is this progress?

Its not that I actually spent endless hours in the kitchen. It’s that entire blocks of time, even whole days, were conditioned by the time required to prepare certain foods this past week. A clear pattern formed. Bursts of energy would go into kneading, rolling, rubbing, and chopping. The spaces in between would fill with anticipation, potent creative juice that would send me to a quilt or book chapter in process, a walk in the woods, or to my imagination for what the next meal would look like to accompany the fruits of my effort; a frittata that used up all the bits of leftover vegetables in the bin combined with the fresh eggs and feta cheese from a local farm store to go with the fresh bread, or a simple onion sauce to go with homemade pasta.

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Most of these efforts have been born out of a desire not to spend valuable time and money at the grocery store buying things I don’t need. All I really need is some good grain and flour for making bread; produce, meat, eggs and cheese from the local CISA farm I support. This past week, my experimentation with making levain starter has paid off, and the round crusty loaves, proofed and baked in a cast iron pot, emerged crackling as they cooled, yielding moist airy hearty sourdough crumb.

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One snowy cold afternoon I decided to try making filej, an Italian hand rolled spiral pasta from a recipe in “Cooking with Italian Grandmothers” by Jessica Theroux. I love this book full of hand-earned wisdom. Making the pasta took a long time. First kneading a stiff dough made from semolina flour and water. Then hours of rolling thin ropes to be cut into small pieces, each twisted around a skewer and formed into a smooth spiral with one swift roll with the palm of the hand.

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Like learning to ride a bike, once the feeling of the motion registered, the process became automatic, but each piece of pasta sliding off the skewer was still as different from, and as equally unique, as the last.

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I stood at the sink rubbing corn that had been boiled and soaked for a day, rubbing vigorously to remove the brown husks still clinging to the bright yellow surface of each kernal. Part of the large colander full would be used to make posole or corn stew of some sort. the other part would be ground and made into tortillas.

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So much time was being devoted to this task and I was loving the process until the thought popped into my head, but is this progress?

All week I had been loving the time invested in these tasks of turning something whole and raw into something delicious and nourishing. I wasn’t worried or second guessing why I found such enjoyment here. Only when the thought of this not so innocent question that came accompanied with hints of guilt and fear, did I think that I should stop the current food-inspired flow. I was forced to consider how my actions constituted onward movement toward a worthy destination. I struggled to find acceptance in the simple forward movement of my seemingly simple actions that allowed me to dwell in the meditative spirit of doing nothing, going nowhere.

I have to remember that anytime we create new capacities or resources, we also introduce new threats – so progress, defined in the way I have grown up, is never a simple forward movement. I think about my reluctance to embrace so many of the efficiencies created by industry, how processed food and fast food has introduced a whole new host of medical issues to reckon with, altering the core of systems we need for our very survival. And how ironically, our medical system has sped ahead to create even more efficiencies without even considering the impact of its supposed progress. I don’t want to accept this. I don’t have to accept this.

Eventually, I came back to knowing that there’s nothing wrong with doing nothing, going nowhere. The leftovers from the roasted chicken dinner with carrots and purple potatoes would combine with the corns for a hearty stew.

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I came back to feeling the compassion and equanimity that lives in this space. Yes, we do what we have to do to survive. And yes, infinite beauty and hope can co-exist in the simplest ways of survival too.

 

 

flying

I have started flying again. Not in an airplane kind of flying. This flying is just me, one moment standing on the ground on my two legs with the thought, taking a few steps to initiate lift off, becoming horizonal above the earth, and then simply gliding though the air. There is no surge or need for overt power here. It is as easy as taking a breath. As exhilirating as the most unanticipated discovery. As natural a movement as any other I have ever experienced.

Crazy, right? You could say I am dreaming. My eyes are closed. I am lying in bed presumably asleep. I know I have flown like this before, and I know this way of being with the world is completely normal. No surprise, the flash of lonliness that appears. Who else flies like this? Until now I’ve never thought to ask or consider that there could be a real conversation with another about flying. I’ve never trusted that I could be heard and be able to continue the conversation even if they didn’t see or understand it my way.

A friend recently sent me a podcast of Brene Brown and Krista Tippett about ‘the spiritual practice of belonging’. (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/on-being-with-krista-tippett/id150892556?mt=2&i=1000401797450)  It is a wonderful conversation, where Brene Brown offers this,
“What if loneliness is driven, often, by changing who we are, being perfect, saying what we’re supposed to. What is loneliness is driven in part by our lack of authenticity?”

It would be easy for me to dismiss this flying as just a figment of imagination, to want the acceptance that would come from such a view. But that would not be an authentic me. To acknowledge my own desperate wanting to belong I need to say, yes, I want to be part of something, AND, I want to stand alone, to fly all by myself, when I need to. It’s terrifying. But as Brene Brown goes on to say, “Your level of true belonging can never be greater than your willingness to stand alone and be yourself.”

It is no coincidence that another friend also recently recommended I watch a Netflix series called Sense8. We had been talking about unrest in the world, how the black & white of political/economic separation is creating a context that is increasing unbearable to even talk about. He has found some hope in this show that depicts a world where difference can be celebrated through ultimate connectivity and intimacy with others across the globe, within an intact individual identity that can communicate telepathically. It is classified as science fiction, but for me, this show vibrates with a completely believable portrayal of humanity offered in both difficult and beautiful, always heartfelt, ways of love.

Last spring I ventured deeper than usual into the woods in front of the swamp I knew was there, but had never actually seen. There was a call of the wild that I had been hearing in the days prior, and finally couldn’t resist. It turned out to be a nest of herons located high up in a lone tree growing out of the middle of the water. As Yogi and Nora romped in the vastness of the swamp waters, I watched as the birds flew back and forth from this perch, emitting their distinctive cries. there was a lumbering grace to the large bird being horizontal in a way that felt familiar.

I want to remember this feeling of gliding so easily between worlds, between truly authentic me and a community that can hold a truly diverse and sustainable way. A world where flying like a bird, or communicating telepathically, or even standing alone, can be normal too.

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orb

It was Monday morning, the third sunrise after Dad’s passing. We had started looking at photos, and Mom had pulled out a shot of the two of them that would be perfect for the obituary. I offered to crop in, the way I like to do on my iphone and turned on the camera function that shows me the last photo taken in the lower left corner of the screen. I hadn’t taken but one picture in the past three days, unusual for me as I am always snapping something that I see here or there. So I was surprised to see an image I didn’t recognize at all there. A flash of thrill went through me. I opened the photo full frame to find a scene of two small cabins at a water’s edge taken on a cloudy day. It wasn’t computing, what this photo was, where it was taken, or how it had landed in my camera. Looking more closely I couldn’t ignore the large milky orb right in the middle of the red cabin that filled the center of the photo. Or a smaller fainter orb about the same size below it.

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Definition of orb (from Merriman-Webster online)

1: any of the concentric spheres in old astronomy surrounding the earth and
carrying the celestial bodies in their revolutions
2: archaic : something circular : circle, orbit
3: a spherical body; especially : a spherical celestial object
4: eye
5: a sphere surmounted by a cross symbolizing kingly power and justice

Seeing orbs in photos is controversial. Some believe it is a trick of the camera lense. Others believe it is a visible presence of a spirit in celestial form. I don’t have a hard time believing the latter. Whenever I see an orb in a photo, especially as prominently as this one, I feel a shiver go through me. My heart stops for just the briefest moment to register the energy of what is there. Looking down at this unrecognizable image in the wake of Dad’s passing, I wondered what someone, maybe even Dad, was trying to tell me.

Oh, I checked the time it was taken, 9:48 pm the night before (January 22). But I had been sound asleep with the phone on the bedstand next to me. I checked all the ways a photo could land in my album, through a mesage or what’s app chat. Nothing. I showed it to my brother who cycled through every rational explanation and came up blank, leaving even him with an uncharacteristic expression of confusion and resignation.

Two weeks have now passed and I continue to be haunted by this photo that still sits prominently in this place on my phone. It continues to taunt me to decipher its meaning. It’s no secret that I covet spherical forms, collect crystal spheres, embed spherical energy into my quilts, even watch for how the sun rearranges itself through the trees to be seen in the forest when I am there.

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For someone who thrives on seeing meaning and connection in all things, this continues to be a mystery that offers no clues.

So I trust. I trust that the meaning will reveal itself in time. I trust that whatever part Dad has in this comes from his heart, that maybe he is letting me know how much he trusted too.