow in circles round my half-shut eyes. I miss the Miss I was, the girl I never did be, but there is strength and laughter in me yet. And skirts, of lengths and widths and fullness and colors I've not yet worn, with room enough to spin.
Go out and look at the moon tonight; She goes around and around, and it's not for nothing.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
when you cross the river. On a sandbar
sunlight stretches out its limbs, or is it
a sycamore, so brazen, so clean and so bold?
You forget about gold. You stare—and a flavor
is rising all the time from the trees.
Back from the river, over by a thick
forest, you feel the tide of wild honey
flooding your plans, flooding the hours
till they waver forward looking back. They can’t
return; that river divides more than
two sides of your life. The only way
is farther, breathing that country, becoming
wise in its flavor, a native of the sun.
William Stafford, Looking for Gold
from The Way it Is: New and Selected Poems
Monday, April 26, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
I think I forgot to mention that I am going to be host to a bee hive, here in my backyard. A friend and colleague who began beekeeping last year, with one hive in her own yard, has expanded her operation this season, generously providing all the necessary input in return for a 2x2 foot space in my yard and around a dozen others in the metro.
So, I've got a stack of bees going on now.
In addition to the pleasure of knowing that I am in some small part helping to fuel a friend's fire, and more importantly to assist in efforts to restore and revitalize the bee population both locally and globally, I now have a ready-and-willing colony of pollinators to help get things growing, as well as a new past-time.
Bees are a strange and beautiful culture, one from which we might learn much about our own peculiar ways, and I look forward to sharing some of that here in the months to come. For now it's just cool to watch them.
Stay sweet, and sticky,
Thursday, April 22, 2010
If the U.S. government has its way, a powerful intergovernmental group you’ve probably never heard of may soon prevent anyone anywhere from labeling genetically modified (GMO) food.
Operated by the United Nations, the Codex Alimentarius is a collection of guidelines, codes and recommendations regarding food safety and labeling standards which are used by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to settle international disputes regarding food and agricultural trade agreements.
The U.S. Delegation to the Codex meeting is adopting a position that would make it virtually impossible to label foods as "GMO-free" anywhere in the world.According to draft language circulated by the FDA, the U.S. will oppose a proposal at an upcoming meeting of an important Codex committee that would allow the labeling of genetically engineered food. Consumers Union and more than 80 family farm, public health, environmental and organic food organizations, including Food Democracy Now!, have raised concerns that the U.S. position will create major problems for American producers who want to label their products as “GMO-free.”
Unfortunately, rather than taking a proactive stance on GMO labeling and standing up for the rights of America's citizens, the Obama administration has incorporated pre-existing Bush administration positions, stating that Codex should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods.”1
Leading national food policy experts believe this position directly contradicts USDA Organic standards, which prohibit the use of genetically engineered products. If adopted, the Obama administration’s proposal might not only weaken organic standards, but could also lead to further genetic contamination of U.S. organic crops - the fastest and most profitable segment of agriculture today.
Even worse, the current U.S. draft position paper declares that mandatory labeling laws such as they have in Europe are “false, misleading or deceptive.“2 If the U.S. succeeds in writing this proposed Codex regulation, any attempts to label foods here in the U.S. as genetically engineered, whether voluntary or by law, would become far more difficult, if not impossible.
This extreme position on genetically engineered food is unacceptable. Countries should be able to make their own decisions on the labeling of genetically engineered foods. [and so should people....]
Thank you for participating in food democracy –
1. Consumers Union, Press Release, April 20, 2010
2. 80+ Groups Urge FDA, USDA to Change U.S. Position on Food Labeling Civil Eats, April 20, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
The rhubarb is leafing out nicely, although it's now occupied by a colony of ants; I discovered they'd taken up residence in one of the buds about a week ago, and I cut that one out, but (naturally) they simply moved next door... Not sure what to do about that but I might try dousing or dusting them with a chili pepper solution.
The soil here, in the yard and most of the gardens, seems to be quite rich--dark and moist and full of fat earthworms, which I take to be a good sign. Seems the birds of the neighborhood do, too.
Lilacs are beginning to bud, which revealed the identity of the little tree out front to be a Japanese lilac with what look to be pink blossoms (or perhaps purplish, though apparently less likely). Other perennials are filling in, but it may be a few weeks or months before I'll know what they are... bit of a hindrance to the design process but also something of a reprieve. I might just have to wait until next year on a few things.
All in all, not much for a day's work (if that's what it was), but things go as they will. And I'm going to bed.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Following the instructions that accompanied the trees, each one got nice 2x2 foot hole, a generous dressing of composted manure, a good soaking and a protective cover of mulch that Dad had chipped up from last year's garden leavings. The trees themselves were all in good shape, 3-4 feet tall and about 5/8 in diameter or so, nicely branching. The cherries were starting to leaf out already, the rest still just beginning to bud. Only one substitution was made--a Superior plum for the Underwood, which was quite all right since I'd been on the fence between those two, anyway (with the former being at the top of last year's list).
Mom and Dad got all those trees in the ground Saturday afternoon, while I took a pear tree and traveled further north to spend the day with my dear sister, who I see not nearly enough, helping her finish work on the lovely tile mosaic she'd pieced together for their "master" bath. As it turns out, free-form mosaic work is not the most, um, straightforward of endeavors...it's much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle that's been mixed up in a box with six other puzzles, but with half of the pieces removed... Looking forward to seeing it on the wall next time I'm there.
Sunday I put in a few hours at my folks' in the afternoon and evening, weeding the front garden and coaxing the turtle out of hibernation. With the early Spring and unseasonably warm weather, Dad's been able to get the gardens cleared (during which he uncovered a full rabbit nest near the garage. Boo.) and chipped for mulch (no, not the bunnies!), and the back garden's already tilled. The front garden still needs to be turned over with the broadfork, since we're continuing the no-till approach there, but we didn't make a lot of headway on that... Instead Mom got the cilantro bed cleared of every last weed and then helped Dad get the potatoes planted in back, while I scoured the turtle, planted some of last year's blessed thistle offerings, corralled some rogue chamomile and scattered some old packages of dill. The clover I planted in the paths has come in nicely, if a little aggressively (going to have to keep that in check), and there's now a pretty green turtle body to be seen (I'd have snapped a photo but I was too dirty). My plan is to bomb the center with orange and yellow Calendula and Bachelor's Buttons this year, and get that shell painted.
Birds are out all over the place. Mom and I caught sight of the cedar wax-wing, among others.
As usual, we ended up working til sundown and sharing a late and cobbled-together meal. I left for home with a handful of fresh asparagus spears, my rosemary and my bay laurel, four boxes of composted manure, two fruit trees, the old reel lawn mower, a nice hammock stand and a working sun roof (oh joy! thanks to my brother-in-law) or rather moon roof, through which that lovely crescent, whose dark side has been so beautifully visible lately, smiled down on my tired head as the sounds of some good old-time radio theater kept me company on the drive home, where I returned to find my bee hive had arrived. A rather surprisingly sweet weekend.
Friday, April 16, 2010
You might be surprised to know that there are plants for all these things.
Or, I could work from energetics and Chinese medicine, map out parts of the body and the herbs and flowers that are associated with those, or create an emotional landscape of flower essences, or use something more European and Magickal as a guide, incorporating all the old texts and tapestries... Hmmmm. Possibilities. I'll let you know what I come up with.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I stayed home Monday, to make up some lost time. The goal was to get the asparagus planted and then go to work, but one thing leads to another and being dirty all over is just a lot better way to spend an afternoon than being compacted into a cubicle. I watered my thirsty lilies, relocated the rhubarb a little further from the fence, removed every dandelion in the gardens to the south and east of the house and the boulevard. I brutally ripped those tender little shade-grown roses away from their family on the opposite side of the fence and moved them to a sunnier side of the yard, where I hope with all my heart they will not die, sweet things.
In the northwest corner of my backyard there is a big L-shaped pile of dirt that the previous owners liked to call their "pumpkin patch". There's some evidence of squash, but it's difficult to see what they were trying to do there...it's just a heap of meager soil and weeds, with a few piles of yard trimmings scattered around under the rapidly growing grass. The whole thing seems sort of ill-considered and purposeless, and it's in the way of my vegetables, in particular my asparagus, among other things. So after I realized that there was no way I was going to--in one day, having no plan and no wheelbarrow--move all that dirt, I decided to just cover it up, in the hope of smothering it.
Early Tuesday, I woke so peacefully to the gentle storms passing through that I could have stayed in bed all day... and I probably should have. Instead I drove myself downtown, walked into a shiny building and sat down in front of a screen which did not greet me upon my arrival, nor did it offer much in the way of sympathy when I began to realize that the person who awoke in my bed that morning was being held down, suffocated by my own hand, just to get through the day... And I did get through it: by the end of the day I'd all but forgotten the rain that quenched this deserted spirit, and that was a Damn Shame. (Heresy, practically, after a March with no snow!)
Anyway, it's Wednesday now, and I've got taxes to file (right on schedule). Here's hoping for rain or windfall...
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Stayed up late last night, poring over the Friend's School Plant Sale catalog with my younger sister, each of us making wish-lists too long to remember, much less afford... How can you not get excited about something called Amorphophallus, or the Sapphire Tower? Monkshood, Masterwort, Toad lily, Batface... try one of those, or opt for something a little more straightforward, like Cook With Chicken, Makes Body Strong. So many things to grow, and to know... I fall in love with one little plant, so easily-- give me a couple hundred and I'm bound to get carried away...
Spent much of today getting to know my yard a little better, clearing out the dead stuff and taking stock. I've got a nice assortment of perennials here: peonies, daylilies, hyacinths, yarrow, lungwort, coreopsis, asters, irises, violets, others. There are a few little roses in the back, languishing near the fence behind the lilac (they will be moved). Out in front there's a sprawly juniper, a dogwood of some sort, a good-sized flowering crab and couple other little trees and shrubs which I have yet to identify.
Turned up a few auspicious finds today, including a couple nice polished agates and other stones, a no. 2 pencil, a handful of heavy-duty zip ties dropped by the wifi guy, a ginormous blue tarp and two perfectly serviceable canoe paddles. I've now acquired a rake, a fork and a little weeder thingy, none of which (sadly) meet my tool standards but one cannot travel back in time, alas. It's a start. Got to put my Felco pruners to work today, and so thankful to have them (gratitude, CM). Also realized with some excitement that I might now be able to justify getting that super nifty pack-down saw I've wanted...
Oh, yeah, and got a good deal via craigslist on a crapload--well, actually a box and four bags full--of Lilies of the Valley, which I shared with my sis. I still had enough to circle the lilac and border a wide corner near the front fence, and I hope to be taking in their sweetly intoxicating fragrance by my birthday, if all goes well.
Nice to be out working today, listening to the birdsong and the neighbor kids across the alley... glad for them, since it turns out I'm situated between Mr. Oddball (Silence of the Lambs? or Forrest Gump?) to the south, and Crazy Cat Lady to the north (hello, you're looking at me and I just waved at you! and what's with those shorts??) and even though both of them seem to be quite a bit more anti-social and nuts than I am, I might find myself sucked into some kind of vortex of lonely mediocrity if it weren't for the Ideal Young Minneapolitan Family across the alley. (Oh, wait.)
Well, anyway, the one thing I did not manage to do--well, okay, not counting the rest of that list I made this morning--was get the asparagus planted. I'm really at a loss about where it should go. Seems like it should just have a place, and I should be able to find it, but so far I'm stumped. Perhaps tomorrow.
1 very small onion, diced (about 1/8 c)
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 cremini mushrooms, (halved and) sliced
3 good oily salty tasty black olives (kalamata, nicoise or the like), minced
pinch of rosemary
1-2 tbsp mild dry goat cheese (or maybe Swiss or dry white cheddar?), in tiny cubes
2 tbsp milk (soy or cow)
salt and pepper
Put the bread chunks in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and a couple tbsp milk, and dump it over the bread. In a small skillet, saute the onions in a bit of butter, with some salt, over heat high enough to brown them slightly. Add the mushrooms, garlic and rosemary, bit more salt and pepper, and saute until the mushrooms have cooked through. Add mushroom mixture, olives and cheese to bread bowl and mix it up a bit, then pack it into small buttered baking dish. If you don't have an adorable pint-size glass bread pan, use whatever else you've got, glass or metal. Bake at 350, covered, until the pudding puffs up and begins to turn golden, then uncover and bake until nicely browned. Turn onto a plate and serve with fork.
(Theoretically this recipe could be doubled, quadrupled, octupled, what have you... )
Saturday, April 10, 2010
My body knows it hasn't stretched this way before, in this place, and then it hits me, not like a ton of bricks but almost like a warm gust of wind or a spray of rainbowed mist: I've been living here for just shy of six months now. Six months! In all that time I haven't pulled my arms back like this. I almost can't believe it.
Last night I curled up on the rug in the living room, snuggled up with a pile of pillows under my whisper-soft sleeping bag, and in two short hours I slept away so much fear and loss and worry that when I woke I felt I'd entered a new dimension. Lucid and changed, it scared me a little, maybe more. I'm through something.
For six months, I've been cocooned here. Four months have passed with my stereo sitting on the kitchen floor, acting as a sort of "coat-shrub". Close to two months since I got back from my trip. Almost two weeks since I saw the herbalist and the shift in vibration, the release of grief, the rush of sap through dry veins...
Spring is here, and I have a lot of work to do. I'm ready for it now.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
And Easter's come and gone, already, with nary an egg in sight, but there were a few other finds over the past weekend...
one year's growth (red elder)
red elder bud
bees, underground (a whole colony of them, in the field past the Big Hill)
fallen, above the dam