the middle way

Having my first walk in the woods with the dogs in almost three weeks, there are noticeable changes. Gold gone tone deaf brown,


and conifer green with sunlit yellow bursts now reserved for the low lying beech trees that define a perceptible middle ground.


There are broad stretches of wheat colored growth, dying while at the same time holding firm ground.


There is the iridescent flaming red that connects and ignites the middle ground of the landscape.

I revel in this middle ground. I find comfort in the enclosure of life and color so close that it caresses. It’s hard to ignore. It’s easy to accept the change from all inclusive vastness of tree and sky that so recently encircled and invited, to the starkness of bare gray branch getting lost in blue white grayness above.

I settle back into a middle way, between fight and flight, into acceptance. Finally giving the adrenals a rest from battling fatigue, worry and denial.

Contemplating the middle way is probably about as old as time. As I walk, I realize how easy it is to settle into acceptance. It doesn’t mean I have to let go of a vision or give up. It doesn’t mean I have failed. I want the best for my parents who need our support right now. But it doesn’t mean I can fix anything or actually change the outcome. I can help. I can provide some measure of comfort. Hopefully with kindness. It is as a wise friend recently told me, “The best we can do is simply walk beside them and hold the space for their journey.” Well, isn’t that the truth. For everything. For every relationship and every encounter and every experience that we are lucky enough to have in life. The middle ground is acceptance of another’s journey, offering the respect to let it be, and recognize where I can take responsibility for my own journey at the same time.

Walking now in the beauty I call home, I revel in the good feeling that acceptance can be.

and I knit

I have left my beloved home in the hills to temporarily reside in the beloved home of my parents, to be support for them during a challenging time. Here, the greeting of the sun each morning never disappoints.


Here, one is consistently seduced by the promise of change that resides in the colors of fall. It is a blessing to be assaulted with the beauty of changing scenes throughout the day.

It is a reminder that this time too shall pass, that whatever struggles are here to negotiate right now can be met with gratitude.

And I knit. Not anything complicated or requiring knowledge of sophisticated patterns. I just knit, seventy-two stitches on size ten and a half needles, back and forth until the call for a change in color prompts me to reach in my bag and consider the next phase of the work.


My knitting bag, bought in Peru last year during my stay with Molly is with me at all times. I never leave home without it.

The simple repetition of knit and purl is a balm. Each stitch is a breath. When the pain of emotion rises, I can send it through my heart and out through my fingers into the next stitch. I revel in the momentary calm. Until the next feeling arises and like a wave finding shore, becomes absorbed in the soft fibers under my touch. Over and over and over again.

I love that fall has the ability to envelop us all in the inevitable acceptance of transition from one season to another. Everything dies. The life of a leaf that eventually falls to the ground is but just a moment in the life of a tree that has the ability to regenerate through change every single year. And in doing so, we are offered the greatest affirmation of living a life. Us humans could learn a thing or two from these trees. I have heard that trees embody a form of intelligence that can communicate through vast root networks. It makes sense that this might be true.

When I knit, I feel the root of devotion to being open to change, open to the love that is there, and open to whatever the next moment might bring.


I imagine that what moves out through my fingertips becomes part of a vast human network of human hope and promise of joy, that I can connect to a vast network of human fear and sadness and pain and stay rooted to exactly where I am.


chocolate, camaraderie, & companionship

I’m finally back to daily walks with the dogs in the woods after a brief but significant break in the typically balanced flow of our days together. Life has been very full. After weeks of eating outside my routine, of consuming food for comfort and convenience other than in concert with my own nourishing awareness, I was delighted to come back to a favorite this week. It is simply one frozen banana, sliced and creamed in a food processor with a heaping tablespoon of organic baking cocoa.

I sometimes add just a tad of half and half, but it honestly doesn’t need it. There is something magical about how a frozen banana can become something so perfectly creamy. Sometimes I mix in a tablespoon of cocoa nibs and/or raisins. Chocolate as superfood. It’s all good. It’s incredibly delicious and satisfying. It’s one of the many reminders that desire can be a very good companion to my body indeed. Making this for myself, I realize that full and fun still needs to include the space where such desires can be seen.

I noticed a change in the dogs after the weeks of altered routine. They seemed even more of a team than usual.


Yogi literally stayed on top of Nora, nudging her into romp and play along the trail in the woods. If Nora veered off, Yogi followed. If Yogi disappeared as he has been doing with more frequency, then Nora stayed close as if to say, ‘Don’t worry, he’ll be back.’ There has been a sense of companionship between them that I’m noticing for the first time. They are separate and they are one. And my relationship to them is as a unit in this context. They, together, become my one companion, waxing and waning within the energetic orbit I emit. I never once feel alone when I am in the woods with them, even if I can’t see them, even when I know they have taken off to elude the attachment of the leash that signals an inevitable return home. I think, this is love. It is not a perfect relationship. I feel a consistency and commitment to transcend the moments of panic and fear that can grip me when I lose sight of them. I am willing to look at my need to control, to let go and trust.

As I walked this week, the word camaraderie kept coming to me, evoked by the warm feelings from a week spent with a dear friends learning how to dye fabric with natural dyes, total immersion into a creative endeavor with like minded-souls who thought this was as much fun as I did. It was wonderful camaraderie. Then to come home to prepare for a retreat/reunion weekend with college friends. We have recently started coming together once a year, a ritual, and this particular visit was a spectacular flow of easy and fun, all dog loving, nature loving, family loving, life loving, even rummikub loving women who have moved through the past thirty-seven years into a way of being together that feels like the best kind of camaraderie. Our bond has became even stronger for it. I typically don’t like photos of myself, but in this see only the ease I felt in their presence. It’s the way I feel in the woods.


Camaraderie feels different from companionship and I’ve struggled to discern the difference. Camaraderie is a transitory experience that is experienced in the moment, when the energies of many are flowing on the same current for a finite period of time. Companionship feels more like a 1:1 relationship that tends to be more ethereal, relying more on a perception of presence than the actual physical presence of another. When I am deep in the woods with both dogs off leash, we are moving together in a camaraderie of movement, of communion with what is there, and with each other in the most natural feeling of ways, free and untethered and fully trusting in the joy of the moment. We rarely lose sight of one another. But I had come to dread the moment of putting them back on leash. I used to think this was the death of the camaraderie, that when they were on leash, none of us would have fun anymore. I finally realized that going back on leash simply changed the relationship from one of camaraderie to one of companionship for me. It wasn’t better or worse. Just a little different.

Now if they take off to elude the leash, I can switch to companionship mode, go to our ritual meeting place, sit on my favorite boulder, and open my heart to where they might be in love. They will always come to me in this place. Always.

wild things

The barking woke me out of a sound sleep. Both Yogi and Nora were frantically barking at a fever pitch that wouldn’t let up. I finally went down in the dark and let Yogi out of his crate while Nora paced furiously at the perimeter to the porch room, glancing at the clock as I went by. Only 11:30. I looked out into the moonlit meadow and knew there was something there, perhaps in the woods beyond, something that was whipping these dogs into such a frenzy, but I couldn’t see it. Both dogs finally relented and followed me upstairs. It was a touch and go night after this. Even with the windows now closed to the dropping temperature outside, I could hear the yapping in the distance which would set Yogi and Nora off again. Coyotes? I don’t know. But even the owls were singing a non-stop litany of who who who. Something was stirring the peace of the night. Some wild thing. They both jumped up on the bed and made significant body contact with me through the covers. Was this protection? Staying with me in such an uncharacteristic way only reinforced how the call of wild things can trigger an instinct that has nothing to do with love or devotion.

I’ve lived here almost three years, surrounded by wildlife management land, but this was the first time it has felt true. I wonder at the adaptation, of us to the land, and the creatures of this land to us. It has taken time to become familiars here, to let our voices be heard with such clarity. It’s like the insistent thoughts that have been slowly surfacing during our walks in the woods. The sad thoughts I don’t want to admit, thoughts that belie the joy of communion that I experience each time I am there. The thoughts that inevitably lead me to the realization that my true familiar right now is in my relationship with my dogs, the trees, and the elementals that grace this piece of the land.  It is a thought that brings both exquisite pleasure and exquisite pain at the same time.

The sight of a lone stalk illuminated against a wall of pink tinged stone stopped me in my tracks the other day.


In the vastness of where we were, it was such a small moment, but it drew me close, resonating in the pit of my belly, the beauty of this singular mushroom calling to me to be seen, colliding with the question that had been at the edge of my mind. ‘Who is my person?’  I felt the pull to judge that there is no human being that fulfills this role in my life at the moment. But it was just this moment. It was just a thought after all. A thought that could change in a heartbeat if I let it.

I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of tea and conversation with a dear friend recently. This is a friend who has the ability to become ‘my person’ in the space of time we are together, to be present in a way that I imagine human beings can be intentionally present for one another. As we sipped our sweet chai, we caught up and shared about life with our loved ones who were not present with us in that moment, the challenges, the aches, the realizations, and the acceptances of being in relationship with loved ones. She shared about the way of relationship with her husband that allows her to make choices and grow in a conscious way. She said, ‘He doesn’t like mindful activity that is repetitive.’ We looked at each other wide-eyed, feeling the power of her combination of words. If there was ever a definition for ‘staying’ this was it. But it was her definition for staying. It was clear her husband was equally committed to staying, but by a very different definition that she didn’t understand. Still, he is her person in her chosen journey right now and it works.

The dogs are typically crazy first thing in the morning, racing around the dew soaked meadow, marking territory for the day, barking their presence. This morning was particularly intense, as if acknowledging the lingering energy of the call of the wild during the night, teasing them to find a peaceful way into this day. I focused on the image captured last evening as the sun was going down, of the two of them at the end of the day, together in their mastery of their domain after a day of re-claiming and being present to what is there.


It’s time for me to let my precious canine familiars be my person without judgement. Even during this challenging time of acclimating to energy of the wild encroaching on our space and the relentless barking that follows. We need to figure this out together. I want to learn from my relationship with them. I want to honor the importance of every moment of my time with them, in mindful activity that is repetitive in a way that lets them know I am truly here right now.



indian pipe

My daughter called from her current home in Peru last week, aghast from afar at the events in Charlottesville. She is not a shrinking violet, my daughter. She has strong opinions and voices them with clear conviction. She knows what she values and I wondered, could we value without judgement? We debated the issue, shared heartfelt feelings. It was something I wanted to think more about. Could we actually value equanimity and tolerance and also condemn nazi (white supremacist) thinking at the same time? We had a good conversation with no clear conclusion as to the existence of a workable middle ground here. I’m not sure she would use the word equanimity, but that is the word and feeling that kept coming to me. How I value, and desire, the state of being that can be unaffected by experience of phenomena, pain or emotion, that might cause the loss of balance in the mind!

Yogi, Nora and I began our habitual path walking in the woods yesterday. Habitual both for the mid-morning time of day that we typically occupy and the actual direction of path we walk. It varied little day to day and I realized how easy it could be to change the routine, change the thinking that it had to be this way. And then felt the thread of resistance rise up to meet this thought. Fear of change. It is such a primal feeling, so embedded in a need for safety and survival as to take my breath away when I see it so clearly in moments like this. We came up to the pond. And there was the stool, sitting in the place it had always sat. Someone had fished it out of the water and carried it back to its habitual home here.


Who? When? The mystery of the stool’s reappearance collided with a sense of balance that erased all traces of doubt and fear that I had previously been harboring about its demise. I sat on the stool now and took in the familiar view.


And then walked around to the water’s edge where the dogs typically played, typically a place I viewed from afar. I now threw sticks to see ripples, submerged my hand to feel the cool wet, felt the intimacy of growth there. As I turned to re-join the path, I was met with a view head on that would have gone unnoticed had I not changed the routine.


A forest floor full of the white ghost-like groups of long stem mushrooms that I had been seeing more and more of this summer in small isolated bursts. But here there were so many of them peacefully sharing the resources of this one particular plot.

The feeling of awe I felt became a spark that ignited the thought, there is a lesson here. I came home and looked up ‘grouping of long stemmed white mushrooms in the forest’ and was immediately met with images and articles of this plant that is nick-named ‘Indian Pipe’. And though I wasn’t surprised to find this Native American story embedded in one of the articles, I felt chills go through me nonetheless.

The Origin of the Indian Pipe Plant
As told by John Rattling-Gourd
     Before selfishness crept into the world- that was a long time ago- the Cherokee people were happy and peaceable. They used the same hunting grounds and fishing grounds as their neighbors. They fished in the same streams and hunted in the same stands of forest. There were no arguments about boundaries and there were no arguments about fishing rights. But this was before Men became greedy. All this changed when Men learned to quarrel.
     The first quarrel that arose was between Cherokee and a neighboring tribe. It was a long and bitter quarrel, so bitter that the chiefs of the two tribes decided to meet in council to try and settle their trouble. And so they met, one day, and they smoked the peace pipe in solemn council, but the did not stop quarreling. A puff on the peace pipe and a bitter was the way it went. Days passed and still the council sat and smoked and quarreled.
     Now the Great Spirit was much displeased that the Indians should quarrel while smoking the pipe of peace. An the Great Spirit said, “I shall have to do something to you men that will show you that People should live together in peace, and that when Indians smoke the pipe, it must be done in peace.”
     The Great Spirit looked down at the old Men sitting in all that smoke. And he saw how gray they looked and how their heads hung down in weariness because it had been many nights since they had slept. And so he turned the old Men who smoked there in the council into small silvery gray flowers, their heads bent over and their petals hoary.
     If you should find one in the woods and turn it so that the head is down and the stem up, you will see that it looks like an Indian pipe, and so it is called to this day. But in the woods where they are often seen clustered together, they appear to be little gray People sitting in long council.
     Now after the Great Spirit had changed the quarreling Indians into flowers and set them out in the forest, he noticed that the smoke from their pipes still hung heavy in the air above the place where the council had been. So he gathered up the smoke and draped it over the mountains as a reminder. And he left it there until such time as all Men shall learn to live in peace together.

I love this image of smoke draped over the mountain. There are so many ways that I can connect with it emotionally. I didn’t go to Boston to be in community with the thousands that gathered there yesterday in solidarity for peace and a different way. Instead, the time celebrating Ben’s birthday with dear family friends, and the moment of exquisite tenderness captured as Ben held the hand of his two year old companion, became beacons of this day living in peace.


But my spirit was there in Boston, as I carried the image of fog lifting each morning from the hills that are now my home, as a reminder that there is always the opportunity, every single day, to re-align my thoughts with a peaceful way.

the stool, part 2

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding a meditation stool that had been half submerged and abandoned in the water of the pond it had been sitting next to for years. Even the word abandoned now evokes a feeling of despair, of some lingering sense of violence that underpinned this stool’s demise. I have been watching for weeks now for evidence of the stool’s presence under the water, where it might have found a peaceful resting place. But there was no sign of it, even through the sun soaked water that could show me the depths of life below.

I was sharing this story with a friend visiting for the weekend as we approached the pond on our walk. My story, and the accompanying question of, “Was it a bear or a human who threw it into the water?” hadn’t changed. She gently offered another point of view. “Maybe it just blew over into the water and drifted there?” I suppose this could be true, I said out loud. but to myself I wondered why was I still feeling the undercurrent of some violence at play here.

We went on to have a lovely stroll through these woods I have come to feel such love in the presence of.


My friend is a forest therapist.


She takes people on slow leisurely walks in the woods, laced with invitations to sink deep into where they are and simply notice. She was fascinated with the plethora of fungus life that were living in these woods surrounding my home, and was stopping frequently to take photos of them. I began to see the amazing variety and beauty of this life form through her eyes, faces and hearts and colonies of fascinating shape and color.




We were benefitting from one of the many aspects of engaging in forest therapy as an exchange, by sharing what we each experienced, creating a wider richer net of awareness for both of us.

Her observation about the stool was an invitation for me to notice the way in which I was making an assumption about what happened. To consider how easy it is to project, not from the energy of what is actually there, but from a distant, disconnected place in me. Because as I was walking the next day, as I was passing the opposite end of the pond that is now rich with green growth, I noticed a dark object. It wasn’t big, but it felt hard and foreign even from where I was on the path hundreds of yards away I knew it was the stool!! Just a sliver of the round seat that was now present above the surface of the water.


I felt my whole being align with something true in that moment. Now I believed the stool had been guided by the force of nature this whole time, indeed blown in and drifted to where I had seen it at first, then leisurely migrating to these shallows of the other end. I could now let go of whatever illusion of thought had been holding me to the feeling of impulsive anger. Considering ‘what is’ even trumps considering something as good (vs. bad). ‘What is’ simply embodies the energy of exchange. What could possibly be the point of judging that exchange?

“The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colors which at every succeeding moment it presents to you are the exquisitely adjusted pictures of your ever-moving thoughts.” -James Allen

I had prepared bowls of museli** for me and my friend before our walk. I had made the traditional Swiss mixture of oats, lemon, sweetened milk, a few nuts, and shredded fresh apples on a whim the week before. I had had everything on hand except the apples. I could see them forming on the trees out in the meadow but would it be wrong to try to eat them now? Thankfully, I had by-passed that judgement and went out to gather three tiny apples, two red from one tree, one green from another. I soaked the old-fashioned oats while shredding the tart apples and mixed them with the lemon juice and cinnamon. Preparing this bowl of nourishment now evoked the feeling of whole body peace I had experienced the week before when I made it for myself. The feeling became a thought. I wanted to share this feeling of peace.

The muesli was as delicious and as satisfying as the first time. I had no control over how my friend would respond. But this was a friend with whom I shared ‘parallel life experiences’ with. She was one of the people in my life who made similar lifestyle choices and I could confidently present her with this meal exactly as I would to myself, a meal that embodied energy of the fruit of the trees we communed daily with. It felt like a worthy offering.


**Museli  (one serving)

1 tablespoon old-fashioned oats soaked in 1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon walnuts (lightly toasted)
1 tablespoon golden raisins
1 tablespoon half & half
juice of one small lemon
1 large or 2 small grated (just picked if possible) apples with skins
dash cinnamon
maple syrup (to taste)

Soak oats while preparing apples. Mix grated apples immediately with lemon juice to prevent browning. Add cinnamon. Add apples, walnuts and raisins to oats and mix. Add half & half and maple syrup and mix again. Eat.

burying threads

I took one last look at the new quilt on the table in my studio, shrouded in dark, but with enough light to see the texture that was beginning to form on the surface from machine quilted lines meeting the hand quilted lines. I was just a day into the commitment to give this piece my all until finished. I went to bed knowing I’d be up at the crack of dawn to begin adding more.

In the morning light I saw it all a little bit differently, where the curved lines wobbled just a tad too much, where a pucker would have to be smoothed out, my eyes scanning for the next place to go. So much more to do until the alchemy of fabric and thread became the feel of finished quilt. This part of the process always evoked the need for faith. I turned on my sewing machine, sat down and immediately added a new line. Like most of the others, it began somewhere in the middle, at the edge of a piece that would become the pivot point for catapulting it across the surface. The first line I made ended up being all wrong, it would have to be ripped out. But I needed to attend to the dogs, make my coffee, so with one last look at the energy that was brewing in this quilt, I left with resolve to come back and get to it.


It is best to rip out stitches from the back of a quilt. Here, it is just the purity of line on a (mostly) solid piece of fabric. I lowered my stool, took off my glasses and got up close and personal with the tight even stitches confronting me. Methodically wielding the seam ripper in and out of every third stitch or so lasted about a minute before getting abandoned in favor of pulling, tying off, and burying all the unresolved thread ends that I was now seeing from yesterday’s work.


This act of isolating both threads (from needle and bobbin), tying them together in a small knot at the surface of the fabric, snipping them together to make a clean single point for threading a needle, and then working through the hole from which they came back into the batting with a satisfying little pop, is one of my favorite things to do. Go figure. It is grunt work after all. But it also creates a great deal of space in the process for meditation and reflection. What threads of my life have I been burying so I can have the semblance of an ordered and tidy emotional life? I worked, and felt the space of intimacy I was creating for myself at the same time. Much to the dog’s dismay (it was time for our walk in the woods after all), I stayed at the task until every last thread was buried.

I was looking forward to a long and leisurely walk. After so much rain and the excitement of my parents visiting, walks in the woods with the dogs during the past week had been short. Walking the familiar path this morning, I felt the intimacy of the woods collide with the intimacy of my engagement with the quilt this morning. This feeling of touching and being touched, bittersweet and full of emotion, triggered a trajectory of thought not unlike the way the edge of a piece of fabric was triggering the trajectory of curved lines in this quilt. The dangling ends of these thoughts would get buried soon enough, but for now I let them wave freely. I missed being touched. I missed the feel of another’s loving hands. I missed the intimacy that can be triggered by just a simple touch. All of my past lovers were now buried threads, but there would always be continuity in the longing they left in me. One in particular came to mind, the one who came into my life as my first post divorce lover, the one I felt compatible with in so many important ways, but who wanted a very different path than the one we could have had together.

As I approached the pond, I remembered bringing him here, how we had sat together on the meditation stool that lived here, back pressed to back, the characteristic crackle and fizz of our shared connection as strong and comforting as ever. I suppose it was no coincidence that after almost two years of hiking this terrain and passing the meditation stool that was always just there, that I would look down this morning and see the stool thrown into the pond, submerged, almost buried, floating in the illusion of the reflected trees in the water.


Coincidence or not, it was still a shock. How did it get there? A disgruntled bear? A disgruntled human? As if to say, ‘Move on!’, ‘No need to sit here and dwell on this any more!’ ‘Look instead at what is forming here on the surface right in front of you, feel the deep roots down into the water, buried and unseen and yet capable of bringing forth unexpected beauty too, every year, over and over again!’


The process of quiltmaking never disappoints. There is a front surface connected to a back surface and what happens in between is what makes it potentially a quilt full of conflicting energies. It’s okay to feel the comfort and satisfaction that comes with making a tidy quilting line. I have learned that burying the threads of emotion only works when accepting and acknowledging that I have absolutely no control over what will resurface next time, and that is okay too.



Ben and I were two of the many thousands that filed through a lineup of security checkpoints, into the Grande Theatre at Foxwoods Casino (in CT) Friday night to see Idina Menzel. I didn’t know it was the opening night of her North American 2017 tour. I didn’t know just how beloved she was. I might have guessed when Ben, months ago, from a wide selection of Broadway shows, concerts, and performances available to choose from, specifically chose this concert. With the guidance of his teacher Danielle, he bought the tickets with his own money, orchestra seats of course, only the best for Ben, and we put the date on the calendar. It was a sold out concert.

I contacted Anne, Ben’s godmother and an old friend from NYC days. She had taken my place in the cheap East 81st Street ground floor apartment when I left for graduate school in 1981. We became friends over the years and by 1993, she was the one at home taking care of Molly the night Ben was born. We were NYC junkies together, artists in spirit, mutually self-reliant, sharing our early days of motherhood and the importance of community. She lived in her rent controlled apartment in Styvensant Town and we lived in our rent controlled loft just walking distance across town. Those were the days when I remember standing at the window of our loft looking out into the sea of humanity walking by, anonymous, seeing, but not feeling seen, the line between public and private being both transparent and completely impenetrable at the same time. Anne and I hadn’t seen each other in years.

Her country home in CT just happened to be a half hour away from Foxwoods and she invited us to stay the night with her. It made the surreal drive through bucolic Connecticut countryside into the fantasyland of Foxwoods a little easier. It was an abrupt transition, making the right hand turn into the complex. At least in NYC, the sense of fantasy lurking around the corner was everywhere, embedded in dense fabric of human and manmade constructs. But here we had to move fast through the inhospitable concrete landscape, only to emerge into a different world. I’ll never get used to it, the huge hospital complexes, the giant malls and chain stores, the efficiently built but airless office buildings, the Disney-lands and Las Vegas wannabes.

There were no signs guiding us to where we needed to go at Foxwoods. You just needed to figure it out. I took the plunge and ventured into the self parking garage, trusting we would find our way. And we did! Foxwoods, it turns out, is nothing more than big mall of stores, theater, and hotel that is organized around a center casino. Once inside, it is actually impossible to get lost. I marveled at the efficiency of this design that was all about spending money. I was able to relax and flow with Ben’s infectious enthusiasm now, his excitement of finally seeing Idina.

The Grand Theater at Foxwoods is indeed grand.


We settled in and the show began with Idina herself, no warm up performances to wait through. It was an exciting, well crafted, and beautiful show, full of her Broadway and movie classics, cover songs, her own original pieces too. When she began “Seasons of Love” I was instantly transported back to over twenty years ago, seeing her perform this in the famous Broadway show ‘Rent’. I felt the power and emotion of the production that dove into the heart of being a struggling artist in NYC as if it were yesterday. Being able to pay the rent, in order to be free to create, is the theme that brought me right back to my connection with Anne. We have each had our own paths, but as we sat and caught up in her newly renovated country kitchen, I marveled at how the feeling of the artist in each of us has emerged unaltered from the passions of our NYC days, in the creation of our respective country homes. We’ve both chosen to live alone in the country for similar reasons. We shared the questions that have fueled our creativity and considered how next steps might flow naturally from these efforts. It is rare to see and be seen so completely. It is a good feeling, one that can be tapped when endeavoring to truly see all others.


Not coincidently, Idina’s encore was a perfect expression of how I was feeling. She told of a South African greeting, to say “I see you” to another. After taking in the energy of the sentiment, the other responds, “I am here”. She wrote a song about this, sent it to friends and colleagues, asking for a video response. A black and white montage of these responses was reeling in the background behind a transparent gauze curtain as she sang her song, her last of the night, singing to the sea of faces with heartfelt sincerely,


ending with the image of her own face looking out at us as she sang, ‘I am here’.


After watching with disbelief how the leaves of my squash, chard, bean and tomato plants begin to yellow, then brown, then become flecked with little holes, I finally decided to get some help. Disbelief because the garden had such promise when first planted, as I envisioned flawlessly produced vegetables that would magically sustain me for the next four months. From afar, connected to something bigger, the garden looked perfect.


But it’s not really a surprise that the dance between health and disease would be as prevalent here in the garden as it is in our culture. I don’t know why I let myself get seduced by the promise of perfection every time I enter into a new creative effort. But I do. It took weeks before I had the thought to actually go to a local garden store with samples of each malady in hand. I learned from a saleswoman there that the wet humid conditions of this spring have been a perfect breeding ground for many undesirables, most of all….fungus. This kind woman seemed unfazed by her assessment. She didn’t try to sell me fungicide or chemical bug killer. As if she had taken in my inherent reluctance to interfere, she quietly suggested I simply pinch off the infected leaves and let the healthy portions of the plants continue to grow. I believed her. Of course there is no guarantee that this will solve the problem. But I left feeling the relief of this simple way of trusting that the good parts of the plant would prevail.

Next destination was to the theater to see Wonder Woman. What a wonderful movie! Good old-fashioned entertainment that left me with the message once again, that belief in the power of acceptance, of all parts of the whole, of good and bad, might be the true path of love. I’ve been thinking about the title a lot now. Wonder Woman. A woman who inspires wonder? The wonder of a strong self realized woman who needs no man to be complete? A woman, who in the wonder of her innocent belief that we are here to celebrate the life of mankind, not its destruction, is the most powerful of all?

I still cringe when I hear the word fungus. For some reason it carries the energy of malevolent unwanted growth that feeds on the living. And yet, I have been equally fascinated with the myriad forms of fungus I see growing in the woods. The forest is full of pungent earthy smell these days. It is what comes first, this intense aroma that feels inherently life giving. I can’t help but think of the huge bag of dried porcini mushrooms in my kitchen, how they carry the essence of this energy. Fungus is as integrally a part of this smell as any other and I am not at all repulsed here in the woods. Fungus is the principal decomposer in an ecological system. It is earth food. It can be medicine, like the lingzhi mushroom (literally meaning ‘supernatural mushroom’) forming on dead logs that have fallen across our path. Or become beautiful lichen growth emerging from the dense mineral rich stone of this landscape.

There is also plenty of the same fungus on leaves emerging from the ground here in the forest, as in my garden. In the woods, it looks completely natural. It is part of something bigger and never a true threat. It doesn’t have to be contained or controlled or destroyed in order to maintain what I think is mine. My way, my path, in my time.


All the recently felled trees across the path in the woods have become teachers of this lesson. They can get chain-sawed out of the way in a flash, or they can sit there for years growing fungus and slowly decomposing. I don’t have a chain-saw, nor do I feel the compulsion to get these logs out of the way. I’ve already started spurs around them and these spurs will simply become a new part of the path, leaving the obstacle to return to earth of which it came. Is this progress? I don’t know. It is hard for me to let go of the path looking and feeling exactly the way I thought it should. It’s also hard for me to continue to believe that removing what has always felt like an integral part of ME, an event or behavior or person of my past, might actually be a trigger for health.

I came home and made big pot of earthy pungent porcini infused braised chicken legs** to have with my fresh salad of greens and herbs; baby kale, chard, mesclun, lemon balm, mint, basil, parsley, radish, and nasturtium, picked from the garden just moments before eating. I cherish the delicious balance of young fresh and green with old rich and brown in this meal.

After pinching off the dead or infected leaves of the plants in my garden, I am left with the space and beauty of a thriving plant in a thriving garden.


As much as I feel the compulsion to let things be, I know it is equally okay, maybe even necessary, to remove and let go the parts that don’t serve. I’ve come to believe that killing what I think is bad or undesirable, will never work. Will this belief last? Ensure the freedom and growth of all around me? I don’t know. I am growing alongside this plant, learning something new each day.

**Porcini Infused Braised Chicken Legs
1 package chicken legs (about 2-1/2 lbs)
1 large onion, thickly sliced
1 large garlic cloves thinly sliced
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1-1/2 cups organic tomatoes, fresh or canned, diced
(1) cup chicken stock
1/2 cup chopped olives of choice
fresh chopped herbs of choice (I used mint, sage, basil, and lemon balm)
(2) tablespoons olive oil
flour and spices for browning chicken

Prepare porcini mushrooms by soaking in (1) cup warm water for at least 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms with a slotted spoon and run under cold to fully rinse. Squeeze out excess moisture with hands, finely chop and set aside. Strain the soaking liquid through a paper towel and also set aside. This is very important as you will likely see the remains of little white worms that had been buried in the mushrooms and died in the drying process. I have researched this copiously. They are harmless and quite dead at this point. Even so, this rinsing and straining process ensures that not a one will make it into the stew.

Roll chicken pieces in flour with salt, pepper and a handful of dried herbs of choice (I used Herbes en Provence) and cook in large pot until brown and crisp, about fifteen minutes total. Remove chicken and add onion, cook until translucent. Add garlic, chopped porcini and their strained juice, and cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and olives and stir. Arrange chicken pieces and pour in chicken broth. Liquid should reach three quarters up the chicken. Bring to boil. Cover, turn fire to lowest low, and simmer for 45 minutes. Add fresh chopped herbs at end. Let sit at least ten minutes before serving. Really really good with homemade biscuits!!

gluten free apple cake

It’s the first week of June and I actually tried to light a fire in the woodstove this morning. It didn’t take. I’m all out of kindling and fatwood and the few pieces of newspaper just didn’t do it. I could have gone out and gathered some branches from the woods, but they’d still be wet from the overnight rain. I gave up. And instead, let the thought of apple cake take firm hold as my energy shifted to the kitchen. Just like that. There’s no rationalizing these urges. A warm oven to bake a warm cake, while channeling the warmth that is coming to feed the now bulging apple blossoms that will yield an abundance of apples for me to make a new stock of spiced apple slices with. This was all there in that thought. I actually looked up my own blog post to find the last recipe I documented for said apple cake. I decided to make the same cake, gluten free. It’s been on my mind, this thing with wheat, not wanting to eat too much of it, my middle aged body beginning to sensitively register the effects of a lifetime of possibly too much, so many people in my life now who have discovered their own sensitivity to the modified gluten of modified wheat that is contained in so much of our processed food. The recipe would have to be modified further to use up the rest of the whole milk plain yogurt instead of heavy cream, some honey instead of maple syrup, (I didn’t have any cream or syrup) and the very last quart of spiced apple slices from the harvest here almost two years ago.


Combining and whipping together the butter, sugar and honey with a wooden spoon in a large metal bowl, produced a satisfying, thick cream. I beat in the eggs completely before adding the yogurt. All the dry ingredients were added to a smaller bowl to be whisked together before adding to, and mixing with the wet.


I learned from a master chef at a birthday party last year, that the secret to making a moist and successful gluten free cake is to add chia seeds. She explained that they do the job that the gluten in flour normally does by absorbing and holding liquid in the batter. The apples are then folded into the well mixed batter.


Once everything was mixed, and while preparing the pan, I let the batter sit for five minutes or so to give time to this alchemy between liquid and seed.

This journey with apple cake seems to be going on longer than I expected. There is a pattern forming but like a blueprint, it is only a guide at best. So much can happen in the making, flexibility becomes desirable. It is like making a series of quilts. There is a theme. Apples have been part of my life in a primal way for my whole life. Apple pie, candied apples, and apple turnovers are still objects of desire. But I always come back to the simplicity of the single beautiful fresh apple. One of my enduring memories is of trips to a farm in the fall with my family to get apples and pumpkins. My father would put the chosen bushel of apples, on occasion two bushels, out on the porch, usually red delicious, covered with a blanket, for keep all winter. I would go to retrieve one of those apples in the afternoon when I got home from school, cut it into slices, put it on a plate with a few pieces of cheddar cheese, sink into the couch, and eat slowly. I remember each sensation as if eating it right now, the sharp creamy cheese offsetting the crisp sweetness of the apple. The theme of comfort is as enduring as the memory. It’s time to read Ruth Reichl’s book “Comfort Me with Apples.’ Why have I waited so long? It is one of my daughter’s favorite books, I think shes actually read it twice. I find my copy on the bookshelf now, pages still crisp and untouched, a first edition sent to me in the year it was published, 2001, with an inscription from my mother, referencing the two apple trees I had just planted next to the ancient one in my front yard. My very first blog post here almost six years ago was inspired by the apples from those trees. And so it goes. Each version of apple cake becomes an evolved version of the last. A series could go on for a short time, producing just a few pieces, or it could go on for a lifetime to create a defining body of work.

I made the mistake of licking the spatuala after scraping all the batter into the pan. It was a shocking disappointment. A truly awful taste. My taste buds are so conditioned to the taste of wheat flour in batter and I wasn’t fully prepared for the difference. And for the time of baking I held onto the sinking feeling that this cake would be a disaster, truly afraid it might not be as delicious as the last and that I would have wasted my time and my precious last jar of apples. The journey doesn’t give us all wonderful easy places to rest along the way. When in one of those tough places, the only thing I can do is reach for a feeling good place. Only when the aroma filled the house with characteristic apple cake smell did I relax. It emerged from the oven with the golden glow that signaled all good. I had to wait about half an hour for the cake to cool enough to cut into.


It was a beautiful sight, layers of apples nestled comfortably and competently in the moist cake. The first bite filled me with a joy of both recognition and delight, of a core need met, of the discovery of something new. This cake was perfect in every way. No one would ever know it was ‘gluten free’.



Gluten Free Apple Cake with Honey

Cream 8 Tablespoons softened butter (1 stick) with
1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup honey
Add 2 whole eggs + 2 egg yolks
Add 1/2 cup whole milk plain yogurt

Whisk together in another bowl and add to wet ingredients until just mixed
2 cups gluten free flour (of choice)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Drain (1) quart spiced apple slices and fold into batter

Pour into 12″ round cake pan prepared with butter & (gluten free) flour

350 degrees for 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.