Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I'll be a cloud, and you the moon

These words caught me today, gracing the corner of a packet of green jasmine tea.  Of course, it is I who will be the moon and you the cloud, but come that as it may; nonetheless, we shall illuminate each other. Could it have been that only two days ago every window in my house was cast open, letting warm blue moonlight spill freely upon the soft, rosy satin of my oaken floors?  Ah, it was only then, indeed.  And what other sweetnesses have I known...

It's cold tonight, there's no denying.  After the heat of the past weekend--the last of summer--it's a slightly somber change...the chill not just of autumn, but of winter, in the air... Inside the newly painted kitchen, huddled on around and under the table, sit all my freshly potted houseplants--ivy, jade, spider, the sapphire tower and others--among their outdoor cousins--hibiscus, impatiens, passionflower, lemongrass, more...the house has become heavy with the fragrance of datura blossoms, and quiet.  No wind whistling through the screen, no August crickets standing by to hum the night away.  Outside the back door, a small banana tree and two twining mandevillas have taken shelter under a rainfly, draped in batiks... It's cold tonight, but we'll get through this one, and the one after, with a little hope, some good luck and a light breeze.  We're not there just yet.  More to come...

Friday, August 19, 2011

On Second Thought

I think I will make a little jam, instead, if we don't eat them all over ice cream first.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Comes Summer

Ah, today.

This morning began with a taste of my first peach, freshly plucked from the tree that grows outside my kitchen window.  It was a tad over-ripe, but it was still a small wonder, and a delight.  This evening I picked the rest of them, and tomorrow I shall make a pie (I'd have eaten them all out of hand if they weren't quite so soft, but I'm afraid there won't be time for that now...).  A glorious, summery pie.  Peaches, in Minnesota.  How sweet, how soft, how fragrant, how amazing.

This afternoon rolled on by, fueled by the leftovers of last night's chard casserole, a standby summer dish of mine that's based on a recipe I learned from my mother, in her wisdom (or Joy of Cooking?): a pound or so of fresh chopped chard, a half-cup or so of diced yellow onion, a clove or two of minced garlic, a can of diced tomatoes or chopped fresh equivalent, a couple teaspoons of horseradish, a few good fat squirts of ketchup (yes), a cup or so of bread crumbs, a cup or so of grated cheddar cheese, a quarter cup-ish of grated parmesan, some salt and a lot of freshly ground pepper, all stirred together and baked until...done.  It is magically delicious, nutritious, and also freezes well.

This evening I dined on--or, rather, devoured--two ears of fresh sweet corn from the garden up north, each mouthful another tiny explosion of pure joy and goodness.  Makes you say mmmm, hmmm.  I over-steamed them just a bit, while my attention was turned to slicing up cucumbers for salad and throwing together a quick stir fry from some of the other goods from the garden--snap peas and patty-pans, with broccoli and Siam Queen basil from my backyard--but there are two more in the fridge, just waiting to be cooked to perfection...

The windows are open tonight, to the whirrr and chirps of crickets outside, bikers speeding off the Greenway and past my front step, a passing conversation in the oh-so-quiet street.  Out back, above the gate, a tiny wolf mother has returned to weave her nightly web, spinning threads through the thin air under the waning moon.  Another leaf of the banana tree is unwinding, and a package arrived at my doorstep today--not unexpected, just a forgotten surprise...It's been so peaceful here, lately, that I feel just tremendously, wonderfully blessed.  

Say mmmm, hmmm.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Charmed, I'm Sure

Dear friends...loved ones...strangers, all:

I hope this post finds you well.  It's been a while.

The past several weeks have come and gone, bringing with them many days of searing heat and drenching rains, along with many long hours of over- (and under-) time... I've had very little time and even less energy to write about the goings on here, in my humble dwelling.  We have some catching up to do.

Among other things, the weather this year has presented a challenge to my best intentions.  I had grand plans to fill in my gardens this Spring, but between the frequent rains, an insanely demanding workload and a not a small amount of physical and emotional turmoil, I have so far been unable to fulfill many--or any--of those visions this season.  Nonetheless, my modest gardens are thriving, if running a little wild...but that's okay.  I kind of like them that way.

In April I enjoyed the first tender spears of asparagus from my garden, and within the passage of a couple weeks they quickly surpassed me in height and promptly flopped over onto the sidewalk.  It looks like I'll have to move them to a slightly larger space with more forgiving parameters, perhaps somewhere in the vegetable-garden-to-be over on the sunny side of the walk.  Likewise, the strawberries which I rather short-sightedly planted in the patio garden have more or less taken over the entire space, sending long runners out over the concrete and into the yard... I enjoyed a sweet crop of them in June, and a couple of the pink-blossomed Fragoo variety more recently, despite the best efforts of the birds, rabbits, squirrels, toads and/or what-not. Actually, I have yet to see a toad in my yard this year, but that may be only because I've spent so little time out in it.  Days go by without my attention being turned to what's happening outside my window, and then I'll wander out and encounter another little miracle, like the Cardinal Flowers (which I was not at all sure were still there) in bloom today, or my squat Hydrangea sending up clusters of bright green blossoms, or the Witch Alder (to which, as you might recall, I paid my last respects last Fall) freely leafing from its once-dry branches.  There have been many other happy miracles, too many to remember, or to name.  In spite of the fact that I have barely had the time, energy or where-withall to tend my gardens this year, the plants have--as they so often will--exceeded all expectation.  Not least of these, my gorgeous Peach--the Apple of My Eye--stands a good eleven feet tall, outside my kitchen window, holding among its generously spreading branches not less than two dozen little fuzzy, blushing peaches...The squirrels, it seems, are not interested in these beauties, and I do not mourn their loss in the least.  Out back, where the vegetables--tomatoes, cabbages, peppers, basil, mints, shiso, leeks, broccolis, eggplants, tomatillos, potatoes--now grow, a handful of volunteer pumpkins have practically covered the entire garden, as well as a good twenty feet of the sidewalk, with vines that seem to grow by the minute, climbing up and over, out and around just about anything they can get their little tendrils on.  I probably should have pulled them, but they grew with such vigor and bright blossoming beauty that I just couldn't really see enjoying the Summer without them. And except for the one that decided to transcend the asparagus, they don't seem to have interefered too much with their neighbors, plus there are now at least couple good-size jack-o-lanterns in the making.  Let go, and let grow, I say.  (Or at least that's what I'm going with until I get my act together and dig the living daylights out of this place...) 

I've also gussied up the patio a bit, with some help and inspiration from a good friend who also made the kind loan of a number of pretty pots and dainty stands and hooks...After a several hours of hot and heavy shopping/gathering, and a couple sweaty dirty hours of potting/placing, we transformed the space with a few bright flowers, a trellis here and there, a sunny orange hibiscus, a rapidly unfurling banana tree, a couple clumps of lemongrass and a few other random selections. That hellishly hot weekend we also picked up a couple nice cheap lengths of reed fence, with the intent of establishing a minimal barrier between my yard and cat lady's, although I have yet to put it up, having not yet had or taken the opportunity to broach the subject with her--perhaps this weekend.  Also, after running my little electric mower around and under the fallen lilac for weeks on end, I finally got around to trimming it back--a task which was made enormously easier with the help of a friend's saw's awl--and I managed to retain the better part of its old arching grace, even though it ended up bearing a strange resemblance to one of those kind of awkward eighties haircuts (a la Molly Ringwald)...but it looks a lot better--pretty good, even.  I've got some Blue Lake bush beans coming along, and am planning on planting a few more short-season veggies, in the next few days... lettuces, kale, perhaps some peas.  All in all, things are changing shape...not into what I had in mind, exactly, but that's just how it goes, of course.

There have been changes inside, too.  It took me a hell of a long time, but I finally finished painting my bedroom and moved in a couple of months ago, although it seems like forever ago now... I've still got some work to do--electrical, mainly--but having a proper closet and a lot of extra floor space upon which to throw all the laundry and dance around has been a happy improvement over the tight quarters I previously occupied, which are currently evolving into an excellent little work (out) room.  A few serendipitous finds on craigslist transformed the piano and living room, adding artful/utilitarian storage and dramatic lighting, and just as soon as it stops being stupefyingly humid out I'm gonna get some paint on those walls, too, and in all modesty I think it's going to be spectacular.  After more than a year and a half here, I guess I'm finally getting settled in, and it feels pretty damn good.

So yesterday was National Night Out.  I got a notice about it in the mail last week, and even though it told me that the event would be taking place basically right outside my house, I couldn't help thinking about ways to avoid going.  I left work yesterday, after having to cancel an evening appointment, and headed off to the Midwest's best-loved big box store to pick up a certain ottoman which I'd recently decided I must have, despite my strong and possibly genetic disdain for shoddily built furniture.  Turned out that it wasn't in stock and was apparently being discontinued, so I went home.  When I pulled into the driveway, my neighbor to the south was coming out of his garage with a camp-chair in hand, and asked me (while I was still not out the door of my car) whether I was coming out to the meet-and-greet.  Yeah, I said, I had a few things to take care of but I'll probably make it for a while.  I went in, spent a truly stupid amount of time on hold waiting for the mostly worthless staff at aforementioned store to tell me whether or not they actually physically had what I was looking for, and finally got confirmation from an actually helpful young man that yes, they did indeed have one, and it was mine for the next 24 hours.  Success.  With that, I went out to meet my neighbors.

I didn't really know what to expect, but what I found was quite a pleasant surprise.  There were about 20 people, loosely gathered around a small table spread with various home-made treats, fruits, smoked salmon, veggies, breads and chips and dips, with a cooler of good beer beside it.  On another little table was a vase of garden blooms and a few hand-thrown ceramic vessels, among the other door prizes.  I was greeted by a couple from two houses down, who I'd met briefly last summer, and soon found myself in conversation with a whole bunch of kind Minneapolitan spirits... Among them was a guy whose "favorite" interstate exit just happened to be the one for my childhood hometown (population in the hundreds, mind you)--he always liked to say the name as he drove by (which you'd appreciate if you knew it) and even recalled the number, which I did not, although I'd probably have been able to pick it out of a lineup. There were several other similarly peculiar coincidences, if you might call them that, and I also learned that my next-door neighbor to the South is basically the Don of the neighborhood, you might say.  He's been here for thirty years, even though he can't be very close to 50, and at one time he and his mother and grandmother all lived in different houses, all on our side of the street.  It's funny to meet people who have known the inside of your house longer than you have...At some point he remarked that you'd pretty much have to be a gardener, cook, some kind of artist, eccentric or maybe a tree hugger to live in our neighborhood, and I suppose that's not all that surprising, but it was still nice to find out.  I ended up staying until close to an hour after the scheduled end time, and went home with the gift of a small bag of delicious scones, a sweet favor from the brighter-eyed of the gay couple down the street, along with a new sense of fondness, and gratitude, for my welcoming home.

Speaking of which, I made it up north for a visit last weekend, after not having been there for quite some time.  The gardens--especially the front one, which I'd worked with CM for so long--was arrestingly beautiful, changed but familiar.  The deep rains and soaking sun of this Summer have done wonders, as have my parents' labor and commitment.  We enjoyed some time together on and in the lake, and reveled in the passage of gentle storm which was followed by some of the most captivating skies any of us have seen, in recent memory.  It was good to be there, especially after working until well past dawn the night prior, and when I arrived back home I felt tremendously restored.  I'll have to chalk a little of that up to my recent reacquaintance with that magical herb--just one of so many--Yerba Mate, as well...I don't know exactly what it is about that plant, but it's truly remarkable to me, the way it can simply lift one out from under the heaviest, gnarliest, and toothiest of burdens...Goodness.

This evening I put up a new hammock in the stand that I'd been given as a housewarming gift by my sister and her husband last year, a hand-me-down from an acquaintance who has since relocated to Maui.  It's both pleasantly stripey and damn comfy, and as I was resting in it tonight I couldn't help but wonder, again, at how I came to be so lucky...The sky above my place affords a perfect view of sun and stars, with just enough tall trees around to capture the wind and bring it down to Earth.  Everything I've needed has come to me, in the most amazing ways.  And after the past few months of being run down to practically nothing, I am quite suddenly enjoying a wave of peace and well-being... It will be fleeting, no doubt, but for now there is nothing to enjoy it.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Thursday, May 5, 2011

close call

Woke up, got out of bed, dragged a comb across my head... took a quick shower, called in for a short meeting, decided to check messages before I left for work (yes, I still have land line.)... I hadn't checked them in a couple days, me being too tired to care about it Tuesday evening and it having been too late to think about it when I got home Wednesday night, just before midnight.  Someone had called early this morning, while I was still dreaming, and I figured it was either a wrong number or something important, so thought I should probably find out what was up.  I was scurrying around, finishing up my coffee, packing up the pieces for the day, listening to the friendly robo-voice of the City of Mpls saying something about parking...and all at once, just as the words "towed and ticketed" made their way to my ear, I realized that A) I was parked in the street (as I've been doing for the past couple weeks, just to avoid the tedious garage door routine I've had to undertake recently because the human door is still getting hung up on the rain-swollen concrete and I only just located the clicker a couple days ago (what it was doing in the basement instead of on the kitchen counter where I was sure I'd left it before my trip, I do not know)) and also, and (rather) perhaps more importantly, B) the other sound I'd been hearing was the running engine of a large truck in the street outside my house.  Suddenly, in a moment of perfect understanding, I dashed to and through the front door and there--sure enough--was my car, chained to the flat bed of a tow truck, whose driver was sitting in the cab.  Phone still in hand (and glad I was dressed) I ran out into the street, in front of the truck, around to the open door where the driver was just finishing writing up my ticket.  With a certain degree of panic in my voice and/or demeanor, I told him I'd been away and just got the message--see? phone in hand?--followed by something I don't quite recall but to the effect of "there is no way. I cannot be without my car today" and the phrase "this is going to fuck me so hard", among a couple other things.  Yes, I actually said that.  He did not bat an eye and simply replied that it would cost me five dollars.  Five dollars??  I don't know if I have any cash.  Well, he's got other cars to tow...  Okay, ok, I know I don't have any cash in the house, because I a) I never do and b) I had to borrow twenty bucks the day before to pick up my take out, but okay, ok, I am thinking... I'll be right back.  Wallet, wallet: two dollars... junk drawer: six quarters, five dimes, four more dimes and two nickels, thank you.......dresser: oh, dresser,, seriously, two quarters!  This was, apparently and literally, all the U.S. currency in my house, with the exception of what looks to be about twelve pennies. (I'll admit it didn't really occur to me until somewhat later that he was just looking for enough to pick up a little bit of this or that, so screw him.  Anyway.)  A few minutes later, my car rolled off the ramp, I put my key in the lock, and the man said: "you're free".  And so I was.  So I was.

Monday, May 2, 2011

case WHEN

IF I had not spent eleven hours of my Saturday at work, on top of having put in nine hours of overtime already last week, and IF I had gotten more than five hours' sleep on Saturday night, and IF I had not been busy all day Sunday, taking part in the May Day celebration and spending the afternoon with a good friend, followed by four hours of work on my never-ending bedroom project and rounding out the day with a late phone conversation which kept me up until after two a.m. last night, and IF the batteries in my teensy little alarm clock hadn't burned out, and IF I'd gotten my ass in gear this morning before the timer on the stove went off instead of going back to bed and sleeping for three straight hours, THEN I would not have had the dream I had, during which I was granted a glimpse of the most beautiful thing I have ever seen...

Or, at least the most beautiful thing I have seen since my trip to Hawaii. Life works in such mysterious and magical ways...

Sure, I might rather be spending these precious hours of Spring getting moved into my new room, or playing my piano, or cleaning out the basement, or planning my gardens in anticipation of the Friend's School Plant Sale this weekend, or going for a walk or even a run, or accepting an invitation to go climbing, or having a nice long salt-water soak and a sauna, or thrift-shopping for a new pair of work pants, or doing yoga, or posting pics from May Day, or napping perhaps, or any number of things other than working through case upon nested case upon if upon then upon where upon else in an attempt to make sense and use of twelve years' worth of accumulated data, while simultaneously translating it and working around not only every conceivable exception but also the lack of reason, effort and support offered by certain colleagues who apparently have neither the intention nor the know-how to facilitate this monster project in any sensible or polite way.  Sure, there are other things I could be doing.  But if I do not do this...well, firstly, it won't get done, which probably isn't really my problem but sure seems to be lately.  And secondly...actually, I don't know, exactly... Is this the culmination of my life's work thus far?  God I really hope not.  Am I trying to prove something?  Possibly.  More likely, it's just my extraordinary work ethic, fueled by the boundless energy of my coming-up-on-three-years-from-four-decades-old being.

The Universe has been better than good to me, always and especially lately, and I have much to share here of Spring, of my recent and wonderful trip to Maui, and of projects and thoughts, both little and grand.  I will be getting to all that just as soon as I can, and I can hardly wait... For now, I still have to put in a couple more hours for The Man tonight, but I've got spring rolls, cold lager, and a Spring-loaded, ocean-sized, sun-kissed new outlook on life to keep me going... Mahalo, and aloha.  I'll be back soon.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Under the smiling moon...

Step outside tonight, and listen for a moment.  The earthworms have risen!  Blessed be.

News from up north tells of the first frog, singing solo at the end of a long driveway. I can't wait to go back home for Easter, and hear the whole chorus... Until then, I have to power through one more unrelenting day at work--I knew this week was going to be busy, but that doesn't even begin to describe the past four days--and a weekend of put-off chores, before boarding a plane on Monday and taking off for brighter shores...I'm headed to Hawaii, to spend a week in the company of good friends, some of whom I have not shared a moment with in many years, and some I've yet to meet.  I doubt there's any sense in which I could need this trip more, right now.

I'd hoped to post some thoughts here before winter had passed, if only to share a few images and impressions, but time, as it will, has had its way with me...and so I find that Spring has now sprung.  The ground is nearly bare, there's water in basement and the rhubarb is poking its pointy head up to take a peek at the lilies under the back fence.  No signs of asparagus yet, but already the hyacinths have made themselves known and the maples have recently made their move from red bud to full flower.  I'm looking forward to the energy of the season this year, and to welcoming the change it brings, tumultuous and vivid as it might be.

Step outside tonight, and listen for a moment.  There's a rustling at your feet, and it is life.  Blessed be.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Earth Is Brown

I love the comfort that snow brings, even in these early days of Spring.

I have so much to catch up on, here. Where can I possibly begin?

I miss you, JB. And to all others, I thank you for being here.  I will be coming back, soon.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Soup du semaine

One month ago today my mom left for me a small jar of soup, which became my lunch the following day and which I found myself craving again not too long ago, so I decided to take a shot at recreating it.  I don't know why I didn't just call her and get the recipe, but here is (approximately) what I came up with, based on her concoction and some similar recipes I found online.  It turned out pretty darn tasty.  It's also full of stuff that's good for your guts, your immune system, your circulation, your kidneys and liver, and your general sense of well-being.  It's a warming, stimulating and cleansing soup, good for these waning (and sometimes sluggish) days of winter. It's hearty but still light, slightly sweet with a twinge of acid and a bit of bite... Even if you're not a big fan of cabbage, or tofu, or anything else, you'll probably like this.

Hot and Sour Cabbage Soup

1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tsp canola or peanut oil
2 c onions, diced or sliced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, in tiny matchsticks
1 serrano chile, sliced (seeds and all.  any hot pepper will do and 2-3 of them would be better.)
2 c shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced (cremini or white are an acceptable if less nourishing and yummy substitute. also do save stems for stock, or stir-fry sauce.)
2 med carrots, sliced, or halved and sliced, or diced, or whatever
1/2 med head of green cabbage, sliced to 1/4" and chopped in 1-2" lengths
1 15 oz. can diced or crushed tomatoes
3-4 c chicken or vegetable stock 
2-3 c water, or as desired
1/4 tsp cayenne, or to taste
3 tbsp shoyu
1/4 c rice vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce (optional)
10 oz. super firm tofu, cubed (I like Wildwood sprouted)
freshly ground black pepper, a lot of it (maybe 1/4 tsp?)
2 tbsp black sesame seeds (they're pretty and they're good for you. go to the Asian grocery; it's fun!)
1/4 lime, squeezed (2 tsp?)
sriracha sauce, to taste (or add more chiles/cayenne, above)

Heat the oil in a good-sized soup pot.  Saute the onions until they begin to golden, then toss in the ginger, chile and mushrooms and saute for a minute or two more.  Add the carrots and cabbage and give everything a good stir before adding the tomatoes, stock, cayenne, shoyu, and vinegar (and fish sauce, if used...I think I added some, not sure...).  Add the tofu and water, to the desired consistency, followed by a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.  Stir well, cover and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for another fifteen minutes or so, until the carrots and cabbage are tender.  Throw in a handful or two of black sesame seeds and finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Another Sunday

Apples, cheese, peanut butter, coffee.  Mail and catalogs on the kitchen table.  The snow started coming down about an hour ago and has already neatly covered the dark strip along the edge of my walk, the familiar soils of my garden that were revealed by the warm midwinter sun last week.  

A Robin has more than once visited the crabapple in my front yard during these past two weeks, even in the midst of the last cold snap; odd, to see that red-breasted fellow out so far ahead of the Spring. The temperature rose more than fifty degrees in just one week, melting away much of this winter's accumulation and giving all of us a welcome lift.  High winds blew in with the full moon on Thursday night--oh it was wicked-bright! white and azure and magenta, ringed in rainbows--while smoke-blue clouds chased each other eastward, faster than imagination...The winds remained strong while the moon traveled through Friday, carrying along with them a rush of cold, another drop. Yesterday was breezy, with veils of grey that came and went, opening and closing with clear amber light.  Today comes more, more, more snow. 
It's hard to believe that another moon has come and gone already.  The past two weeks have been full of change, separation, reunion... Time spent with dear friends--many old and some new, all bearing gifts of one kind or another--has set my mind both back and forward, rekindling fires of memory, sending up smoke signals to my future self.  What will I do with the rest of my life, and with whom will I share the time I have?
I took a short walk yesterday, leaving my camera behind, and happened across something new to me.  On the sidewalk were scattered a number of seedpods, oval in shape, dark brown in color, and about twice the size of a fava bean.  I cracked one with my boot and stooped to take a closer look, when I saw one of its much larger sisters lying closeby.  It was about half the size of my palm, leathery-brown and mostly flat with a slightly bulbous middle.  I gave it a shake and it rattled gently.  I pressed to crack it open, and was surprised to find the interior coated with bright green hairs of jelly which had a pleasant, fruity scent.  A rounded, dark seed about the size of a hazelnut was tethered inside.  I brought a couple home:

What is it?  I want to know...

I'm tempted to go out for a ski on the freshly falling snow, but I believe I'd rather wait until the wind stops blowing.  The chores of the day ask little of me, only to move about and take care of things, although with my neck in a state even the smallest of doings can be a pain...Ah, so. To work, then: paint today, change tomorrow.  White falls quietly and the silence begs an answer, to which I can only reply: What are you?  Then I'll turn on the radio.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


I'd like to share a few thoughts today, as my last post seems to me now as though it is miles away, written by a stranger.

JB was a friend to many; I have known maybe no other person who has had such a positive influence in the lives of so many people.  We had been friends for many years, since our college days, and he was a very big part of my life with CM, from the time we all met.  I am without words to express my gratitude for the loving support that JB and his partner gave me during the past year and a half, during what has been the most lonely and difficult period of my life, while they were in the midst of what would be the last year of their lives together and dealing, daily, with cancer, both as survivor and as caretaker, and as partners.  I would not have gotten along without them.  JB in particular was one of a few people who really acknowledged my existence, emotionally and spiritually, and helped to keep me present in this world, when I began to drift out.  His love, his open arms and open mind, his bright eyes and sweet kisses were a joy to me.  I can only imagine the loss his partner is feeling right now, and it is heartbreaking.

Yes, we carry his bright spirit with us, forward into our lives, but his close presence will be very much missed.

I'm going out now, to take the ski run that I missed last Sunday, and to breathe in the prairie for a while, on this warm and grey day.  Perhaps I will find some words written in the snow.  Peace to you all.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Clearing The Path

Yesterday marked the appearance of the New Moon and the beginning of this Lunar New Year, as well as the passage of another Groundhog's Day, which has in Other Times been known as Imbolc, or Saint Brighid's Day, and some time later as Candelmas.  

I'd never thought much of this old holiday until quite recently; it was only this past Sunday afternoon, in fact, when fate intervened to bring it to the forefront of my attention.  I'd intended to ski but found I was without my boots, so I opted for brisk walk, fully expecting to be disappointed by the crowded filth of the city.  Instead I found myself pleasantly greeted by friendly neighbors (in shorts, even!) and the native flora of the prairie I'd hoped to see, which set me to thinking about the warm months ahead (though I'm still dearly in love with the snow, and not done just yet) and quite suddenly I became rather excited about all the many flowers, vines, grasses, shrubs and trees I shall plant soon.  It seemed somehow that Winter had reached a turning point, and in fact, it had.  It is at this time, in early February, that we reach the half-way point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox.  This I had known, but I knew little of its significance, nor had I ever experienced it quite so tangibly before.  The past year, for me, has brought a new acquaintance with each Season, each turning of the moon, and so it is only natural that I should come to know this one as well, I suppose, but I learned a few things I might not have expected in my brief reading about this holiday, just this afternoon.  You might find them interesting, as well.

Also, yesterday, and the day prior, there occurred a very large convergence of crows over the city, just after sunset.  Today I left my place of work sometime earlier, while the sun was still in the sky; the crows had gone, but in the clear blue above there soared a hawk, its white wings illuminated in golden light...

This morning marked the passing of a rare soul, and a dear friend, lover, guru, guide and inspiration to many, many young and old and aspiring human beings.  Our friend JB, who had for the past three years borne the heavy burden of cancer--which he and his loving partner carried for so long with a grace and strength that were truly amazing--left this world today, in peace.  

I was blessed to have shared his presence, last night, and in the days prior, surrounded by family and loved ones.  Although he suffered, his bright spirit was still very much present, and to those of you who were unable to be at his side these past few days, take heart in knowing that he was at home, where he wanted to be.  Some souls pass into their own shadow, but JB would not be scared back into his hole by any such thing; he was a gymnast! a dancer! a laughing, wise and willful imp, ready to be part of whatever was happening next (and make you be part of it, too.)...So into the new life of a coming Spring, he has gone.  And he will be missed.  But it is difficult to mourn the death of a life lived so beautifully, so openly, so courageously, so lovingly... I have shed tears today, but more of joy than pain, to have had the honor of being the friend of such a man, and to know that he will no longer suffer.

This evening I made a few calls, then put on my snowpants and went out to shovel.  There have been two snowfalls since I last cleared the walk, and I knew I must do so tonight so that I might be able to focus my energy on the days ahead.  The snow, though packed down tightly in the places where many feet have tread, broke easily and flew lightly as I thought upon these days, and upon the life of a man I've loved.  I've learned so many things from him, even today, and have so many yet to learn...  

It takes time to be in this world, to come into it and to leave it.  I so wish to build a fire tonight, and circle round.  Where you are, throw another log upon the flames, or set a candle on your windowsill...say a few words out loud, or pray.  Hold each other close, and give your love.  I send you mine.  

JB, we will remember, smiling.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Some days call for blankets

The things that soothe the tactile soul...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

For the Perennially Hungry

I got home toward late tonight, after working until the eleventh hour to try to pick up some slack, with the aim of making soup for dinner.  I came up with this soup du jour, a rather unassuming one-pot meal which seems to have a sort of snowball effect.  (It seems to finally be rounding off now, after about six bowls.) If you find yourself feeling the need for a little mid-winter pick-me-up, this might be just the thing:

Wild rice soup with mushrooms, squash and nettles 

1+ tbsp butter
1 c yellow onion, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1/2 lb crimini mushrooms, sliced, about 4 c
1 small butternut or other winter squash, cubed, about 5 c
1 c wild rice, rinsed well
1 1/2 quarts water, or so
1 tbsp Better Than Bouillon mushroom soup base (or sub veg or chicken bouillon or broth)
1/4 tsp sea salt
black pepper
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/8 tsp ground sage
1 bay leaf
3 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp chevre (blue fuzzy parts removed)
2/3 c or one healthy handful of dried nettles, slightly crushed (if you don't have nettles I wouldn't sub other greens here; dried nettles have a magical way of not exerting a heavy "green" flavor, while still contributing all their leafy mineral-rich goodness.)

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed soup pot, and throw in the onions, followed by the garlic. Saute over med heat for a minute or two and salt generously.  Add the celery, saute for a couple minutes more and then add the mushrooms, a few hearty shakes of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Cook until the mushrooms have just begun to release their juices, then add the thyme and sage, along with the the water, bay leaf and bouillon.  Add the rice, stir well, cover and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and let simmer for 15 min, or until rice is half-cooked (time will vary depending on where your rice came from...'round here the White Earth variety is fine-grained and tender-hulled, so cooks quickly).  Add the squash and cook for another 5-10 min, until tender.  Stir in the sour cream and chevre, along with the nettles, cover and let stand for 5 min before serving. 


Friday, January 21, 2011


Oh, it's really cold today, no way around it.  First deep freeze of the season.  On the way home tonight a local radio show was talking to a fellow in Fresno, where as the host pointed out the temp was ninety--that's 90--degrees warmer than it was here today.  That's like my entire body almost.  Even indoors, with the thermostats high, the chill has been entirely unshakable and I really have to wonder how all the birds and other drifters are getting along out there, and how our hearts keep us warm.  Hope you're all tucked in and snuggled down tonight, wherever you might be.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cold Morning

It should be Sunday.  There should be funnies, and eggs.  I am new, wrapped in warm morning thoughts.  Then I begin to remember, and after a while again to forget.  I miss the things I used to love, and I don't know where they've gone.  I think about running, how I never remember what it feels like until I go.  I suppose it can be the same with singing, or with anything, but I feel as though some part of my soul has been erased.  I missed the recycling again.  Absence of possibility.  Three words might create a positive space but not today.  Today I must go to work, set myself to something I can't truly respect.  Another dime, a dozen.  I'll buy something today, another tiny fixture for this doll's house of mine.  Last snooze.  I roll over, pull myself up and despite the nervy twinges all over I am happy to be in my body, glad for my arms and legs and my bare feet on the floor.  Grapefruit juice.  There is a peachy light on the snow in the backyard, and I walk to the front door and press my nose to the small window, to see the glow of the sun between the houses across the street.  I'll settle for coffee with milk, and a spoonful of something sweet.  Nothing fell on my head this morning.  Time to get dressed.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On Course

I left the house at sunset, after taking longer than I might have to get moving.  With the light fading quickly I drove Northeast, following a tip from a colleague that there was some good skiing to be found on a golf course over that way.  I knew the place, having lived close to that neck of the woods in years past, and having passed it many times, en route to my favorite thrift store during those days.  There's a pleasant parkway that meanders through the course, passing under a railroad bridge...rolling hills, thick stands of trees, a couple ponds, few lights... I figured I'd find a trailhead at any of the parking lots, but after I pulled into the first one, I wasn't so sure.  I hopped out to take a look, but of course there were no signs, just random tracks in the white, barely visible.  Where were the other skiiers?  On to the next lot, a few hundred yards, no, just giant golf fence and dog-walkers... Out and back in.  Next lot, half-way round about, past the sledding hill where a man and child were still making runs in the dimming light, a small wooden sign suggested "ski trail center" or something like that but there was only one car, no lights...really?  Was that on the map?  Where is the map?  Out and back in, on to the main and also empty lot next to the big creepy empty old golf course building with one lit window...nnnnnmmmm, no.  Circling back again, all the way round, looking out at the terrain and wondering if it's big enough, or dark enough, that I might get lost out there... nnnnnmmmmm, whatever.  On a golf course?  How lost can you get?

So I made my way back to the lot near the sledding hill and switched boots. After traipsing around this way and that, cutting tracks in the fresh snow and thinking once or twice about the fact that no one on this planet had any idea where I was, I followed an unrolled "trail" up a hill, through some trees and a short way down the railroad tracks, before coming to a not unpredictable stopping point, where whoever had the dim-witted idea of going that way realized, at the top of a steepish drop through the shrubbery, that it was not passable.  In spite of having to backtrack--I'd so much rather not, if it can be avoided--I was already rather enjoying myself, and determined to find the actual trail (the one that most people follow, anyway), which I did a few minutes later.  Not surprisingly, it was somewhere approximately right next to the little wooden sign that said "ski trail" something or whatever.  Haha.

I headed out past the sledders ("look at that, dad!" she said, which I thought was sorta cute) and went on past both of the other two lots, with all of that now making a lot more sense than it did when I was car-bound... As it turned out, skiing through fresh snow on a darkening golf course in the orange and purple light that seeps in after an overcast sunset, with no one else around (except the odd pedestrian or two, in the distance, and the hazy moon above), was quite pleasant and peaceful, or at least it was up until the point that the fumes from the nearby trainyard began to drift in... Ah, comes with the territory, I guess.  Anyway, it was a pleasant discovery, to find such solitude in the city and to know it can be found.

Today I got a bit earlier start and had a somewhat better idea of where I was going, but managed once again to take the long way round to reach my destination, this time a big old park and course on the North side.  Again I set out at dusk, but tonight the skies were clear and blue, the moon a bright crescent, the skyline and the sunset glowing faintly pink on the horizon... I shared the trail with a handful of others, skiiers with lights and without, dark walkers through the trees, gentle voices...stopping for a sip of water and watching a pair of bikers wind their slow and quiet way through the snowy woods, by headlights and lamps in the deepening twilight, was a slightly magical experience.  (It also looked like some kind of fun...)  From the top of a ridge I looked down over a small lake ringed with houses still decked out in lights, and after giving a moment's consideration to just how much more I love my snowboard than I do my skis, and with deep appreciation for those particular curving climbing trails and many others, I realized that I'm pretty darn glad to live here, alongside a bunch of winter-loving Minnesotans who aren't afraid of the dark.  Winter's still young--and snow abounds! Here's hoping it'll last 'til Spring...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Resolution: Radical Slowness

Take time to eat, taste, drink deeply.  Take time to bend.  Time to lose yourself in a sound, a thought, any moment that grabs you, passes through you.  Time to sleep, time to wake.  Take time to do what moves you, to follow your bliss, to dance a little now and then, to hear the song in your head and to let it out.  Take the time to know your own hands, to teach yourself some new tricks.  Take time for poetry and flowers, to contemplate death.  Time for eskimo kisses, time for snow and other angelic geometry, time to tell each person who loves you something beautiful they've never heard before.  Take time for sorrow, for grieving, to bear witness.  Time to learn, time to trust, time to make peace, time to follow through.  Take time to fold the laundry, time to stir the pot, time to read out loud, time to come bearing gifts.  Take time to watch the sky, to fall in love with a new constellation.  Take the time to see a leaf uncurl, a frog yawn.  Take time to hear the wind whisper and howl, to stand in the rain and in the sun.  Take time for water.  Take time for clouds, and baby teeth, and leaky ceilings, and upside-down cake, and the moon, and fenceposts, and your tongue, and running wildly, and good fats, and holding hands, and puzzles, and the train, and new recipes, and other languages, and long-lost stories, and dreams, and dreaming.  Take time to do your work.  Take time to make it sacred. Take your own damn time, people.  It's all you'll ever have.

Monday, January 3, 2011

following tracks in the snow

Here's a little story which one commenter described as "far out an fart reaching!", but I just thought was kinda nice.

Sunday, January 2, 2011