sunrise…sunset

I am sitting watching another spectacular sunrise.  Looking out over Canandaigua Lake through the last of the dark, the feeling is always the same.  A certain kind of peace.   Being home, not just with my family, but with that place in me that finds joy in anticipating something new and unexpected within the quiet knowing that the sun always rises.  I reach for my camera and attempt to capture it….

And then again the following morning….

And then finally, Thanksgiving morning, I realize I would have to leave the room to go fetch my camera and I would miss precious moments of the spectacle of exploding color and fire in the sky.  So I stay.  Even feeling the discomfort of staying because the urge to ‘bottle’ this moment is so strong.  Sigh.

As I reflect on this now, I think about the other side of the day, when darkness comes early and the feeling of sunset and the ‘end of the day’ gets captured in the warmth of what I prepare for supper.  It is a solo affair these days.  And even so, I notice with interest where I ‘go’ to create this warmth, always finding joy in the ritual of combining olive oil and garlic and tomatoes with fresh vegetables and some sort of pasta or grain.  Not unlike each sunrise, this ‘sunset’ for me captures the uniqueness of the moment within a knowing that the contents of the pan will always satisfy!  Smile. The familiar process of chopping a large clove of fresh garlic and adding it to several tablespoons of olive oil never fails to start this engine!  One night I add to this a handful of chopped mushrooms, cook until the liquid releases from the mushrooms, then add a chopped potato and a cupful of fresh cut green beans, a little water and cover the pan to steam a few minutes.  Prepare a small amount of brown rice penne al dente.  There is about 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes in the fridge which I add to the pan of vegetables with more water and tomato paste to make a thickening sauce.  Add the pasta and salt & pepper and mix thoroughly in a gentle simmer until the feeling of the pasta merging with the sauce is complete.  Cover and let sit while cconsidering which plate it will fill….

Another night it is a whole medium chopped zucchini, small chopped potato and orecchiette pasta, in the same mushroom, garlic, tomato sauce, made the same way….another big yum!

There is something about sensuousness of this pot tonight that compels me to get even closer, and I realize how like a sunset this is, the dark now compelling me to go within to find my light and my pleasure vs. the sunrise which compels me to go ‘out’ into the light of day….

Another night it is chopped kale and potato and about 1/4 cup leftover cannelli beans with more of the orecchiette pasta, in the same mushroom, garlic, tomato sauce, made the same way….another big yum!  It is a week of such ‘sunsets’, and I finally stop photographing them, feeling the same discomfort in letting it just be what it is without capturing it in some way, AND the same peace in knowing I can still find and enjoy this place right now.

The last morning of our family Thanksgiving visit is yet another spectacular sunrise, signaling yet another day of cherished time spent together.  The camera is sitting right next to me…..smile….

the essentials of stew

It’s the beginning of thanksgiving week and I am anticipating using up the contents of my current kitchen larder and emptying the refrigerator for my time away.  I still need to go to the store to get things like dog food and coffee and accompanied with a  ‘knowing’ that I am going to make a stew of some sort, also buy a frozen package of thick Mahi Mahi fish fillets, wild caught from Peru…..

I have had a whole day to let the idea simmer while the fish thaws in the refrigerator.  The light is now fading at the end of this beautiful fall day and I pull the cast iron pot off the wall and onto the stove, cover the bottom with olive oil.  Essential ingredient #1.  Olive oil is a kind of liquid gold that provides a reflective surface for each and every ingredient going into the pot.   It is like the connective tissue in the body, allowing everything to move together easily and with a mirror back to what is on either side.  I put a chopped onion and two chopped leeks into the warm liquid oil.  Essential ingredient #2.  Leek and onion remind me of how my relationship to life is like an infinite series of layers; the minute one is peeled away, there is a new one in its place to consider.  They remind me that the ‘whole’ is simply the process of considering all the layers as inextricably linked to each other and necessary to the integrity of the whole.  There is no gem or golden prize in the center …just layer after layer of rich substance…into which I now add about 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seed.  Essential ingredient #3.  Spice.  I am particularly partial to fennel and tend to use it a lot, but most any spice here will do.  The fragrance that leaps from the pot at this stage is immediate, truly gratifying, taking me and my imagination to another pleasurable place, if only for a moment….

Next to go in the pot are the carrots.  Three big fat locally grown carrots that are so fresh that there is no visible skin, just the shiny orange flesh rinsed and ready to be cut into diagonally sliced chunks and added to the now fragrant onions and leeks.  Essential ingredient #4.  Carrots are such a core element of color in the otherwise bland and pale palate of root vegetables.  Orange and vibrant flash of passion.  The sun rising and setting.  Pick your metaphor.  Carrots are simply essential.  And while they are becoming familiar with the already softening contents of the pot, I wash and prepare three medium potatoes.  Essential ingredient #5.  The stuff of everyday life.  Always plentiful and always available.  Can be grown most anywhere.  Potatoes.  Need I say more?   They are peeled to remove the greenish flesh under the skin and surface blemishes, leaving the creamy white surface of the potato, diced into large chunks and added to the pot.  They get stirred and coated with the now mingling juices of oil and onion and leek and carrot….

Now it is time to consider what the composition of ingredient #6 will be:  The sauce (or to some…the gravy)!   It is the perfect mixture that will become partner and support for all the ingredients.  Some white wine.  A little water.  A generous squeeze of tomato paste, Some fresh lemon juice.  A light red sauce that reminds me that this stew is of the earth first, a thick flowing and yet completely stable medium for support.  Adding enough of each item to taste to make a thickened tasty mixture that covers all the vegetables and leaves enough room for the fish too, then bringing it all to a bubbly simmer while preparing the next ingredient…

I rinse, chop, and add an entire bunch of rainbow chard.  Ingredient #7.  This is about adding something green (and in this case a little red and yellow too…)  Something that carries the energy of healing and love, of new life and growth.   The greens immediately give up their moisture to the rich community in the pot and integrate easily…

I add a little more sauce ingredients and this time, a couple of tablespoons of butter too. plus extra tomato paste to keep the consistency.  Now I prepare the fish.  Ingredient #8.  Typically the ‘meat’ of the stew.  The Mahi Mahi is a firm fleshed fish and lends itself to the stew beautifully.  It is slightly pink when raw and a clear reminder that it is the flesh of a once living creature.  I honor this creature now as an equal participant in this meal, with gratitude for providing balance to the mix, and so it is cut into large chunks about same size as the rest and piled into the pot…

Then stirred.  Equanimity in the pot.  Protein and carbohydrate and fat all claiming equal space….

And then finally add the last ingredient, large crystals of sea salt.  Ingredient #9.  The salt has a way of solidifying the flavor of the whole, bringing everything together in a swirl of readiness.   Adding salt and stirring until the fish is just barely cooked through, just a few minutes, then turn off the fire, cover, and let it all sit and rest for a moment.

Last, but not least, ingredient #10.  Appetite.  Whether a cold day or a hot day, eating stew requires an appetite for nourishment, for heat, for balance, and for appreciation of community in the most primal way.  I can’t wait to get this stew ladled out into my bowl.  It’s beautiful.  It’s delicious…..

ten of cups

I am at the moment of my morning practice following meditation where I shuffle and pull three tarot cards from my Motherpeace deck.  One is a major arcana card (fate), one is a people card (personality), and one is a minor arcana card (today’s manifestation).  I love the anticipation in shuffling the three piles and then allowing my hand to be guided to each card.  The combinations are finite of course, but I can’t ever remember drawing the same combination twice.  I do however always pay extra attention when the same card shows up two days in a row in any one pile.  It feels like an exclamation point to me, a clear message that the energy of this card is truth for me in a way I may not have acknowledged or celebrated fully. It happens with the ten of cups this morning (cups in this deck are the hearts in a traditional deck), the same card I pulled yesterday…

I feel a flutter of excitement.  This is one of my favorite cards.  As a ‘ten’, it carries the energy of transition to something new, a transforming event.  The ten of cups is all about community, working in community for a common purpose, being able to experience and celebrate the fruits of that effort, and then together honoring the ‘source’ that provides nourishment for this effort.  The story of this particular Motherpeace card is of a community praying together for the rains that will bless their crops. It evokes in me the feeling of harvest, the feeling of the farmer’s market, and ultimately the feeling of gratitude for having access to and being able to support the local farms in this area where I live.   I am now thinking about my lunch yesterday.  A cup of celery root soup, quinoa tabouleh, and slices of perfectly ripe avocado….

The soup is from a recipe that I find alongside a basket of celery root (or celeriac) at Sunset Farm’s market stand, in turn downloaded from Oprah.com, of a recipe from The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen.  I also walked away with two large bunches of fresh parsley, with a feeling of ‘this is the last of the season’, and was also surprised to find more of the sweet little orange ‘yummies’ peppers at Atlas Farm alongside the fresh firm onions that are now coming in abundance.  It takes four days before this meal comes to fruition.  The ‘Celery Root Soup with Granny Smith Apples’ is made by sauteing 2 medium celery roots, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces, 2-3 stalks chopped celery, 1 large onion chopped and some sea salt in 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat.  When soft but not brown, about 8-10 minutes, add 2 quarts vegetable broth (I used water with about 3 tablespoons Braggs liquid aminos since I didn’t have any broth on hand) and a bay leaf, bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add 1 cup of thick cashew cream (made by blending in a blender cashews that have been soaked for at least 4 hours with water to make a thick paste) and simmer for 10 more minutes.  Run the whole mix in batches through the blender (careful with the hot liquid exploding out the top of the blender!  best to cover the lid with a towel to avoid a mess), add fresh ground black pepper and serve with finely chopped granny smith apples spooned in the center of each serving.  Delicious!!!

The tabouleh is simply and equal mix of cooked quinoa and chopped fresh parsley.  For this batch I add some of the orange peppers finely chopped and about 1/4 cup of the leftover canned cannelli beans in the fridge, also chopped, and a tablespoon or two of fresh chopped red onion.  The dressing is simply olive oil, fresh squeezed lemon juice and sea salt to taste, added with the idea that it should be enough to just lightly coat all the ingredients.

The sliced fresh avocado speaks for itself.  I simply sprinkle with more fresh lemon juice and a tad of sea salt.

All to say, I am acutely aware of the balance in this meal between what I have ‘harvested’ from my own community and what I have ‘harvested’ from the global market.  I actually don’t know where the quinoa is from as I bought it in bulk, the avocados are from Mexico, the olive oil from Italy, the lemons from Florida, the beans from a can of 365 brand Whole Foods organic beans prepared and packed in the US, and the celery and cashews are purchased at Trader Joes but I’m not sure where they actually come from.  There is a certain kind of gratitude that comes with this awareness.  Having access to products prepared outside my community offers me connection to all the persons involved in the process of this preparation.  Having access to products grown in my own community connects me not only to the people involved in this endeavor, but also to the very land I am part of on a day to day basis.   Having a balance between the two feels important.  And the ten of cups reminds me that it is all good, that celebrating how we are all connected can come in many forms and feel good in many ways…..