Friday, December 30, 2011

Food for the Soul: Fried Plantains

Plantain by Nicole Margaretten

I was lucky enough to spend the holidays in Costa Rica with my husband's family, and we ate a lot of local food. My favorite breakfast became fried plantains, gallo pinto, tortillas, and eggs. (Yes, that's a lot of food, but breakie is the most important meal of the day.) 

Now that we've returned, we'll be enjoying more plantains as a replacement for potatoes. They're sweet, and they are very nutritious.

The best part? Making fried plantains is so easy! Choose very ripe plantains. Slice in coins, minus the peel, of course. Heat oil in a pan. Fry. If they're ripe enough, they don't need a single thing extra.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Singing to Pain

Orpheus, by Odilon Redon
via Orbs of Zenith

Apparently I'm in a musical mood these days. The subject for today: musical therapy, which I first heard about from a friend, who literally sings to the parts of her body-soul that are in pain. She says it opens up those areas to "flow" and releases stagnation.

Then, I heard a segment on Talk of the Nation about musical therapy. The part that I found fascinating was a therapist who modified the stressful hospital environment by improvising melodies on the guitar, in response to the sounds of the hospital. What creativity! And he also improvised melodies in response to the patient's reaction. What compassion! 

In what areas of your life would you add song? What would you sing? What melody would you play?

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Poet Speaking through the Piano

Swedish Bonad
via Cupboards and Roses

Can you imagine what it would be like to lose your ability to speak? Now imagine if you could use music to regain some of your means of communication.

Tomas Tranströmer, a Swedish poet, was awarded the Nobel Prize, but because of a stroke, he was unable to give an acceptance speech. Instead, his poetry was set to music. I wish I could find a video somewhere . . .

At least I've been able to find some of his poetry, which I really like.

“Sketch in October”
The tugboat is freckled with rust. What’s it doing here so far inland?
It’s a heavy extinguished lamp in the cold.
But the trees have wild colors: signals to the other shore.
As if someone wanted to be fetched.

On my way home I see mushrooms sprouting through the grass.
They are fingers, stretching for help, of someone
who has long been sobbing alone down in the darkness.
We are the earth’s.

    —from The Great Enigma, translated by Robin Fulton; via ABC News

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Postmodern Hymn: That I Would Be Good

Let's allow Alanis to break it down for us. If you're like me, you've probably heard "That I Would Be Good" before, but it still grips me when I hear it. She has a way of naming internal realities with such clarity.

I've been thinking about self-love lately and how to avoid the pitfalls of the selfish form of love Westerners can be so good at. I don't pretend to have it all figured out, but here are my thoughts:

Looking at common depictions of self-care, I find them very superficial. Take a picture of your body and call it accepting your body. This kind of practice seems very alienating to me. I know that when I'm happiest in my body, it is because I am enjoying the sensations of moving, breathing, and resting. The times when I feel the most self-love are when this feeling of body awareness deepens into a sensation that at the core of my being, all is well, and all is accepted. There is a softening, a loosening of resistance, to my struggles. I suspect that some thinkers might find some of these things weak and reprehensible. But I think the process of becoming gentle with oneself, in the way I've just described, resonates with what Alanis is singing about, as well as with what teachers like Pema Chodron advocate.

So, this is my invitation to allow your pleasurable practices of the body to penetrate to your core, and to love the body-heart-mind-soul mystery as you encounter it.

Friday, December 2, 2011


I'm looking at ledger art a lot these days, and I'm noticing that many artists were concerned with the feet of the animals. For example, deer and bison are often portrayed with their cleft hooves.

Buffalo Hunt by Cheyennes, by Making Medicine
via Jennifer Graber

I like these artists' perspectives. Can you imagine if instead of focusing on the face of a person, as artist focused on a person's feet? (And of course, there are paintings like Van Gogh's Peasant Shoes.)

Let's get grounded!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Witnesses of Tolerance

Tolerance, by Jaume Plensa
via glasstire
Driving through Houston, you may discover the seven sculptures of Tolerance by Jaume Plensa. At night, they are illuminated and sit like peaceful guardians, keeping watch over the city.

The figures are composed on individual letters. The artist grew up with a love for books and sees each letter as a symbol of the individual. Together, the letters come together to create language, culture, and humanity. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Voice Project: Songs for Forgiveness

Voyage Home, by Joe Carr

Have you heard about the Voice Project? It began with surviving women in Uganda singing songs to call their sons back from war, to let them know they've been forgiven. Now artists are recording cover songs in support of the peace movement. 

Check out the LA Ladies' Choir singing "Hallelujah."

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Walking Meditation

Maiden Crone, by Bonnie Wildwood

The great teacher Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that we try walking meditation while holding the hand of a child.

I would also suggest visiting an elderly relative or friend and walking with them. I visited my grandmother this weekend, and going at her pace, stopping with her to smile at the people we passed by, and remembering that growing old and frail is a natural part of life were all great lessons for me. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Postmodern Hymn: If It's Magic

Here's a little Stevie Wonder for you.

"If it's special 
Then with it why aren't we as careful 
As making sure we dress in style 
Posing pictures with a smile 
Keeping danger from a child."

Just a gentle reminder to take care of your life, dear friends.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Playful Songs

Western Meadowlark, by Adam Grimm

Did you know that some cultures consider the meadowlark to be capable of human speech? 

Arapaho mothers would feed their children meadowlark meat or eggs for four days and say certain prayers to give their children the gift of eloquence.

But meadowlarks are also thought to say mocking or dirty things! The bird that creates great orators is itself a joker. 

May our speech by playful, wise, and fearless.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Song of the Day: Good Life

I've been listening to a lot of Richard Julian lately, a singer-song writer that works with Norah Jones as part of the Little Willies. What I enjoy about Richard is his way with words—he's poetic and sarcastic and opens up new ways of seeing the world—and the movement in the melodies that he creates with his guitar.

Here's one of my favorites.

If you like what you hear, check out "Love of Mine," "World Keeps On," or "If a Heart Breaks." The last one is a play on the koan "If a tree falls . . . "

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Gold Beneath the Clay

I just heard the story of the golden buddha today. Have you heard this story?

Here's the short version:

A clay buddha started to develop cracks. One Thai monk felt compelled to look inside the cracks with a flashlight to see what how it was made. To his surprise, the statue was gold! It had been covered by layers of clay years ago to protect it from looters, and all who knew this had been killed.

Buddha at Wat Traimit, via Thailand's world

The woman who told me this story talked about the layers that we put on to protect our golden nature. In some ways, these layers are an inevitable fact of being human, but in other ways, these layers prevent us from sharing our selves.

How might our layer of clay be softened, so that the gold below can shine through?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Taking a Break

Carpal tunnel has struck, and these easiest way to fix it would seem to be spending less time on the computer.

I will return when the feeling in my fingers also returns!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Temple of Learning

painted and embroidered allegorical picture, by Maria Crowninshield
via Salem in History

If there's one thing I believe in, it's learning and community. I think learning from each other is one of the most powerful acts of love and affirmation there is. I see images like this, and think about Mary Wollstonecraft arguing for equality around the same time, and I feel so grateful for all the opportunities I have to learn, and to learn from other women. 

Some things I've learned lately from teachers of mine:
  • laugh—it shakes up any bitterness that may be starting to set in
  • go slower than you think is necessary, and time will open up
  • invite others to tea—it is one of the best conversation potions out there

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Art, Poetry, Dream

I love the magic in Irene Belknap's art. The way her figures seem to measure the earth with their long triangular steps. The way fruit and wheels serve as reminders of time and no-time. The way her figure's dresses are often adorned with the poetry of David Whyte. What does it all mean?

Fall Back, by Irene Belknap
To the Feast, by Irene Belknap
via Chico Paper Company

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Early to Bed

Sleeping Beauty, by Roberto Innocenti
via Fairy Tale Mood

I'm a night owl. If I could, I would stay up later and later each night, because my internal clock seems to have thirty hours in a day instead of the real twenty-four. The truth is, I can never quite believe that I've done enough in a day. Thus, I'm beginning a new practice—intentionally going to bed early—to affirm that I've spent my day well and that all I can do is honor each moment as it comes.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Our Friend, Death

Madonna of the Sacred Bones, by Laurie Lipton
via Phantasmaphile

"My parents were atheists. We had no ceremony, no goodbyes, no "closure". My father instructed the hospital to cremate my mother and dispose of her ashes. She was gone, disappeared, zapped out of existence. I was left with Nothing... literally and metaphysically. Friends & family treated my mother's death like an embarrassment. They awkwardly murmured Hallmark platitudes before slinking uneasily away. Death is as forbidden a topic in modern society as sex was in Victorian England. 

When I visited Mexico in order to see The Day Of The Dead festival some years later, I couldn't help feeling envious of their approach to mortality. Families gathered on graves and picnicked, whole villages turned up with food for households in mourning. Death was treated as normal, even silly. Candied skulls grinned in their hundreds and skeletons danced in a fair-ground atmosphere. I decided to rebel against my heritage and create drawings inspired by the mood and atmosphere of the Mexicans. I decided to get in-touch with my bare bones. My culture runs from death, screaming. We worship youth, beauty and the illusion that we have all the time in the world. We frantically face-lift and botox, and throw pills, creams and money at death. We fool ourselves into thinking that death only happens to other people & only losers die. Skulls always look like they're laughing. Maybe the joke is on us?"
    —Laurie Lipton

Amen. Let's take the opportunity today to see death in a new way.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Wanted It Thus

I wanted it thus, by yours truly

Here's a little drawing I did last year around this time. I think it suits the Halloween season. With all the imagery of death and living dead, I think it's a good time to ponder the "eternal return" . . . can you affirm that you would relive this moment exactly as it is?

"For all joy wants itself, therefore it also wants heart's agony! O happiness! O pain! Oh break, heart! You Higher Men, learn this, learn that joy wants eternity, 
joy wants the eternity of all things, wants deep, deep, deep eternity!"
    —Thus Spoke Zarathustra, by Friedrich Nietzsche

Friday, October 28, 2011

Fancy Dance

Powwow season is winding down, and news sources like Indian Country Today Media Network have fantastic videos of the dancing that went on all over the continent. It's absolutely breathtaking.

Here's a video I found of the women's fancy shawl dance. The fancy dance is a relatively new dance that started when other religious dances were outlawed in the early part of the twentieth century. Despite its sad origins, I can't help feeling joyful whenever I watch these dancers. They seem to fly over the ground, and yet they are also so connected with the ground and the beat of the drum. 

May we all find ways to dance in the face of adversity.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inner Work, Body Work

Saint Margaret and the Dragon
via Orbs of Zenith

"One who has conquered the mind, senses and passions, thought and reason, is a king." . . . or queen . . . "He or she has Inner Light."
    —Light on Yoga, by B. K. S. Iyengar

I'm not sure how I feel about the word "conquered" . . . I might choose a word like "befriended," but anyway I think this is a good reminder of the process of integration. More to come on this!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Song of the Day: My Sweet Lord

I've had this song in my head for a while now, thanks to Cup of Jo

I love George Harrison. When my mom asked me which Beatle I thought was most handsome, I chose him without much hesitation. (And of course she was shocked I didn't say Paul.) I swear some people just look like they have a lot going on inside them, you know?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Humans in the World

I just discovered the gorgeous art of Juan Gatti through Phantasmaphile, a favorite website of mine, and wow! What amazing work.

His art captures a feeling I've been having lately, of being no less a part of the growth and decay I see around me. Now that cool weather is finally coming to these parts, I find dead butterflies and moths sometimes on my morning walk. The cold was just too much for them, I guess. There's something fantastical about finding such a beautiful creature, waiting to be discovered. And there's also something heartbreaking about thinking how many little creatures must perish each cold night in the fall.

by Juan Gatti via Michele Filomeno

by Juan Gatti via Michele Filomeno

Click through to see more of his work—each piece is brilliant.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Woman Warrior

Elouise Cobell, via Le Monde

This post is to honor a remarkable woman. Elouise Cobell died last week at the age of 65. She was born on the Blackfeet reservation in 1945 and was one remarkable lady. She successfully sued the US government for mismanaging hundreds of thousands of American Indian trusts. In recognition for her work, she was given the rare honor of receiving an eagle feather—the mark of a warrior—by her people. What an inspiration!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sacred Space: Right Here

In my part of the world, rolling hills and big sky are reminders of spaciousness (in the loveliest of senses) and possibility. Just driving through the country yesterday was a pilgrimage for me. 

Western Oklahoma Sky, by Nancy Park
via Bold Brush painting competition

What parts of your environment do you find inspiring?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Food for the Soul: Harvest Soup

Polka Dot Pumpkins via ShopTalk
originally via Better Homes and Gardens

One of my favorite things about fall is that all sorts of lovely winter squashes come into season.

The beauty of winter squash is, you really don't need to do a lot to make a tasty dish. They take a while to roast, but they already have lovely, complex flavors.

Here's my favorite squash soup recipe:
  1. Quarter two granny smith apples and divide two squash into eight pieces each. (Use butternut for a sweet soup or acorn squash for a more nutty soup.) Roast until soft.
  2. Puree.
  3. Combine with stock (I like turkey stock), nutmeg, and cinnamon, and give the flavors a chance to meld together.
  4. My favorite part: serve with toasted nuts, dried cranberries or cherries, and diced apples. Yum!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Time Traveling

Silvers Welch Road View, by Oldoinyo
via Selah, Selah

Four years ago, I made a fantastic decision, which has sent ripples of joy through my life ever since. 

I've recently discovered that this decisions could be called karmic . . . a kind of perfume that continues in the body and mind beyond a single moment. 

This may be a simple concept for some of you readers, but for me, this view of karma reawakened my sense of responsibility to create my life. 

May we all be blessed with joyful, creative moments.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Be Part of Something Old

Autumn Leaves, by Sandra Dieckmann

"Young friend, be part of something old.
Be home here in the great world, . . .
where forest wants to be your house, . . .
where wee birds carry your wishes far
and sunlight reaches for your hand. . . . "
    —excerpt from "Naknuwisha," by Kim Stafford 

What a lovely reminder (post-birthday, for me) that our age is also tied to the much older, ever changing earth. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Joy of Pies

Join me in celebrating my birthday with a slice of pie today!

Have you seen the movie Waitress? If you have then you may understand why pies have become symbol of joy and fairy tale endings for me. If you haven't seen it, you should definitely check it out! (And if you get the DVD, you can get pie recipes, too!!)

Keri Russell and Andy Griffith, via the New York Times

Part of what made the movie so lovely was that Jenna (Kerri Russel's character) expressed herself through her pies. There was the "falling in love chocolate mousse pie" and the "naughty pumpkin pie," for example.

"I can't have no affair because it's wrong and Earl would kill me pie"
vanilla custard with banana . . . hold the banana
via Girl in the Afternoon

Coming up to the big 3-0, I'm looking back over the year with some pride and joy for how my life has grown: I've worked on my personal myth project, I've gotten a new job that I'm really excited about, and I've started this blog. I've also had another fairy tale year with my husband. Life is good.

If I made a pie, it would be the "a dream is a wish your heart makes" pie, and it would probably involve a raspberry and strawberry filling topped with honey-flavored meringue.

What about you? What would your pie be?

via Delicious Magazine UK

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Bragging Wall

I spotted this wall of awards and honors over at Color Me Katie

Katie with her "I got caught being good award"
both pictures via Color Me Katie

Isn't it a fantastic idea?

It reminds me of a running joke I have with my mother-in-law. You know how some people have their email signatures set to display all of their titles and credentials? We like to sign off our emails with things like "mother of the year," "expert book reader," and "elliptical president." You've got to take pride in your accomplishments, right?

What awards would you give yourself?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Personal Myth: Creation

As you may have noticed, I'm working on a personal myth project. The idea is to write and draw a sort of true-fiction that reflects how I engage with the world. This may sound super new-agey, but consider a great book like Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino or even the great Star Wars. I really respect artists who take universal questions and engage with them in their own way.

Anyway, my project started with a series of four mandala-style drawings and an illuminated text to go with each. I've been calling the four themes "creation," "animals," "humans," and "heart." 

In "creation," I try to think about what the creation of the world means to me. I was inspired a bit by the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and my husband's explanation of scientific theories. 

Creation, by the Dancing Alchemist

Creation, by the Dancing Alchemist

If you had to re-tell the story of creation, how would you tell it? 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Old News, Funny News

I'm always the last to hear about everything, so this is probably super old news by now. But in case you've missed it: 

How to rock a v-neck

Go ahead, laugh until you snort and have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Recipe for Transforming Bitterness

Bitterness is a very dangerous sentiment. It can build up quickly until your heart is a pickled, shriveled little thing. It's something I truly fear, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover this recipe for transforming bitterness in one of my latest reads.

Excerpt from Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, by Joris Hoefnagel
via rbs of Zenith

Transforming Bitterness

  • bitterness
  • pessimistic outlook
  • frozen anger

  1. Settle into your life and the moment. Breathe.
  2. Taste the raw ingredients and accept the onslaught of yuck.
  3. Combine your life with the lives of others, dogs, flowers, bugs, and moon. It helps to do this with a curious frame of mind.
  4. From this creative life energy, open your life to eternal possibility.
  5. Your heart should now be a little more springy, like a cake.

Excerpt from Mira Calligraphiae Monumenta, by Joris Hoefnagel
via nends

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Song of the Day: In Praise of Tears

I went to a great concert at a local college last week, with all music by Franz Lizst. He arranged some beautiful music for the piano. (If you've ever watched Tom & Jerry, you've probably heard one of his arrangements.) One of the most beautiful pieces of the evening was Lizst's arrangement of a Schubert song. 

This recording is of Schubert's original voice and piano arrangement, but with just the first two stanzas. It's all I could find.

What I love about the song is the wistful, high piano notes, which seem to evoke tears pretty well. I also love  the message, because while it partakes of some senses-versus-soul dualism, it's true that tears can be magically unifying. Recognizing our tender disappointments connects us with every other living thing.

And, perhaps most of all, I love the general Romantic, slightly overwrought tone of the piece. Was this the eighteenth-century version of Bright Eyes?

Laue Lüfte,
Alle Lenz- und Jugendlust,
Frischer Lippen
Küsse nippen,
Sanft gewiegt an zarter Brust;
Dann der Trauben
Nektar rauben,
Reihentanz und Spiel und Scherz:
Was die Sinnen
Nur gewinnen:
Ach, erfüllt es je das Herz?

Wenn die feuchten
Augen leuchten
Von der Wehmut lindem Tau,
Dann entsiegelt,
Drin gespiegelt,
Sich dem Blick die Himmels-Au.
Wie erquicklich
Löscht es jede wilde Glut;
Wie vom Regen 
Blumen pflegen,
Hebet sich der matte Mut.

Nicht mit süßen
Zwang Prometheus unsern Leim.
Nein, mit Tränen;
Drum im Sehnen
Und im Schmerz sind wir daheim.
Bitter schwellen
Diese Quellen
Für den erdumfangnen Sinn,
Doch sie drängen 
Aus den Engen
In das Meer der Liebe hin.

Ew'ges Sehnen
Floß in Tränen,
Und umgab die starre Welt,
Die in Armen
Sein Erbarmen
Immerdar umflutend hält.
Soll dein Wesen
Denn genesen,
Von dem Erdenstaube los,
Mußt im Weinen
Dich vereinen
Jener Wasser heil'gem Schooß.
Brisk winds,
Scent of flowers,
All Spring and youthful joy,
Fresh lips
Stolen kisses, 
softly pressed on tender breast;
Then the grape's
nectar stolen,
Round dances and games and jokes:
Whatever the senses
can achieve:
Ah, does it ever fulfil the heart?

When the moist
eyes shine
from the dew of melancholy limes,
then unsealed,
therein mirrored,
the sight of Heaven's meadow.
Then suddenly
in the twinkling of an eye
every wild gleam is extinguished;
as from the rain
flowers are nurtured,
dull spirits are raised.

Not with sweet
floods of water
did Prometheus mix our lime.
No, with tears;
Thereby in longing
and in pain have we come home.
A bitter threshold
these springs
for the birth of our earthly senses,
as they pressed
out of the narrows
into the sea of life.

Eternal yearnings
float in tears
and surround the stark world,
In their arms
it's salvation
they evermore uphold.
Shall your nature
then be purged
free from the dross of Earth,
You must in weeping
unite yourself
with yonder water's holy shoots.

Lyrics via the Lied, Art Song, and Choral Texts Archive

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Little Prayer

A Bright Night, by Wharton Escherick
via Heads in the Heavens, originally via Moderne Gallery

"Oh, God, make small
 The old star-eaten blanket of the sky,
That I may fold it round me and in comfort lie."
    —excerpt from "The Embankment," by T. E. Hulme

via Book Oasis

Monday, October 10, 2011

Masks and Body Paint

The month of October and the coming Halloween holiday has me thinking about the many masks we wear in our daily interactions. How many are socially conditioned? How many of them are helpful?

And I also think about how I'm relating to other people and the masks they wear. Am I seeing them as clearly and lovingly as I can?

What if these masks were as beautiful and real as the painted faces of Surma children? Not knowing anything about Surma traditions except what I can find here and there, I am left to appreciate the beauty of their decoration and the mystery of the world that makes such beauty possible. 

(Video via Ox Herding. I believe the pictures are from Natural Fashion: Tribal Decoration from Africa, by Hans Silvester.)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sacred Space: Cabezon/Tsenajin

Cabezon/Tsenajin, taken by me

Cabezon Peak, as it is usually called by New Mexicans these days, is featured in the mythologies and cultures of the people native to the region. You can see it as you drive on highway 550, and you can hike it if you choose.

The Navahos call the peak "Tsenajin." For them, it is the head of the Big Giant Ye'iitsoh, who was killed by the twins Child Born of Water and Monster Slayer. When the giant died, his blood became the black rocks around Mount Taylor. This mountain marks the eastern boundary of the Navaho world.

Thanks to the twins, many people were saved from being eaten by the giant, and they were able to do this by the help of a variety of important figures, including their father, the Sun. The Sun was also father of the giant, making the twins and the giant brothers. 

What I love about this story is that even the "evil" character is intimately related to the heroes. I appreciate world views that accept evil as a part of the world, rather than as a wholly Other force. 

What I love about the place is that it is so physically connected to the story. (I can't think of any place that has such historical/cultural/religious significance. Except maybe for Jerusalem. But that is very far away and not part of my daily experience.) How would your life change if you had stories for the most beautiful, mysterious features of your world? What places would you choose to mythologize?

See the excellent full epic Dine Bahane for the story, or visit Voyage to Another Universe, Day 7 for a summary. You can also see a interdisciplinary master's project on the area here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Admiring: Ladies Who Love to Dance

I visited my Nanna at her retirement community last week so that I could hear some of the classic tunes of her generation as played by the local piano sensation. (I totally recommend bonding with family through song. There's nothing like seeing your grandmother get teary eyed at "I'll Being Seeing You" to give you a picture into her world.)

One of the best parts of the afternoon was seeing one of Nanna's friends dancing to the tunes. She'd dance in line as she waited for her cocktail shrimp. She'd dance in her chair. And then when a gent asked her to dance, she got up and moved her feet with such quickness you'd think she was a young woman. She even did the Charleston bees-knees step. She was a star. It didn't hurt that she was wearing glasses like Bono, either.

This is who I want to be when I get older—someone who'll take any opportunity to enjoy life that's given to her.

Billy Wells and Janet Richter doing the Charleston, Life Magazine, 1952
via Letters for George

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Golden October Days

The Joy of a Fallen Leaf, by Arthur Rackham
via If We Live That Long

"I'm so glad to live in a world where there are Octobers."
    —Anne, in Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery

I rediscovered this quotation from Anne of Green Gables via Mon Cabinet de Curiosities, via Book Oasis.

Being a red-head and imaginative little girl, Anne was my hero growing up. I loved how she was continually trying to add romance and magic to her world, always with comedic results. (Green hair and raspberry cordial, anyone?) As the books progressed, she learned to love what was quotidian and simple, without losing her talent for seeing the world through poetry and beauty.

It's about balance, isn't it: taking joy in each falling golden leaf, without getting swept away? 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Food for the Soul: Fried Eggs over Lentils

This dish, for me, is the ultimate comfort food. Eggs? Check. Bacon? Check. Mushy, flavorful base? Check. (Wait, don't overcook the lentils! But they're still nice and soft when you cook them well.)

Eat this and imagine you're in a French cafe. 

Hotel La Perla Dining Room, ironically in Italy, not France

Fried Eggs over Warm Lentil Salad with Lardons

Gourmet, October 2000

3/4 cup lentils (preferably French green lentils)
6 oz thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips
2 leeks (white and pale green parts only), finely chopped
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, or to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 large eggs
1 cup baby spinach

1.      Cover lentils with cold water by 2 inches in a saucepan, then simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 20 minutes.
2.      While lentils are simmering, cook bacon in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderate heat, stirring, until crisp, then transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain, leaving fat in skillet. Add leeks, celery, and carrot to skillet and cook, stirring, until just tender. Add vinegar and boil until most of liquid is evaporated. Remove skillet from heat and stir in tarragon, half of bacon, and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl and keep warm, covered, reserving skillet.
3.      Drain lentils well in a large sieve. Stir into vegetable mixture and season with salt and pepper. Keep warm, covered.
4.      Wipe skillet with paper towels, then add oil and heat over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Fry eggs in batches until whites are just set but yolks are still runny and season with salt and pepper.
5.      Divide lentil salad among 4 plates. Top with spinach, eggs, and remaining bacon.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hope Is a Thing That Floats Like a Balloon

Let's face it, life is about flux and change, and it takes serious hope to see an overarching narrative to discontinuous events. Everyday I can't say for certain what the next day will look like.

Even when things feel pretty steady, it takes a certain amount of bravery to be present in the moment and to accept that the moment will soon be gone.

That's where the balloons come in. Balloons are great cheery symbols of hope. I knew someone who described her partner as her "mylar balloon." We all need someone to be our cheerleader and our messenger of hope, but even more, we need to adopt that encouraging voice within ourselves.  

Boy with Balloons, by Kamala Kannan, via National Geographic

It also helps to remember that whatever situation we're in is a human condition shared by more people than we could ever imagine. Accepting where we are and what we're feeling is what feeds our compassion and what makes life beautiful.

Hot Air Balloon, by Bruce Dale, via National Geographic

Monday, October 3, 2011

Freedom or Gold

"Have you ever seen anything more beautiful? Come on, man, look around us. Do you realize what we've got? We can work when we want, sleep where we will, eat from the Lord's bounty. . . . We're free. The two freest men in the whole world."
    —Alexander McKeag, a character in the Centennial miniseries

Richard Chamberlain as Alexander McKeag (captured by me)

We just finished watching the Centennial miniseries (which I also posted about here). My favorite episodes were the first three because they dealt with the exciting, strange, and heartbreaking encounter between Europeans and Native Americans, and the environment of North America. If you enjoy historical dramas on cable, such as Deadwood or John Adams, I think you'd enjoy Centennial.

The point of this post isn't to review the series, though; it's to share the best moment in the series. It's when two trappers argue about what's worth striving for: freedom or gold. Go to 3:48 in the video, and watch at least to 5:23. I think it's a dialogue that every one has at one point or another.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Sacred Space: Spirit Nests

Let's fly away to these little nests, and watch the sun rise. (Originally discovered via Unstitched.)

Via Treebones Resort

What makes these spaces sacred for me is that they're homey and welcoming, besides being beautiful. They can be used for gatherings as well as for more meditative purposes. But no matter how they're used, they're set apart from the usual Western style shelter. Circular and constructed out of raw branches, the nests reorient visitors to the world, hopefully in a way that is more harmonious with the world and more filled with wonder at how humans fit into the beautiful world.

Ten-person spirit nest

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Ritual of Handwriting

Writing nailed to a tree, taken by me in northern Thailand, 2005

"It seems that handwriting is morphing into a source of leisure, reaffirming its magical, artistic and sacred origins."
    —Ecriture Infinie website

Ecriture Infinie is a world-wide project organized by Bili Bidjocka to celebrate the process of writing by hand. Large notebooks are filled with what contributors would write if it was their last opportunity to write something by hand. (Discovered via Black Eiffel.)

photo via cool hunting

What would you write as your last handwritten note? I think mine would have to be something personal and heartfelt. Perhaps a love letter, because I love getting hand-written notes from my husband. Sometimes I can't understand them, because his writing is a little scratchy, but I love that each letter uniquely reflects his hand.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Happy Funtimes with Animals

Have I been a little too introspective lately? In the past couple of days, I've noticed myself looking for things that will tickle my funny bone.

Just an Ordinary Fellow, by Marc Johns

Here are some little delights I've discovered, with some special animals thrown in:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Doorway Blessing

I've been thinking about posting a blessing near our front door, as a little reminder of how I'd like to live. Kind of like the mezzuzah of Jewish tradition, except completely different, because I wouldn't be playing by the rules.

Some contenders:

1. The closing prayer of the Navaho blessingway:
In beauty I walk 
With beauty before me I walk 
With beauty behind me I walk 
With beauty above me I walk 
With beauty around me I walk 
It has become beauty again 
It has become beauty again 
It has become beauty again 
It has become beauty again

It's hard to beat wisdom as beautiful as that. Whole books have been written about the Navaho concept of beauty, which can also be translated as harmony. More on that some other time. 

2. Some words a teacher used to say:

Now go out into the world, and expect the unexpected . . .

Simple words that I return to again and again.

Illustration by Carson Ellis for Wildwood
via Mrs Fancy Pants

3. Some words that I write myself that somehow capture the idea that the world is magical and I'm a part of it.  But if there are already such eloquent expressions out there, I'm not sure if I can say it any better.

Stay tuned! 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Song of the Day: "Keymaster"

"Keymaster," by Caleb Burhans and performed by Janus trio, is the perfect music to listen to while being creative. The gentle sounds of the flute and harp combined with the more rich tones of the viola make a gorgeous, magical combination.

Whenever I listen to Janus's CD, i am not, I always feel like I've been transported into a beautiful world, or rather, I see the world I'm living in as a little more wonder-ful.

What music do you listen to when you want to be inspired?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Stone vs. Tree

Yellow Birch, Adirondacks, by Michael Melford for National Geographic

The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.

    —Tao Te Ching, 64

On reading the passage above, this Westerner immediately thought "Oh, this means I should set a goal and work towards it little by little." But I don't think Taoists sages were very goal-oriented! (I think their disposition had something to do with desiring to have no desire . . . ) The goals of Taoism seems much less will-driven.

So what's the moral of the story? Patiently cultivate your life, appreciate the miracles that can come in the tiniest packages, and welcome the surprising twists that come along the journey.

Here's the full text:

What is rooted is easy to nourish.
What is recent is easy to correct.
What is brittle is easy to break.
What is small is easy to scatter.

Prevent trouble before it arises.
Put things in order before they exist.
The giant pine tree
grows from a tiny sprout.
The journey of a thousand miles
starts from beneath your feet.

Rushing into action, you fail.
Trying to grasp things, you lose them.
Forcing a project to completion,
you ruin what was almost ripe.

Therefore the Master takes action
by letting things take their course.
He remains as calm
at the end as at the beginning.
He has nothing,
thus has nothing to lose.
What he desires is non-desire;
what he learns is to unlearn.
He simply reminds people
of who they have always been.
He cares about nothing but the Tao.
Thus he can care for all things.

    —Tao Te Ching, 64, translated by Stephen Mitchella

For more "tree takeovers" see this flickr gallery.


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