unleashed

It’s been a little over a year since Nora and I began our adventures in the woods together. In the grand scheme of things a year is not a long time. And yet in this particular year of selling the family home and leaving the community we had been part of for sixteen years, there has been much change, much to adjust to. I forget sometimes that she has been right alongside, sharing these changes with me. Her process for adjusting is bound to be different and carry energy I can’t possibly understand. And yet I still feel when something shifts, when there is a new pathway in our relationship that veers us in a slightly different direction.

I felt such a shift this past week. It feels connected to summer and a consistency of rhythm we have established over the past three months. Being so in tune to the ritual of ‘getting out’, all I have to do is lift my hiking pants and shirt off the hook and she begins her dance, and before I have even sat down to put my socks on she is running in circles, nudging my walking in the woods boots toward me, literally talking to me in a range of yelps that carry the clear message of “hurry up!”   That she has so clearly identified the boots I would put on from the rest of the shoes there on the mud room floor, was my first tip off this week. She knows what is next. I can trust she knows what to do.

But even so, I still continued to take the leash off the hook and go through the ritual of walking out the front door where there is road, on leash, only to walk just around the corner to the edge of the path leading to the woods, to unleash her. It is all about safety, about controlling any possibility that she might run out into the road and be struck down by a speeding car…

Once in the woods, life with Nora feels exactly right. It’s taken this past year of daily walks in the woods for me to fully accept the wildness that is her essence while negotiating the evolving space that exists between us too. It has taken a year for me to come around to see how she, as a free companion, is my guide in every way.

The shift happened two days ago. The pattern up to this point had been to call and leash her as we approached the path leading out of the woods back to the house. We would emerge, and I would decide to go directly back to the front door on leash or continue on the mowed path that circles the meadow and to the back door, off leash.   Nora was already in the habit of running ahead out into the meadow before I even reached the end of the woods, always returning when I called to obediently be leashed. However, since I was choosing the meadow path more frequently, the short ritual of leash and unleash over the transition was starting to feel silly to me. The next day, I simply walked out of the woods without leashing her, saw she had, of course, smile, chosen the meadow route, and followed.

I am so used to being the one in front, the one leading, the one making the decision and the choice. Not necessary a bad trait, however it can make for challenging negotiations in relationship. I suppose this could be an attribute born out of living alone, but I know this need for control is part of my wiring, a need buried deep in me, something I have always struggled to express in appropriate ways.

That moment of yielding to Nora felt so potent. I stopped and took in the vastness of the meadow,

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felt how much love I have for this place, for the simple beauty of the wild flowers swaying in the wind,

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the brilliance of the field giving form to the single blades of grass there…

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Nora never goes too far ahead. I may not be able to see her, she is always there just around the corner.

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Sometimes, if I take too long dawdling or taking pictures, she stops and turns around until she can see I’m there, following her.

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Later, with the sun now illuminating the meadow from the other direction, I see the blades of grass in reverse, each one carrying the brilliance of the light against the backdrop of a dark field.

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Maybe this is like the shifts that happen in relationship too. Sometimes we are the one in the light, sometimes we are the one that can only be seen against the brightness of that which we are related to.  Either way is beautiful.

The next day, as she was nudging my shoes toward me, I knew it would be the day to emerge outside with her completely unleashed.

color

Sometimes it just feels really good to get close. Really close. Up close and personal. Hard to do with a human being if there isn’t collaboration. Even harder with an animal who instinctively needs space for freedom. This is what I am thinking as I move into the color of the flower in front of me with my lens. There is no recoiling or moving away. I think, this color is calling me, does it want to know me too? Such intimacy to be this close and still feel safe….

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With an overwhelming desire to honor this presence, I move in and out from, and around this color, viewing from many angles, seeing the context it lives in, getting to know its friends too. Getting to know the essence from the inside out. Isn’t this the reverse of what we are taught? Take in all the outward signs first, trust that you know what these signs actually mean?

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But love doesn’t work that way I think. I think love is feeling the full expression of the color first, and then giving yourself room to adjust, to integrate the effect of this force. It could take just a moment or it could take a lifetime. There is no predicting how much time and space is necessary before one can live fully and contentedly in the force of such color.

work

Living alone in the country brings the meaning of work into a very different light from the one I was bathing in as a young adult. Relationships structuring the day are for the most part within a naturally abundant world that, even with a history of human intervention, continues to dominate the landscape. The concrete world of large city and complex combinations of human with built environment no longer court me the same way. Where once I was dazzled and inspired to work and live and love in such a place, it is the complex combinations of stone, water, wood, and plant working to be seen in the light at the brook that now inspire me every day…

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I’ve had a young houseguest for the past ten days. She is a gifted artist and very sensitive. We talk a lot about being in relation to other people and how hard it is to stay open when we feel hurt as keenly as joy, how easy it is to bury ourselves into creative work that absorbs us so much that time suspends. I found myself reminiscing with her the other day, sharing that when I was her age (seventeen) I had spent my summer at a career discovery program for architecture. When I arrived at the campus where I was to study, I didn’t even know who Frank Lloyd Wright was. By the time I left, I had already visited his famous home of ‘Falling Water’ and was completely in love with this work of making architecture.

I have a favorite expression. I say, “Everything I do is work, and I just happen to get paid for some of it.” My youth in the city was filled with the hubris of being a builder of dreams on every level and my focused passion was consumed by a profession I was paid well enough for. Now, my middle age in the country is filled with the consequence and ripple effect of every choice made, understanding that if I am to be sustained moving into my elder years, I need to trust the full range of all my abilities. This is not news I think. I’ve simply discovered that the ‘work’ of stacking wood, mowing the lawn, growing food, cleaning the house or preparing a meal happily holds the same weight as the creative work I so covet, which now includes yoga practice, quilt-making and writing in addition to architectural practice.

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Like my breakfast soup today. There is just a bowlful left in the bottom of the pan from dinner last night. The soup was a thrown together affair, a couple of cups of chicken broth, the leftover half can of diced organic tomatoes, the last half cup of homemade bean soup with garlic and parsley, a small bulb of fennel and two potatoes just picked fresh from the farm, and a large dollop of leftover pesto. I bring this last bit of dinner to a boil, crack a large egg into the pot, and watch it poach in the soup. Delicious! So satisfying. Containing a weeks worth of work and the energy of being connected in the rich complexity of where I am.

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Sustained by these complex relationships, I think survival depends on this balance. As does maintaining the balance in relation to the human community of which I am a part.

Interestingly enough, my young houseguest does not share my enthusiasm for the charm of being in the woods and watching the beauty there. I have already fallen into the assumption that this place I call inspiring would be so for everyone!  Of course this kind of assumption serves no one.  She is figuring out her own balance in her own way. So it was a gift yesterday to slowly stroll the edges of the sacred brook, alone, seeing the brilliance of color on the water in the light, swirling in and around a world of variety, connecting to the passion of the seventeen year old that still lives in me.

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The difference is that now I can so clearly see how this passion is part of a much larger web than what I could understand back then. It’s taken me a long time to really see and live this truth.  I think, maybe the best way to serve is to continue to hold my passion just this way. And I am heartened when I watch the new generation of ‘workers’ coming in, living in a global consciousness that lights the palette of choices for working in a very different way, defining a very different kind of balance in work that might be necessary for their survival too…

special

I struggle with the word special. What makes something or someone more special than another? It is a basic question that underpins just about every creative endeavor and relationship I engage with. Even in the body of my own artwork I feel some things are more special than others and I am feeling like a sleuth lately, watching and waiting for where ‘it’ appears, what ‘it’ triggers and what ‘it’ means.  My experience is that holding onto ‘special’ can be a very quick path to suffering….

Like the photo that I downloaded from my camera yesterday.office window

After cropping and framing it just so, I was mesmerized, it felt so special for some reason, something I could sell as art, something precious, something to covet. Ah, there it was. The aspect of special that can be so confusing was moving in. Where on the one hand I immediately wanted to share the joy of this fascinating photo with the world, I also felt the reluctance to let it go.   And it wasn’t that I just wanted ‘it’ to be mine. There was the value I was attaching to it that I wanted to be mine and that I was feeling entitled to as the artist. What a conundrum!

I consider some other photos from the past few days that have also presented as ‘special’, the colorful imperfections of a hand-made ceramic mug,

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a day lily at the edge of water

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and mist at sunrise…

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They all seem to highlight some one thing against a backdrop. Noticing this is of course quickly followed by the realization that the essence of what is highlighted could not be seen as such without the feeling and beauty of the out of focus but very very present essences of what the light is surrounded by. It’s that simple.

Special is just a moment really, light making a point. Special is making the commitment to see this light and notice where it lives in every moment.

morning glory

I planted two morning glory plants at the base of the trellis at my door. It was easily two months ago and each day since I notice how much further the vines climb and twist and claim their space here. I haven’t really dwelled on when the flowers would actually bloom, when that rich blue violet I so love would appear.

It’s kind of like relationships. Seeds get sowed. Some flourish into a young plant breaking the surface, some never make it and die. The young seedling is transplanted and expectations arise around where or how the plant will grow. It may have to struggle a bit before taking firm root. It can take a long time for the structure of the relationship to take true form. The vines grow and twist around a place that makes them feel safe, where they can breathe. Visible buds form. Sometimes patience is required. Sometimes you have to let go completely of the image of the expectation. And then one morning, you step out the door and are blinded by the blue light in front of you.  The first blossom dominates the entire field of vision, it is all you can see.

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It takes just one spectacular blossom, just one moment, to fill your soul with the joy of this beautiful flower.  It’s possible it will be the only blossom.  There’s no point in expecting that there will be more, or where they might appear.  You just have to go to sleep each night and be open, even surprised and happy, by what is actually there in the morning…

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this land

Leave it to my son Ben to bring this Independence Day into sharp relief.  Visiting for just a day, we packed our agenda with all the things we love to do together, eat wonderful meals, watch movies, drives in the car, and yes, even begin to stack the three cords of wood just delivered. The rhythm and routine of these activities spans many years and I look forward to the structure our brief visits together can take as a result. Most recently, we have added hiking to the list and Ben brought along his hiking boots for just the occasion. This day, we decided to walk in the woods and to the brook on our property…

Such loaded meaning in those two words… ‘our property’…

Strolling between the trees along the sound of the rushing water, Ben was in true form expressing his pleasure at being there.

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He marveled at Nora racing around in her independence, off leash and free, disappearing, and then appearing from behind, charging past us at full speed. We shared the awe of her beauty when she would stand still for just a moment, Ben urging me to capture this beauty with the camera.

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He loved following along the path that has become so familiar now, listening to my explanation of things, the magic of the light on the water and beauty growing there too.

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I don’t know what possessed me to add with emphasis at one point, “and this is all our land!” A presumptuous statement all by itself of course. I was still walking, but Ben had stopped when hearing this and literally broke into song, belting out his own improvisational version of the 1940’s song made famous by Woodie Guthrie, “This is Our Land, this is Your land, from Worth-ing-ton, to the trees and water…this land was made for you and Me!” Oh, never a dull heartfelt moment with this gorgeous young man!

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If I had fallen into any aspect of losing perspective, or into complacency born of entitlement, or forgotten what gratitude felt like, well, this moment brought me right back to just how rich we are, and how lucky I am to be both inhabitant and steward of this beautiful land, and how important it feels to be sharing it with others in any way I can. Happy Independence Day indeed.

On the way back up the path, Ben says he wants to come back tomorrow and do this hike again!  Smile.  We come to the fork, two ways to complete a loop to the starting point.  I ask him if he’d like to go ‘this way’ today to see the heart of what we are.  This fork is a direct path to the giant piece of rose quartz that occupies the center of this property.  Happening upon this alignment recently added fresh meaning to the magic I already know lives here.

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Moving closer to this venerable presence, as if to accentuate the point, the heart shows itself literally as heart inscribed into it’s surface.

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Man-made?  I don’t think so.  Either way, it is a curiosity and an experience that I eagerly led Ben down to see.  He bent down and put his hand on the heart.  Pure connection…

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We emerged from the woods and walked the path circling the outer edge of the meadow.  We noted the profusion of wild raspberries almost ready for harvest, picking handfuls to eat along the way. We watched Nora leaping through the high grasses of the summer meadow

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and waited for the moment when we could capture her wild beauty on film once again.

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Circling around the back edges of the apple trees, I realized that I hadn’t been this up close and personal with them since their pruning. What joy to note the exuberant growth of so much fruit hanging from the life giving branches.  Another harvest to look forward to…

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It was a short sweet visit with Ben. However, the melody of his song is still ringing though my blood…

scapes

It’s that time of year, the one and only time of year where garlic scapes are fresh and abundant. As a garlic lover, I can’t get enough of these green curly gems.

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My farm share the past two weeks has included a large bagful and additionally, this week, an entire crateful for preserving in some way.

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The challenge is on…

By definition, a scape “typically takes the form of a long, leafless flowering stem rising directly from a bulb, rhizome, or similar subterranean or underwater structure.”  (Wikipedia)

Reading this, the image of water encountered on a hike last week came to mind. Continuing to explore the surrounding countryside, I had found another state wildlife preserve area path not far from the house. It seemed an endless path traversing hills and valleys, vanilla landscape to the rich chocolate I have been experiencing elsewhere. Lots of bare branches, lack of light and green, and abandonment. After what felt like miles of one foot in front of the other, I came to a clearing at the top of a rise. The water in the pond found there was still like glass, and distinctively, tops of things rising up from the feeling of something deep and subterranean below…

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In resonance, I could feel my emotion stirring down deep, wanting to send up a shoot too….

It’s been a quiet week since. Contemplative. All urges to venture out have been thwarted by the tug of this emotion still tethered to something down deep, drawing my attention and energy to the heart of matter, giving it space to grow in order to be seen, and hopefully aired out!  But it’s not easy, watching this emotion grow, wanting to identify it before it is ready to be seen.

In the meantime, I have a crate of scapes to deal with. Smile. Google leads me to a plethora of articles for pickling, methods of lacto-fermenting, and my favorite, a wonderful blog offering seven great uses for scapes including a pesto recipe,

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2010/06/the-crisper-whisperer-what-to-do-with-garlic-scapes-recipe.html

These scapes have been cut up like little green beans and sautéed into just about every meal I have made in the past week. A small 3 oz. portion of leftover beef stew is embellished with an equal amount of scapes, a few mushrooms, and some sweet peppers…

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Homemade chicken broth with chunks of chicken, fresh basil leaves, and scapes…

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A side dish is made with quinoa, potatoes, fresh scapes, and parsley**

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The Harsch fermenting pot is filled with rough cut scapes and a brine of 1 teaspoon sea salt to 8 cups filtered water. It should be about a week of fermenting before they are packed into jars for preserving in the refrigerator. Batches of pesto are made for the freezer and the last bagful of scapes is waiting to be pickled and also preserved in the fridge.

I’m not looking to preserve or memorialize the feelings that need to come up to the surface.  It’s just that they too need to be honored and recognized in some way. I think, maybe then my energy will be free to nourish the deep place in me that just wants to be me….

I consider the choices that characterize this quinoa dish for instance.  I am making it to take to party to honor the arrival of a new soul, baby to a young woman I refer to as a ‘daughter-of-the-heart’. I’ve known this woman and her family half her life. She and my daughter Molly have grown up together. She and her husband are committed and loving supports for my son Ben. It had been a while since I made something with quinoa. Of course it makes me think of Molly, how far away she and her life in Peru are right now, how much I miss her. Adding potatoes clarifies the energy informing this process of making something to honor family near and far, trying to feel where ‘daughter’ resides in my new life in a new home that predominantly carries only the imprint of me and my lovely dog Nora. Sharing this quinoa dish with the friends and family who are every day presences in the life of my daughter-of-the-heart simply provides a sharp contrast to the solo life I lead independently from so many loved ones.

I see it now.  The scape rising from deeply felt conviction and love here is a reminder of choices made.  And a bit of mourning too for what has been let go of in the process…

 

**Quinoa Salad with Potatoes, Parsley, & Garlic Scapes

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked in 2 cups water w/ half vegetable boullion cube

1 cup chopped fresh parsley

1 cup finely chopped fresh garlic scapes (about 8)

1/3 cup dried currants

3 medium (red) potatoes

1 teaspoon each ground cumin and fennel seed

salt & pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

 

In serving bowl, mix cooked (cooled) quinoa, currants, parsley, and scapes.

Prepare potatoes by cutting into thirds and boiling with skins on until just soft. Do not overcook, just until skins begin to visibly peel away. Soak in cold water until cool enough to handle but still slightly warm. Peel away skins. Cut each piece into rough 1/2″ chunks and spread on cutting board. Sprinkle with cumin, fennel, salt and pepper and let sit until potatoes are completely cool.

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Add to rest of mixture.

Toss with olive oil and lemon.

Cover and refrigerate for at least a few hours before serving.

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