postscript to neighborhood rice

My heart is still pumping. After reading this morning’s post, a friend commented, saying, ‘tell me you aren’t voting for Trump!’ I was mortified that she might think this from what I wrote. But I see now I was ambiguous, didn’t say out loud how infuriated I am at his arrogance and sense of entitlement. I didn’t express clearly how deeply his disrespect for too much angers me, how it triggers the doubt in me, and I suspect in many others of us raised to do better than our parents, to make lots of money to support a life that would increasingly require more and more stuff we are taught to value, AND pay our fair share at the same time. I went back and amended my post. It might still not be strong enough or clear enough, but I am trying.
Trying to be okay with my anger when I have so much to be grateful for.

I also posted this link on my Facebook page last night. Enough said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/isaac-saul/i-wrote-that-i-despised-hillary-clinton-i-take-it-back_b_12220124.html?

neighborhood rice

Moving into a more rural life has given me the space and time to watch the path of my intelligence and where it leads to creative expression. From architecture work, to quilting, wood stacking, gardening, cooking, working with the dogs, and even charting a path in the woods, I’ve found the process to be the same. There is a thought that arises. It is pondered and even some action initiated which inspires the thought to travel further down the wave it is on and feel for a conclusion. Ultimately, there comes a point where the value of this expression is considered. What is the purpose? Who am I serving? Why does this feel so important?

I’ve recently discovered a whole new network of paths in the woods of my neighborhood. It was a thrilling morning realizing how much more there was to explore and discover here, the beauty and sacredness of this place becoming even bigger. The paths here were as prominent on this side of the Eagle Nest ridge as the other side I was accustomed to walking. There had to be connections between these two networks of paths.

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And so began a series of days of moving forward into the unknown to find these connections. Of course they were there.

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Not as clear, not as well travelled, but they were there. It took days of venturing just so far, feeling lost, and moving toward what I knew before finding my usual path. Eventually the loop was formed, the connection made, and my world opened up anew all over again. With Yogi on leash throughout this discovery time and our bond solidly formed, I felt the confidence to let him off leash, to chase his sister and return when it is time. Is it enough that I am supporting my beloved companions in finding their freedom in relationship too?

I get it that someone like Donald Trump might feel justified in not paying personal taxes when he supposedly supports so many in his businesses. But does he? Who knows. I think a lot about the required ‘self-employed’ tax I have to pay in full, that for me, can seem like a large amount in relation to a modest income. And then personal income taxes too. Why shouldn’t even Trump have to pay? Something isn’t right here and it infuriates me that his own sense of entitlement blinds him to this, and the millions who supposedly support him. My rant, I know. I get it that our American way is built on rewarding those who think they create more than those who just simply work. It is not lost on me that the intelligent individual sitting at the top creating for many is more valued than the equally intelligent individual creating for self and/or family. I get it that the great demise of our culture that is sliding into an abyss of need and entitlement requires something bold and radical, perhaps the letting go of something known and dear, to create change. What if supporting each other to make the connections we are each led to make, was enough? If creation could be a contribution that might not be about money as the standard of value first?

The fact that I revel in the joy of creating every day doesn’t feel like enough. I spend far too much time wondering how this happened. How the woman of her twenties alive with the hubris of creating BIG became the woman in her fifties who moves from one day to the next trusting the universe and living instead in a big sea of daily small creations. Is this better or worse? Am I betraying my roots, my intelligence, my unique ability to make a contribution to the community I am a part of?

My next door neighbor hosted a neighborhood potluck last weekend. I started thinking about my contribution way in advance, eventually settling on a rice dish. I pulled out my folder of stained well used recipes, perhaps the fragrant Indian basmati, or the vegetarian paella. I considered which pan would cook and hold a quantity to serve many. While I walked, both possibilities rested in my awareness, waiting for the connection I needed to give me my answer. As usual, I determined to use what was at hand, a bag of jasmine rice, a bin full of fresh vegetables from my local organic farmer, some lemons, my giant cast iron pan. I wanted the simplicity of the Indian version but the robustness of the Spanish version. Eventually, and just in time, what I needed to see came into view. Finely minced vegetables, leek, garlic and onion that would in their translucency, blend seamlessly with the rice. A vegetable stock laced with fresh lemon juice. Just one or two key spices, ground fennel and saffron. Cook it like paella in the cast iron pan to allow a thinner layer of rice to absorb the most flavor.

Her house filled with the inhabitants of our tiny hamlet and then some. We talked about the history and beauty of where we are, and how many of us love to walk these woods. It was a beautiful gathering, heartfelt, with expressions of gratitude for the growing life that exists here now after years of minimal presence. By the end of the evening it became clear that everyone enjoyed the rice I had made and there were many requests for the recipe. I wrote it all down before forgetting, happy to share this way. For me, it will always be called neighborhood rice**, embodying the value of what being here has to offer, making heartfelt connection in every way. In the end I realize that even the challenge of this upcoming election and what it triggers for me as a middle class baby boomer American woman, can’t deter me from continuing to explore and cherish being here right now on this particular path.

 

**Neighborhood Rice

2 cups Jasmine rice
Olive oil, butter
2 large cloves garlic, 1/2 small onion, 3″ section fresh leek, 1 ripe plum tomato, all      finely minced
Juice of one large fresh lemon
3-4 cups vegetable stock (or made with boullion)
Ground fennel, salt, pepper, 6-8 strands saffron

1. Soak rice for ten minutes, put in colander and rinse until water runs clear,  let drain while preparing vegetables.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Warm up stock in a pot.  If using boullion, dissolve in boiling water.  Add lemon juice.  Set aside

3. Heat enough oil to just cover bottom of pan on medium high heat.  I use a cast iron skillet.  For two cups rice, a 10″ or 12″ skillet, or a 13″ paella pan will be just right.  The point is to have a shallow enough depth so the rice will cook without a lid.  (The first time I made this, I used my giant 15″ Lodge cast iron skillet with four cups rice and seven cups stock)

4. Add garlic, onion, and leeks and saute for about five minutes until translucent, stirring frequently.

5. Add about 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel, salt and pepper, stir a few times, then add tomato and about a tablespoon butter.  Stir for another minute or two.

6. Add rinsed rice and stir fry everything together for about 3-4 minutes.  Rice should be thoroughly coated with fats and herbs.

7. Turn heat up to high and slowly add 2-3/4 cups stock, stirring until mixture begins to simmer.  Add saffron.  Bring it all to a boil and continue cooking for about 5 minutes until mixture is thick and bubbly.

8. Put pan in preheated oven, uncovered.  After 15 minutes, liquid will be mostly absorbed, add enough additional stock to keep rice visibly wet, stir, bake another 10 minutes and repeat.  After adding stock and stirring the second time, smooth out rice in pan with spatula.  Bake another 10 minutes or so.  Rice should be moist, firm, and soft to bite with a taste. (When it cools, it will all bind together gently and it will come out of the pan in sections, like a cake.)

9. Turn off oven and let pan cool there while chopping a handful of fresh parsley and/ basil.  Take pan out of oven, sprinkle with herbs and cover with linen towel.  Let cool to just warm or room temperature and serve.

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harvest

A tremendous impulse to harvest the fruits of my labor hit about two weeks ago. Not apples or vegetables or herbs this year. The fruit trees are bare and I’ve done a good job of eating through my small garden. No, this year’s harvest is quilts. Three quilts that had been growing and ripening long enough.

One was actually constructed in 2011, an abstract piece that was fixed in place with batting and backing by simple machine quilting in the ditch, aka invisible, lines. But it has never felt finished, there was some expression of hand made lines still dormant, not fully matured yet. So it has sat folded in a pile all these years. Another quilt was composed and constructed last year, the quilting almost completed but somehow reluctant to be fully seen, and has remained untouched on my table for the past six months. Then there is my most recent winter woods piece. This quilt happened fast, was quilted in just a few days, binding sewn on and pinned in place. It too has been taking up space in my studio for the past month, waiting. It seems some things can be harvested right away, others take years to ripen.

In contrast, harvesting an experience is but a moment’s work. It was such a pleasurable walk in the woods this morning. There was no way to hold onto the pleasure of each moment, the cool air and insistent wind, the light that kept showing me the first distinct signs of fall.

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And I wanted to cry. How much beautiful energy can something or someone hold before it needs to be picked, consumed, or possessed? Not because I was sad, but because harvesting each moment like this just leads me to the next, and the next and the next. It is such a pleasure. I can’t control it and I can’t stop it and I can’t contain it, any more than I can force my way into the completion of something that isn’t ready.

It feels great to see these three pieces at the end of this cycle. It required a lot of work, simple and enjoyable, hours of finalizing quilting and hand stitched bindings, all necessary so that each quilt could simply fall off the vine and be thoroughly enjoyed.

‘Scrap Quilt 1’

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‘The Container’

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‘Winter Woods’

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mirror and muse

We’re finally moving again after a few minutes of stopping to let Yogi smell yet another fern before lifting his head to determine exactly where Nora is. He doesn’t move until he has this information, and if she is behind us, he simply sits and waits. She will race past us at breakneck speed and I feel Yogi want to catch up to her, but something in him knows he can’t. After the impulse fades, he settles back into his tether to me, as if it is enough just to know now where she is in a way he can see and protect her.

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With Nora her usual thousand paces ahead and Yogi trotting calmly at my side on leash within the stretch of woods surrounding us, it is so easy to see the mirror and the muse presenting themselves.

I didn’t see Nora’s particular brand of sensitivity right away as a puppy. Her youthful enthusiasm masked her reluctant assent to be touched and cuddled. She was beautiful and a bit aloof. As she grew it became clear she needed a certain kind of space around her, that invisible boundary of ‘don’t touch me unless I ask’. And then it became clear she didn’t really know how to ask with grace. She instead learned to use her rather effective voice to express the range of her response to the world. Loud insistent barking when in protective mode, or melodic and rhythmic when letting me know it is time for a walk. Assertive growling when initiating play, and sweet satisfied moans when she in a calm pleasurable place.  Now, when she anxiously jumps at the entry of any kind of new energy in her field, her need to be seen and touched masks her innate sweetness. It’s taken me awhile to understand the extent of her ability to sense what is coming. All I have to do is look at her a certain way and she knows it is my intention to pull that tick off, or try to cut her nails. Anything that involves physical sensation that is beyond her control sends her flying out of the room and hiding for hours. I didn’t see her for days when training her to the invisible fence. All it took was one shock and she cowered out of sight inside the house until she was ready to explore with the freedom this new boundary gave her. She will never cross that line, ever. My heart swells for this beautiful creature who loves me as much as I love her. She is very photogenic, but she doesn’t think so, and it is a rare photo of her looking into the lens. Capturing her gaze looking out and away is more typical and evokes the feeling of something untouchable.

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Accepting her extreme sensitivity has helped me accept my own. Her undeniable need to run fast and free resonates deeply for me. She is my mirror, showing me places in myself I have long thought undesirable and ugly. But they are as much a part of me as the rest that is considered acceptable and beautiful. I can now choose to accept all of me and consider where changing certain behavior is possible. I can’t change what I can’t see.

Enter my muse Yogi. He is such a solid clear presence. He isn’t afraid to be touched or to look straight into the camera and show me his depth.

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Where he and Nora will typically pick separate spaces to settle in for their daytime rest, I often find them close and in some sweet communion.

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It is inspiring to watch how Yogi simply meets Nora where she needs to be met, in rest and in play. He is big enough now to completely dominate her if he wanted, but he simply just stays where he is when she comes charging. He gives her back the full force of what she is delivering with his developing giant gentleness and complete lack of fear. Yogi clearly cherishes his sister, and it inspires me to tap into the places in me that need cherishing, and stay there.

There is a sweet balance between the mirror and the muse. Fortunate me.

the melon plant

My flannel shirt is the perfect layer to be wearing on this morning’s walk. The entire mood of the woods has shifted in relief from the too still humid air of the past week. The inspiration to stray and meander in the perfectly delightful crispness lead us up the path to the left of the pond instead of the more direct path to the right that would loop us back home in no time. The path to the left has remained unexplored most of the hot summer months. Now, calf muscles stretch in response to the steeper incline, remembering how much I typically enjoy this way. But the months have left a residue of neglect on the ground. It’s not the large dead tree trunks that have crashed down across as I have encountered in other places in the past few months. It is the smaller branches, alive with tentacles that want to ensnare and trip. I stop every dozen feet or so, bend to pick up another branch that I could easily walk over, and toss it to the side. It becomes an obsession, to clear the path of unseen things that could potentially catch me unaware. It feels meaningful, this act of restoring a kind of order, but my brain can’t settle on the reason.

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These last days of summer have yielded some surprises in the garden too. The lone melon plant added as a first time experiment flowered profusely all season but managed to produce only four fruits. Small hard and still seemingly ripening on the vine, I was shocked to find one half eaten on the front lawn early morning a few days ago, large teeth marks like a sawtooth edge around, revealing bright orange juicy flesh inside. Some knowing creature had retrieved it from the garden and couldn’t wait to get home to enjoy. Exposed there in the morning light in all it’s ripe glory, it was a sign that I needed to eat these melons now. One was inside on the kitchen counter, rescued from Yogi the day before before he too could get his teeth into it. Cutting it in half now revealed the same sweet fruit, tasting even better than it looked.

 

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What a delight, standing right there at the counter, spooning large mouthfuls right out of the rind until there wasn’t any left at all. I would find a way to protect the two remaining on the vine.

I feel a little like this melon plant right now. I produce so many flowers each day, each promises to grow into something truly wonderful, but only a few actually do. There are so many ways that each promise can be waylaid, pulled off my path of an idea or vision. It’s never clear how a tentacle of some distraction can so effectively redirect the flow. And then, unbeknownst to me, one day the fruit of consistent labor makes itself known and it is now possible to follow the thread to a delightful conclusion. This is rare. It is not the norm. It is the way life shares and let’s me know who is in control. It always ends up being enough.

In the woods, we come back to the pond and continue on toward home. The air is still uncharacteristically cool for being so still, offering sweet reflections of happenings on the surface of the water.

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I turn back to the pond one more time as we continue away up the trail. The reflection will be there only in this moment for us to catch each other…

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