ancestor of skill redux

It is the perfect winter morning. Fresh snow, about four inches, preceded by a couple of very cold days. The snow is that perfectly packable lightweight variety that every skier pines for. Dad would have loved this. He would have been up and ready for the slopes in record time, determined to be one of the first on the chairlift.

I’m still getting used to the fact that he is no longer here to greet the snow this way. I woke this morning feeling the weight of an anniversary. Two years today we lost Bob Ford. And as I walked with the dogs in the freshly fallen snow the joy of being on the slopes with him seven years ago sailed into my heart. It was a spectacularly special time with my father, the last time I ever skied with him. I found the post, written in March of 2013, an amalgam of memories spent with family, food, and a photo of my father in all his glory as king of the mountain. The feeling of sharing so much joy in those four days came alive in a burst of grace. My dear dear father.

Re-posting what was there seven years ago is humbling. Not much changes and yet everything changes. Reaching inside for skills I already possess is not a finite activity. Much of the reaching is for remembering as much as it is for discovering. The compulsion to make soup began last night, turning on the light and climbing out of bed to wash and soak the beans for today’s black bean soup. Making soup today has been a reminder of just how deeply the reach of flavors and textures and warmth can reach into a heart of memory. Bob Ford was a man of deep tribal ties to his family and community and he loved to make soup too. How honored I am to be his daughter.

ancestor of skill  3-23-13 

I feel the feast or famine of the past three months. Snow, and then no snow. The intensity and richness of the holidays and then the quiet and austere aftermath. 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 feeling this truth.

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.

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 shared with him how complete I felt 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 was something that brought me back to some ancient body memory, certainly from this childhood and years of family ski trips, but also to something even beyond.

Dad and the Mountain – Aspen 2013

As if in a dream, I simply shared 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 was 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. My father listened with respect. He simply nodded. He heard me.

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 was made possible by the generosity of family. I gave 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, meeting up with Uncle Ted on the slopes, 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 opened to and faced the living room and fire and easy activity after days of skiing was a perfect place to be. And being with so many members of both sides of my family reminded 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.

1 thought on “ancestor of skill redux

  1. the warmth you create and build around you is palpable. I cherish it. I love how your dream expressed how I see you too “However, it is not my skill as a provider of food that was 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.” You are the hunter, the magical chef, the wise woman. And I love sharing life with you! From both near and far.


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