making poached eggs

The morning after a long delayed flight, I was still in transition to home. Grateful for my dear friends in New York and being able to sit at their kitchen table and relax before driving the last stretch to Massachussetts. I was watching Sam, son of my heart, making poached eggs. I smelled the vinegar, didn’t actually see him putting it into the pot of boiling water. I wasn’t really paying attention to the deliberate motions of his task, cracking each egg into a small bowl before sliding it all gently into the pot, waiting for the first one to firm up before adding the other. The plate he set on the table held the two finished eggs and a small mound of greens. He ceremoniously drizzled olive oil over both, followed by a sprinkle of course sea salt and a grind of fresh pepper.

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Complimenting him on the beauty of his presentation, he replied, “you know it’s all about the aesthetics”. And we smiled together. The camaraderie of two artists who have a mutual love of food. I asked about the leftover space on the plate, what wanted to be there. He had a ready answer, smoked salmon, and after going to retrieve some, patiently answered all my questions about this way of making poached eggs I never knew about.

I marvel at the twenty five year old man who I held in my arms when he was just two hours old, exactly twenty five years ago. Happy to be here to share his birthday, happy to be able to make a connection, however brief, in the space of transition I was in. I felt so at home here and yet the empty place on my plate, my own home, needed to be filled too. Feeling the challenge of settling where I was after the trajectory to home was set in motion.

Picking up Nora, unpacking, doing laundry, retrieving mail and few groceries were the first signs of settling back in. But it wasn’t until the next morning when Nora and I got out for our ritual walk in the woods that I felt I was in the final leg of this transition. Walking down toward the brook I realized that only NOW, I was really home. Now I was really noticing what had changed in relation to the two weeks I occupied in a very different way. The path was littered with the aftermath of a great wind, fresh strewn branches and twigs crunching underfoot. Whole sections of the brook were now frozen, and where the water was still rushing with force, the ice sculptures had grown in size and beauty. I was drawn to one spot in particular, to a gap between two edges of ice that seemed to be reaching towards each other.

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The thought arrived.

Transition isn’t a linear one way trajectory, but in fact is the space between two paths moving toward each other. Transition, like everything else in life, is always in relation. Like Sam with his gorgeous plate of eggs, moving from hunger to being satiated is just another form of transition. And the gap on the plate just another way for desire to remind us that there will always be a next moment.

Of course I couldn’t wait to try making poached eggs. Sam told me adding vinegar had something to do with the character of the boiling water. That sliding the egg in slowly from a bowl prevented the undesired spread or piece of shell getting in. Google helped clarify a few things. The vinegar helps catalyze the proteins in the egg white and keep it from spreading in the water, resulting in the nice tight formation of poached. What a thrill making these for the first time. I was able to actually watch for the level of yolk firmness I wanted, watch how each egg maintained their own form without mingling and become enmeshed, while still dancing in the pot together. Lifting them out of the water with a slotted spoon, they found their place together on a plate with slivers of fresh daikon radish, a handful of garbanzo beans, and a few pieces of pickled beet. With a little olive oil drizzled on top, with added salt and pepper, the meal was ready. Cutting into the first egg revealed yolk still soft and yet firm at the same time. Perfection for me.

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It’s good to be home. Sweet to feel how significantly it reached out to me as I reached out to it at the same time….

treasure hunt

The first few days of spending time in the lovely waters of Salt Pond Bay here in St. John, I go through the motion of packing a large tarp like throw to lay in the sand along with the requisite water bottle, sunscreen, hat and book. By the end of my time here however, I arrive at the beach with an almost empty backpack carrying only the water bottle. Knowing by now that I won’t spend but a minute on the aqua blue cloth on the sand that would remain otherwise empty during the hours I remain one with the water.

I dive into the thick salty clear sparkling blue green within moments of arriving. Satiny lava like water in the way it gently envelops and parts for my gliding body as it moves through. There is a spot in the bay that my spirit gravitates to, treading water indefinitely, taking in the incredible energy of this place.

Then I move towards shore and begin my treasure hunt.

The way the water laps gently onto the sand, collecting just the perfect amount of small rocks and shell bits is so enticing.

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Now thoroughly sea acclimated, I float in the shallow water toward the shore, propelling myself forward with crab like hands with body simultaneously undulating with the soft rolling waves, sun warm on my back. I could stay like this for hours. Watching for flashes of color, an enticing shape, anything that captures my attention and wants to be scooped up in hand and examined and loved. To be admired in that moment for its singular beauty. The treasure then gets enveloped in the safety of my fist until so full, burgeoning, no room for even the smallest bit, I reluctantly leave the water for just as long as it takes to deposit them into the safety of the net pocket on the side of my backpack.

I found a piece the other day that thrilled me more than anything I had found so far. Just the top portion of a shell, the kind the crabs like to inhabit here, except in had been in the ocean a long long time uninhibited and it’s edges were smooth and worn like sea glass, the muted colors on top swirling with flashes of the intense color that had once been there. Turning it over revealed the characteristic spiral, the primal form of life. It felt ancient. So beautiful. I couldn’t stop looking at it, feeling reverence for this treasure. Like the question our meditation teacher shared with us this morning, the question that begs to be asked when caught in such a moment, “is attention the same as love?”

Into the net pocket it went with the others. It was the last I saw of it.

Emptying the contents of the day’s adventure in the dark that night revealed that it was gone. Frantically, I searched every crevice of the pack. Went to sleep with the hope that I would find it in the light the next morning. Obsessed about the loss of it all day when it was clear it was really gone. Finally began to reckon with why I seemed to be so attached to this particular piece. Why it was so important.

Like art can do, this simple time worn shell had evoked something archetypal in me. It held the kind of beauty that wanted to be possessed. Except it was just a moment that I was able to share this beauty. It would never be mine. It could never be mine. Nothing is every just mine.

I have every intention at this point of returning home with the rest of my treasure. It gives me such pleasure. The possible combinations of things that might become another kind of beauty to behold,

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making juxtapositions that delight. No one piece in this collection is more important that any of the others.

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They belong to each other now, a community. I am just the witness.  This is the best part of finding treasure.

Sitting out on the deck in the light of a full moon

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in the dark of this otherwise stormy morning, the wind whips around me in a frenzy. I wonder at the stillness of stars in the clear sky above, unchanging beauty that belongs to the whole universe. It is the day before returning home. Some flights have already been cancelled for those returning to places where the blizzard is reported to be the worst. Sitting in this intense wind is like getting caught in the tail of whatever is happening in that other part of the world that feels so far away right now.

What will be the treasure awaiting me there?

bitten

It happened again this year. After just a few days of being here, my legs have become bitten with lots of little small itchy insect bites, sand flea/noseum variety with an occasional mosquito size bump to make the landscape a little more interesting. This is all concentrated below the knee for the most part, with some evidence also appearing in odd places like my thumbs. Just like last year,same thing, so distinctive that even my fellow retreaters remember this concentration of assault to my calves. It has become a great mystery. The only time this has happened like this, so dramatically, has been while here in this place on retreat.

Of course I forgot last years realization, after days of copious and dedicated removal of all grains of sand from floor and bed, when still getting bitten, that it must have been the delicious coconut oil and creme I like to feed my skin with. Reminded of this after the first display of bites this year, I buried these beloved products in the dark recesses of my suitcase. Confident that the assaults would cease.

But no, sitting in meditation just before dawn the next day on the small porch that overlooks views of morning paradise, even in the strong balmy breeze, my biting friends made their presence known. I felt what can only be described as the shock of a sneak attack, tingling and itching around both ankles, calves and thumbs. Was I hallucinating? Had I entered in to a state of consciousness that was letting me experience past present and future simultaneously? Yet on inspection, sure as the sun rising before me, I saw the new raised bumps intermingled with the fading ones.

So began a day of introspection about why this might be happening. Aiming to shine a light on where, hidden somewhere deep in me, I was so prone to being bitten. There are all the obvious choices, the list topped by my sweet smelling skin, perhaps loaded with sand flea loving pheromones. But why just the ankles and calves? Was this a particularly vulnerable place for me? Did it have something to do with the fact that this was one place on my body I was seeing most clearly during yoga practice, with feet propped up on the deck rail,

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or while legs were outstretched on the beach. The sight of these red itchy dots sent me back to the couch I occupied while I had chicken pox as a young child. Five years old, watching repeated episodes of Superman on TV while enjoying the biggest tootsie roll ever, the one my mother would give me as a reward for not scratching to relieve the relentless itching. I remember on of those Superman episodes like it was yesterday. The one with the little child sitting on her bed and seeing a glowing head slowly rising into view at her window. We would find out soon enough that this was a benevolent creature who lived in the dark bowels of the earth, emerging through city sewer covers with its luminescent body only to experience what was ‘there’, but seeing that image of that glowing head haunted me for weeks after. Now of course it is a great metaphor for me, the thing we are the most afraid of is actually the light we need to see what we want to see.

Is it a coincidence that the psoriasis, the ever present daily itchy reminder of something inside that just cannot be relieved with surface scratching, would appear on my little ten year old head?

We are taught never to shoot directly into the sun if we want to actually see the full spectrum of color and detail of the subject/object being photographed. But somehow this just hasn’t been an issue of late. I’ve noticed a recent fascination with things I see while looking right into the sun. How the sun will illuminate a space in between like a huge beacon to the source of something we truly want to experience and accept.

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I think it is useful to look for this light when bitten with love and the burning desire to keep inquiring about, and experiencing, its source.

I’m trying to get to a place of gratitude for my small silent biting friends. Smile. They sure have reminded me that the suffering is truly only on the surface….

meditation pool

Day one and counting leading to a much anticipated meditation and yoga retreat. This is my third year doing satsang with this group, sharing practice with like minded community, and immersing my heart into these warm salty healing waters of St. John. Instead of jumping right into the retreat after the long trip it takes to arrive, I decided to come a few days early this year, try something new all by myself here on this Island I adore. Staying at the Cinnamon Bay campground felt like a natural choice. I was thinking ‘similar to Concordia’ but sharing the gorgeous beaches characteristic of the north west side of the island. Smile. Not really prepared for the fact that I would be truly camping out, not at all like the Eco tents provided with electricity and bathrooms I am used to.  When it gets dark, there is simply no light. Just the propane fueled lamp provided next to the picnic table outside the simple platform tent, where food can be prepared on the Coleman stove provided. Making new friends, sharing meals with neighbors across the path. Always outside until it is time for sleep or perhaps a little reading by flashlight.

I am not an experienced camper. But I love it. Love the paring down of choices into essential. Letting the flow of life in this kind of setting, slowly but surely re-direct back to the beauty and fun of just being outdoors. Yesterday was the adventure of foraging for food, making the mile long hike up, and I mean up,the Cinnamon Bay trail, catching views

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and eventually a public bus into Cruz Bay in search of a grocery store. Returning many hours later with a full backpack after leisurely time spent sipping Red Stripe beer at a local outside bar.

Surf is up, gentle today, sun caught in waves as it begins to rise more fully.

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On this side of the island, the sun comes up behind the beach. It is early. I sit here now in the shade, virtually alone on this magnificent stretch, staring out at fifty shades of blue. A meditation pool.

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As if to defy the motivation to come here early to just sit, I’m stripped down to bathing suit and in the water that calls quite insistently. In this giant pool all by myself with wind, warm morning sun, and the caress of this ocean, oh my. Water so clear that it appears to hold light as well as warmth. Sand so soft, the finest white carpet stretching as far as the eye can see. And my body begins to move. Not by any conscious thought. Stretching limbs to meet the limits of sensation, swimming some crawl, breaststroke, flip over to backstroke, back to treading water, waiting for the next impulse. I eventually find myself on my back, arms moving like angel wings with bent elbows up toward my ears, legs simultaneously moving like a frog, hold, release and ah. Over and over until life is reduced to just pure sensation. It’s not until I flip over and look again at the shore that I realize my mind couldn’t have held a thought here if I had wanted it to.

Now, later, the pool begins to fill with human life, slow parade both at the water’s edge and out at the horizon in wind filled sails. A small child is squealing with joy, then engulfed by a wave, begins to cry, is quickly scooped up by an adoring father who in seconds has her laughing again. Peace and happiness even in tears. Meditation pool.

It is where I intend to spend as much of today as I can, right here in this place, until it begins to get dark again.

in good time

I’ve had quilter’s block the past few months. Can’t seem to finish the three pieces that need their final quilting. Do I hand quilt or machine quilt? Do I set a deadline, impose my will when I am not ready? Or just rest with them in their unfinished state while I knit knit knit. I’m really enjoying the knitting. The rhythmic ease of it. I used to feel this way about hand quilting. I’m sure I still do, if I could only re-engage with it again. One of the three pieces has an ample amount of hand quilting already, which I really liked.

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But in a fit of feeling like I needed to advance its progress, I added a few days worth of new lines. It wasn’t right. The energy the stitches created with the design was all wrong. So it’s been sitting on my dining room table while weeks have gone by as I just let it be. Then in a moment, in the middle of just another row of knitting, I saw what I needed to do. It would require ripping out much of what I had done already. It would take time to complete. But it would be what this quilt wanted. What a relief.

Not coincidentally that same morning I read the phrase, “in God’s good time”. Well, in some good time anyway. The phrase resonated. Everything happens ‘in good time’. Trusting this will always be trusting that it is beyond my control. I began to watch where else I had been holding my breath, waiting for I don’t know what, to get to a place I thought I wanted to be.

I had been avoiding the woods for the past week as the snow now frozen into a hard crust, made for treacherous walks. Even walking to the woodpile was a hazard and It finally occurred to me to get some crampons. I don’t know why it took me so long. I could have driven to a sporting goods store, could have satisfied this need immediately, considered even last year the need for such an indispensable commodity in my new environment. But for some reason I was to come to this realization in good time. They would arrive in a few days. I ordered the heavy duty trail crampons ‘tested in the Himalayas’ from LLBean, the ones with chains and deep metal spikes. They arrive in just a few days. It was with immense satisfaction that I strapped them on and headed into the woods with Nora, sun bouncing off the hardened crust.

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It was like walking on water! My feet clung to the ice with ease. What a deep appreciation I had for simply man-made in that moment.

The brook had transformed once again in our absence. Beautiful formations of ice crusted at the edges of things, cold clear water still flowing freely.

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Would it have had the same impact, would the awe of these beautiful creations exist if I had been watching the progress each day?

It’s like putting on these crampons, being able to move so freely in a place that I thought I couldn’t, was the opening for understanding just how significantly life happens in good time.

I had even been stalled in the kitchen the past week. A package of organic ground turkey in my refrigerator. It had been years since I did anything with ground turkey. All I could think of was to make simple pan seared turkey burgers. Which I did for a few days. And then the knowing came. It wasn’t just the inspiration to make a stew. It wasn’t like I usually do. Start out making something and see where it goes. No, like with the quilting, it was a very precise vision, a specific combination of things that was very clear, turkey braised with lots of chopped onions, garlic and mushrooms, big chunks of carrots, a jar of canned tomatoes. And with relief, there was still room for spontaneously inspired here too. Ground fennel and dried thyme were added without question or deliberation in process. And then the grand moment. Adding heaping tablespoons of apple onion chutney made earlier in the fall. A squeeze of tomato paste with the salt and pepper. Sweet and sour turkey stew**. I can’t remember something tasting this good in a while, eating it steaming hot just moments after the carrots went from crisp to just cooked. And of course, it was delicious all over again in a more sophisticated way, heated up the next day.

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Not to forget the new bird feeder.  In good time the variety of birds have been appearing.  I walked out onto the porch the other morning to see a significant flash of blue as the jay took off from the feeder, upsetting the bright red cardinal waiting patiently for its turn on the nearby branch, so much color in the otherwise gray of the scene.  The activity has been growing daily, and I’m actually having to fill the feeder almost every day now.  Then I saw the black and white and red of the re-bellied woodpecker, bobbing away, so close, intense.

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Watching me watch him. What next?

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It’s a good lesson, letting all these things come in good time. Anticipating what wonder there will be, creating context for a more authentically experienced experience, is well worth the wait.

**Sweet and Sour Turkey Stew

(2) servings

1/2 lb. ground turkey

I large chopped onion (I used a red one here)

4 minced garlic cloves

10 ounces chopped baby bella mushrooms

3 large (these were really large) carrots, cut into big chunks

1 pint fresh canned tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon each ground fennel and dried thyme

1 tablespoon tomato paste

salt & pepper to taste

Saute onions and garlic in a few tablespoons olive oil in a stew pot over medium heat until soft. Turn up heat to high and add turkey, salt, and spices. Stir and cook until turkey can be broken up into small chunks. Add mushrooms, turn heat back to medium and cook until mushrooms release their liquid. Add carrots, tomatoes, chutney and tomato paste. Stir well, bring to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, until carrots are just done.

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solitude

I can stand with my nose almost touching the glass and watch the activity in the bird feeder just on the other side just inches away. The fearless chickadees could care less. Once the feeder was discovered a few days ago, it has been a chickadee party out there. They hang out with Stella, beloved tree presence who dominates the view just outside the porch room. One or two at a time, the chickadees swoop over to the feeder, grab a seed, fly back to their perch.

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Trying to capture any of this is daunting right now as moments of rest for these creatures are brief, fleeting.

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Most of the time I just watch.  From the moment of first light this activity begins and it continues non-stop until the last light of the day. I actually woke this morning wondering about where these chickadees go at night. Was surprised to learn from Google that they actually sleep alone rather than huddled together for warmth, impressively lowering their body temperature in order to conserve energy and survive the night on calories they were able to consume during the day. I imagine they have found special places for their nighttime solitude somewhere with Stella then.

Up close, these bundles of energy are so present, unbearably cute, mesmerizing in their soft purposeful way. I wonder how long this honeymoon phase will last, of being caught up in the joy of watching and being, of sharing space with so much new life. Even after a few days of this I am able to notice the differences in each of them. And then feel the impact and drama when a tufted titmouse or nuthatch appears instead of the chickadee. Oh my. The parade just keeps expanding. The cardinals have arrived. The muted females dominating the feeder now, the bright red male strutting around on the ground for fallen seed. And there, a big blue jay checking out the scene, while the chickadees continue to weave continuous presence through it all.

I like to say that I like my solitude. Until now, it has been more of an idea, a place where I could be alone, seemingly in silence, a place my nervous system could rest in peace. But now, solitude is infused with delightful birdsong. Yet it is still solitude. Solitude that feels rich these days sitting on the porch in the heat of the woodstove. Some days it is with the bright sun, so bright that it calls us out to join with the solitude of snowy woods.

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And then there is morning solitude before the sun appears, where the moon greets the rising sun in a deeply chilled sky.

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Solitude has become its own presence, like the chickadees, asserting itself wherever I am. Yes, solitude is alive too.

 

 

seven years

Science tells us that most every cell in our body will be replaced with new cells every seven to ten years. Not all, just most. Not all at exactly the same time and not in a way that reverses the aging process. For years I have heard the expression that ‘every cell in the body will regenerate within seven years’. It’s kind of imprecise, a broad stroke of an idea. Seven years. A good clean odd number to hold onto. An idea that is easy to like and believe in. And adopting this idea of cell life by analogy, it has been easy to apply to other aspects of life and growth as well.

Facebook put one its randomly selected memories in front of me this morning, a post I made seven years ago today. A picture of me and my children and our family dog at the time, Yankee.

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It was taken the fall of 2006 as I was in the process of divorce. This photo was so symbolic for me as much needed visible and tangible evidence of a happy family without the husband and father. That I could be present in the fierce love I felt for my children and Yankee while simultaneously feeling such grief. I know the smiles on our faced belied the turmoil we were all experiencing. It was not an easy year. Now, coming up on the ten year stretch of that time, I realize how significantly everything has changed.

This new family portrait was the first picture I posted when I joined Facebook seven years ago. Only two years divorced, I entered the year 2009 with promises to myself to open to love in new ways. Still living in the center of my children’s lives, it was a daunting prospect and I had no idea how truly difficult it would be to reconcile who I was a mother with who I imagined myself to be as lover. It turned out to be an amazing year, full of growth, new connections, and challenging relationships. Regeneration had begun.

But the grieving never ended, all these years since, until just recently. I just never wanted to admit it. I never wanted to succumb to the deep sadness that still rattled around in so many of my cells still. It didn’t mean I wasn’t growing and learning and experimenting and shedding what I didn’t need anymore. It just meant I was still grieving the loss of something that was dear to me, a partnership with a man I loved. Accepting this truth could only happen at the root, at the deepest level where my life force lives. And so I let myself cry and purge the sadness as much as I could over these years, even when it felt like too much, confident for the most part that this was exactly what I was supposed to be doing.

Then magically a few months ago, a complete release of this sadness occurred. You never can see it coming, these moments that offer liberation if you are ready to take it. I had driven my ex-husband to an eye appointment that morning. We have gratefully been able to do things like this for each other over the years. Driving back he launched into a story of a radio broadcast he had heard recently of an old married couple who had made a comedy routine of many aspects of their lives together. I didn’t get it. Why was he telling me about this? When I asked him, he responded with something about the humor they were able to make from their forty-five years together. Before I could stop myself, I reminded him that he had promised ME forty years but was only able to give me twenty. It was after just the slightest pause, one so significant that I felt the energy in the car shift into a higher vibration and he said, “Yeah, but they were twenty really good years.” And there it was. The smile inside I had been waiting for all these years. Seeing the light shining on what had been so right for us at the time. Being able to feel the love that is still there without thinking I had to be in relationship with him a certain way. What a gift of a moment. Reflecting now on the few months since that morning, it is clear we have been able to find our way back to an authentic way of sharing who we are with each other again and celebrate who we are as parents to our amazing children. It’s taken these seven years since setting the intention to open to love in new ways.

A few mornings ago the sun rose in a clear blue sky after days of gray, freezing rain, snow and ice. It was a crystalline world out there and as the sun came up and hit the frozen surfaces of trees and ground, everything lit up like a giant chandelier.

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It was breathtaking. Beauty so glaring that I could feel my heart expanding to combustion point. This feeling followed me down to the brook,

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and into the morning as I drove through these gorgeous hills I live in, scenes so spectacular, one after another. Just when I thought I couldn’t take it anymore, another scene would present itself and I had to consciously choose to stay with the intensity of this feeling that I might be engulfed. I wanted to cry. I simply realized, I am feeling love. And this is letting myself stay open to love, even when it feels like too much.