ancestor of skill

I’m feeling the gap between now and the last time I shared in a post here. It feels very much like the space of feast or famine that has characterized the past three months. Snow, and then no snow. The intensity and richness of the holidays and then the quiet and austere aftermath. And typically a slow time of year for my architecture work, when there is little to do from mid December to mid February, I feel it in every way. I become aware of every penny spent and notice how I condition my time. I tend to worry. It is always an opportunity for creative immersion, but maintaining trust requires a lot of energy! It is energy that needs to be replenished by being consciously fed and nourished and sustained with balance in how I eat and move and stay connected. Even maintaining silence feels like work. I have a favorite saying, that “Everything I do is work.” And I truly believe this, that in consciousness, no one thing in front of me is more important than another. So I practice….

Writing about this now feels eerily familiar. I search the archives with the words feast or famine and sure enough, discover that I have already written about this space, have even shared a more proactive way of considering the character of this kind of passage of time as ‘ebb and flow’. And yet, now, still, I feel the edge of feast or famine more, this time I seem to be stuck in the quality of ‘should’ that makes being here so uncomfortable. So in the spirit of finding the ebb and flow, I pull out my newly acquired ‘Shaman’s Dream Oracle’ cards (created by John Matthews and Wil Klinghan). Each card is a gorgeous image from the ancient Cave Art, accompanied with a clear simple heartfelt message.

I shuffle and put my energy into the cards. Cut the deck, and flip my hand over to see what will be revealed. Ancestor of Skill….

Ancestor of Skill 001

This evocative image and the description offered by the authors resonates, “Ancestor of Skill appears as a hybrid of a deer and a person, expressing how important it is to blur the edges of common perception, and seek skills from unusual, even unlikely sources. Crucially, we must look within ourselves to harness the abilities we already possess but have not yet discovered – these are often the most enriching.”

Ancestor of Skill…lots of places I could go with this, but what comes up immediately is the feeling of my recent trip to Colorado to ski with family, the last four precious days in Aspen with my father, and the moment on the chairlift when I share with him how complete I feel from my time being with the mountain that day. The combination of the bright sun, the beautiful fresh packed snow, and the feeling of moving effortlessly down the mountain is something that brings me back to some ancient body memory, certainly from this childhood and years of family ski trips, but also to something even beyond…


As if in a dream, I simply share with my father one of my ‘past life’ memories of being a young male dragging a dead deer across an expanse of snow into the cave of my community. However, it is not my skill as a provider of food that is being celebrated in this memory, but my skill as an initiator of order, as one who helps us ‘remember’, and I take my place facing my community, while being guided by the wise woman who is sitting to my left…

I am so grateful for being able to have the experience of being with the mountain again in such a familiar way. The entire ten days in Colorado is made possible by the generosity of family. I give back by being able share with all of them my ‘skill’ at making meals and what fun the first four days in Vail with my cousin Carolyn and her partner Jean, joined by our other cousin Bill, to be able to prepare lentil soup and vegetable tuna curry, orange chicken cutlets with squash and kale, with enough leftovers to enjoy a smorgasbord our last night together. Being in the gorgeous kitchen that opens to and faces the living room and fire and easy activity after a day of skiing is a perfect place for me to be. And being with so many members of both sides of my family reminds me of the importance of the order of family and how being who I am in family allows me to be who I am for a larger community…

So now home again…and all I have to do to re-create the feeling of time shared is make a pot of soup. It is an amalgam of favorite vegetable soup (which I typically make for my parents and kids) with favorite lentil soup (which I had just made in Vail). I put on a pot of lentils (about a cup and a half covered with about 4 cups water) to cook on the back burner whicle I prepare vegetables, at least a cup each of chopped onion and leeks and carrots and celery and green beans and potaotes. While the leeks and onions are sauteeing in olive oil in a large skillet with a sprinkle of fennel seed, I chop the next vegetable, add it to the mix, until everything is in the pot. Add some canned diced tomatoes in their juice and water to just cover, and a few favorite vegetable boullion cubes (organic, with sea salt variety), cover and simmer gently until the lentils are done, then add the entire pot including cooking liquid to the simmering vegetables. Final additions include some tomato paste, a small amount of salt, cayenne pepper, a splash of balsamic vinegar. Simmer for at least another half hour or so so everything blends,then add some fresh spinach, mix, turn off the fire and let sit for a few while I toast a piece of (7 grain sprouted) bread to crumble on top…



This soup seems to hold just the energy I need…I can feel the cave around me now, the warmth and support and clarity of who I am in this space in the sharing of the skills I bring to my community…

2 thoughts on “ancestor of skill

  1. It feels to me like a cave of creation. Another wonderful memoir/soup recipe/reflection. Hoping to re-create this (with you initiating order in the kitchen!) at my house soon….


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