Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Food for the Soul: Simple Spiced Okra

At this point in the summer, our farmer's market is overflowing with okra. One of my favorite ways to eat it is sauteed and dusted in curry powder. It's easy, delicious, and much healthier than the classic fried okra!

Abelmoschus esculentus, by Diana McElwain
via Green Currency

Our recipe is based on the one by Kevin Gillespie of Top Chef fame, but we're lazy. We slice the okra in half, sprinkle on our curry powder du jour (along with salt and pepper) and saute it a single oil-coated skillet until it's crispy enough for our taste. We like to eat it with salmon, seasoned with a little Old Bay, because we're fancy like that.

by Frances Janisch, via Food and Wine

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Mindful Consumption

A recent conversation has me thinking about what I choose to consume. This blog is in part a response to a desire to consume information more mindfully on the internet. But it is easy to passively allow all sorts of degrading messages to flood into the mind via the usual outlets: television, radio, computer, and one's one inner monologue. Thus, I'm posting Thich Nhat Hahn's Fifth Mindfulness Training, to remind myself of one way to be healthier.

"The Mist," in Dreamer of Dreams, illustrated by Edmund Dulac
via Sue du Jour

"Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful consumption, I am committed to cultivate good health, both physical and mental, for myself, my family, and my society by practising mindful eating, drinking, and consuming. I am committed to ingest only items that preserve peace, well-being, and joy in my body, in my consciousness, and in the collective body and consciousness of my family and society. I am determined not to use alcohol or any other intoxicant or to ingest foods or other items that contain toxins, such as certain TV programs, magazines, books, films, and conversations. I am aware that to damage my body or my consciousness with these poisons is to betray my ancestors, my parents, my society, and future generations. I will work to transform violence, fear, anger, and confusion in myself and in society by practising a diet for myself and for society. I understand that a proper diet is crucial for self-transformation and for the transformation of society."
    —Thich Nhat Hahn, on the Five Mindfulness Trainings, via The Big View

"Dreamland," by Edmund Dulac, via Art Passions

Monday, August 29, 2011

Song of the Day: Klara

Ólöf Arnalds wrote "Klara" for her younger sister, in celebration of her eighteenth birthday. In the song, Ólöf asks Klara when she is coming to visit and encourages her to keep drawing. (You can find Icelandic lyrics here, and then try to decipher them using the sometimes-handy translate tool in google.)

Whenever I hear this song, I feel so encouraged; it feels like Ólöf calling all of us to pursue our youthful dreams and to live joyfully. The light sound of the charango and Ólöf's warbling voice makes the song sound like it's been played for hundreds of years.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Composing a Life

What would it take to see our lives as art, slowly being assembled and improvised into a harmonious composition?

Sampler Quilt, via Pins and Thimbles

"We see achievement as purposeful and monolithic, like the sculpting of a massive tree trunk that has first to be brought from a forest and then shaped by a long labor to assert the artist's vision, rather than something crafted from odds and ends, like a patchwork quilt, and lovingly used to warm different nights and bodies."
    —Mary Catherine Bateson, Composing a Life, page 4

Friday, August 26, 2011

Unseen Bestiary

Looking forward to Lindsey Carr's drawings over at the Unseen Bestiary. Her work is truly magical! 

The Procession, by Lindsey Carr
Visit her blog to see more.

Natural Dark, by Lindsey Carr

What I love about bestiaries is that they show a fundamental relationship between humans and the world. Who could hear about or see a magnificent creature for the first time (for example, the buffalo of North America) and not create a whole mythology around it? 

by Conrad Gesner, via Mon Cabinet de Curiosites

Leafy Sea Dragon, by William Beulow Gould, via the Book of Barely Imagined Beings

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Trickster Felix Bush

I just watched Get Low, and I know I'll be thinking about it for days to come. While it wasn't quite the comedy I wanted it to be, it was much more.

It's the story of the recluse Felix Bush (Robert Duvall), and the mystery of why he chose to live alone for forty years. He holds a "funeral party" (with Bill Murray as the funeral director), and this becomes the means whereby his past is slowly revealed. It was a lovely testament to human life: the stories we tell, the choices we make, and the humor and tragedy in it all.

The character of Felix (Robert Duvall) is a bit of a trickster: as a recluse he is able to do things ordinary people couldn't, like hold a funeral for himself, and he shows how categories of good and evil don't necessarily capture the messy events of human life.

"We like to think that good and bad, and right and wrong, are miles apart. But the truth is, very often, they are all tangled up with each other."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How to Wander

Creating a life can be hard. Especially when there's no set vocational path. It can feel like you're wandering out in the wilderness.

by Alyssa Nassner

(The personal element: I'm trying to grow in the beautiful world of language preservation. It's rewarding and challenging work, but sometimes I see all the monsters out there in the wilderness--all the problems and politics--and think that I should have chosen another path. Something that makes more money. Something that doesn't leave me feeling quite so exhausted.)

I used to think that being wise meant seeing everything clearly. But lately I've been thinking that wisdom sometimes means exchanging clear sight for stubborn tunnel vision. If there's scary monsters out there, don't see the monsters. Just diligently pursue the path.

Rainbow Circle by Animalsleep

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


El Corazon, by Elsa Mora

I watched a fantastic video on TED today, on vulnerability, which reminded me of a major theme that Pema Chodron speaks about—the beautiful act of opening our hearts to others and to life. I'll let her say it in her lovely eloquent way:

"When you begin to touch your heart or let your heart be touched, you begin to discover that it's bottomless, that it doesn't have any resolution, that this heart is huge, vast, and limitless. You begin to discover how much warmth and gentleness is there, as well as how much space."
    —Start Where You Are, page 126, via lotus in the mud

Girl in Heart House, by Elsa Mora 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Make 'Em Laugh

Have you ever been around a person that just laughs all the time? The kind of person that is able to radiate joy and love even in difficult situations?

When I'm around people like that, I feel so energized and so encouraged, and the effects of sharing in laughter last for days and days, too.

So, here's a little gift of laughter for you. It's such a classic that even glee has redone it.

Do you have a favorite joke? A sure-fire way to get a smile on your face?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Great Heart's Ocean

Dear mind, such a traveler, always moving
like a fish looking for the sea,
while the great heart’s ocean waits all around and outside it.
How can you live outside this love?
     —Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks

Friday, August 19, 2011

The Magical Art of R. C. Gorman

As you may have noticed from the pictures in my post on chili, I'm a fan of R. C. Gorman's art.

I particularly his nighttime scenes. For one thing, the colors are sublime.
Crystal, by R. C. Gorman

Gracias, by R. C. Gorman

His nighttime scenes also serve as a reminder of the wisdom that comes from stories and dreams.

Night Stories, by R. C. Gorman

Dream Night, by R. C. Gorman

What about you? What nighttime stories did you listen to growing up? What stories will you pass on to your family?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Flowers and Skulls

What is it about the juxtaposition of flowers and skulls that's so engaging and haunting?

"Life is short; even the most beautiful of creations will die"—this is what I hear these compositions say.

Antler no. 6986, by Kari Herer

"Even the most delicate of creations has a surprising strength and resilience."

Antler Drawing and Flower Photograph 4226, by Keri Herer,
via decor8 and going home to roost

Of course, Georgia O'Keefe, the great artist of New Mexico, is famous for these themes.

Ram's Head, White Hollyhock, and Little Hills, by Georgia O'Keefe,
via this mama makes stuff

Summer Days, by Georgia O'Keefe
via endless me

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Food for the Soul: The Alchemy of Chile

I'm away in New Mexico for a few days, so the next few posts will be related to all the beauty that can be found there.

Chili a la Mode, by R. C. Gorman

When you go to New Mexico, it is impossible to avoid the glory of red or green chili sauce. When you order just about any dish, the server will ask you, "red or green?" Red is a little more floral, green a little more citrusy. If you can't decide, you can always say, "Christmas."

At home, we make our own red chili sauce, and it can transform many dishes into something magical: enchiladas, slow-cooked pork (carnitas), bean stew.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
¾ cup ground dried mild New Mexican red chile, preferably Chimayó
4 cups water or beef stock
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon salt

1. Warm the oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat.
2. Add the onion and garlic, and saute until the onion is limp.
3. Stir in the chile and then the water, a cup at a time.
4. Add the oregano and salt, and bring the sauce just to a boil.
5. Reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. The completed sauce should coat a spoon thickly but still drop off it easily.

For pork carnitas, simply add a cup or two of the sauce to a pork roast, and let it slowly transform in the slow cooker. Remember, the key to juicy meat is "slow and low." (For 5 or so pounds, cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 8-9).

For bean stew, simply add a tablespoon full to each bowl of cooked beans.

La Chilera, by R. C. Gorman

You'll find that many dishes are transformed by a little heat from the chili sauce, and you'll feel great, too!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Watch with Glittering Eyes

But above all, watch, with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.
    —Roald Dahl

(quote via Joie Butter)

Oilily, Fall 2010, via Precious Couture

Monday, August 15, 2011

Song of the Day: Love My Blues Away

Sometimes, when you've got the blues, you gotta just sing it out. I love how Rory Block lets the music flow through her whole body. I got to see her live at the Mucky Duck in Houston, and she's so captivating in person. She knows how to keep it real!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sacred Space: Rothko Chapel

Let's make a pilgrimage to the Rothko Chapel. It's in Houston, Texas, but let's just travel by spirit.

While Rothko drew from Christian symbols, such as a triptych to represent the crucifixion and the octagonal shape to represent a basilica, I love how the space is open to any spiritual pilgrim.

I love the dark, rich colors of the canvases. Are the viewers being invited to confront their souls, the vast unknown, the mystery of the other?

Number 8, Black Form Paintings, Mark Rothko

I, for one, find these paintings surprisingly comforting and peaceful.

(A word of advice: if you visit the chapel in person, try to go on a day with lots of light—the paintings in the chapel depend on natural light, like the stained glass windows of older cathedrals.)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Simple Pleasures: Recipe for the Fruits of the Summer

There really is an art to keeping life simple. The other night, we made a delicious dinner of corn, shrimp, basil, zucchini, green onions. That's all.

Fruit Basket, by Oana Befort

For dessert, black grapes and strawberries.

What a magical world we live in, that we can assemble such beautiful, satisfying meals.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Future Fictions

Thumbelina, by Maxwell Armfield

My husband is one of those people who innately plans and dreams for the future. It's something I've always admired about him. I'm more of a minute-by-minute kind of gal, and as fun as that is, I'm sometimes left wondering where the time has gone.

I do believe that dreaming and imagining the future is one of the best ways to be an active participant in your life. When I visualize what a successful day looks like, I find that I'm happier at the end of it. My successful day? It includes a nice walk with the dog, a short meditation, time being social, and of course, the feeling that I've been productive. What about you, dear reader? What makes a great day?

The Little Mermaid, by Maxwell Armfield

"The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof."
   —Barbara Kingsolver

(Thanks to Yum & Yuk for the quotation.)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Jump for Joy

Some days, I realize how great life is. The sky is blue, the birds are singing,* I'm in love and happy.

*By birds, I mean hummingbirds, which hover in front of the window, chirping and then free-falling. I don't think there's anything so magical.

Do you think this is how hummingbirds feel, floating in the air?

Audrey Hepburn, by Philippe Halsman

Marilyn Monroe, by Philippe Halsman

Thanks to Checks and Spots for making me aware of this great collection.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Song of the Day: Be Here Now

"Be Here Now," by Mason Jennings, is one of my favorite songs; it's one of those songs that you can play whether the day is going well or not—the message that is always relevant and inspiring.

Whatever life is presenting you with, can you be present in the moment? When life starts moving too quickly, when the day gets overwhelming, what else can you do but take each moment as it comes, and share it with those around you.

"This whole world keeps changing, come change with me."

Monday, August 8, 2011

What is enough?

For me, it's the question of achievement. For others it's food, possessions, money, etc.

How much do we need before we can be happy?

The Princess and the Pea, by Heather Ross

For me, I need to know that my gifts and talents are being used to their fullest, to bring joy to the world.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Touching the Earth

A while back, I listed to Touching the Earth, by Thich Nhat Hahn with Sister Chan Khong. It was a beautiful experience.

What I love is something as simple as bowing and touching your head to the earth can be very transformative, because you invite the transformation that occurs within the earth, from death to life, into your own heart.

New Mexico Triptych, by Frank McColloch

In Chanting from the Heart, Thich Nhat Hahn says that touching the earth "helps us return to the Earth or our roots, and to recognize that we are not alone but connected to a whole stream of spiritual and blood ancestors." By touching the earth, you "breathe in all the strength and stability of the Earth, and breathe out to release your clinging to any suffering."

Friday, August 5, 2011

Love for the Darkness

Towards the forest II, Edvard Munch

"I love the dark hours of my being
in which my senses drop into the deep.
I have found in them, as in old letters,
my private life, that is already lived through,
and become wide and powerful now, like legends.
Then I know that there is room in me
for a second huge and timeless life."
     —Rainer Maria Rilke, from A Book for the Hours in Prayer, trans. Robert Bly

Sometimes dark hours literally come in the dark of night, but being a night owl, I find those hours can be really productive if I use them gently and quietly.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Singing Joy without Words

Sometimes, happiness just can't be put into words. When I listen to this song, I think I hear the words, "beauty," "heart," and "when you keep..." But the melody itself conveys so much meaning beyond those individual words. I hear encouragement to live a magical life.

I love that the video ends with lovers floating over a river, with the moon's reflection. What a beautiful image for going beyond words and logic . . . Is there any other way that we can fully experience the joy of living?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Living in the Stream of History

Pshan-Shaw, Sweet-Scented Grass, by George Catlin

“That’s what history is… women writing letters, old men telling stories. Young women dying. New lives, new places. . . . You can’t choose the times you live in. You can only try to change them a little bit.”
    —Levi Zendt, from the miniseries production of Jame's Michener's Centennial

Each period of history has its own challenges. Its seems like some of ours include holding civil conversation, being willing to compromise, living within the planet's needs. . .

What types of change do you want to see? How can you be that change?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Love is Art

Marguerite Gachet in the Garden by Van Gogh

"There is nothing more truly artistic than to love people."
    —Vincent Van Gogh, letter 538


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