Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Quiet Corner

I love coming away to my secret hideaway when I can. It’s cool and inviting in here in the summer – under the deck, and quite comfortable – with the beach chair and an old footstool I had set up here a long time ago for times like these. It’s lovely to get away from the TV noises, and hear the birds singing instead. I sometimes bring a cup of coffee and a pocketful of walnuts, or sometimes a book to read, or my journal to write in, but most of the time I spend it doing nothing – just looking out through the slats of the lattice, watching a cardinal sitting at the top of the pine tree, or being really quiet so the mother robin wouldn’t be afraid to come in and check on her eggs or chicks in her nest above one of the beams, or peering closely at the tiny spider weaving quite a web across anything and everything in its way, or smiling at the two pretty yellow butterflies chasing each other, flitting, flirting, fluttering. Here, I’m not shy to sing a little louder, or smile to myself. The smooth white river rock under my bare feet feel cool to the touch. I sometimes bring my small tray of outdoor paints down here, and paint some of these stones – pretty pinks and greens, bright blues and reds, flowers and rainbows, ladybugs and dragonflies. I write messages on the other side – Faith, Courage, Hope, Peace, Believe, etc., and leave them at places where people might find them. It’s just a little present to the person who may find it, and may have needed that little word of encouragement at that moment.

(I gave away all my stones right now, but I'll post a picture when I make the next batch)

Monday, June 27, 2011

My first harvest from my own tiny backyard... finally!

I grabbed this batch before the bunnies got them

I cut them all up into cubes, coated them in olive oil, salt and pepper...

 roasted them for about 40 minutes at 450 degrees...

 folded them into tortillas with some cheese, and made quesadillas...
my 12 year old son's idea... So good!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pointless Dreams are a Good Thing?

Dreams are illustrations... from the book your soul is writing about you. -- Marsha Norman

So what about pointless dreams? This morning I woke up remembering the neighbor's kid storming into our house with his hair gelled into spikes, dark glasses on his nose, and generally behaving like a brat. He's 9 years old. In real life, he's completely opposite of how I dreamed - painfully shy, meek, doesn't even say Hi when he thinks he can get away with not saying it.

But what's the point of dreams like this? They seem so meaningless. At least I remembered this dream, but I don't remember most others lately. Maybe, even while I'm sleeping, subconsciously I tell myself to ignore them? If there's no point to these dreams, why do I dream them? I wonder what all those shelves and shelves of dream books would say about this pointless dream?

For the longest time, I used to think I didn't dream at all. That's what I'd say to anyone who asked me about my dreams. But then about 4 years ago, I started dreaming of dreams I couldn't ignore - they were vivid, compelling, poignant, and even before interpreting them, they felt meaningful. I mentioned a dream about a cottage on a moonlit beach earlier; I can never forget the dream about a giant eagle who picked me up and gave me a tour of the world from up in the sky; there was one where I got to feed the poor everyday; and I can still remember how I got out of a train crash unscathed and fearless.

There were many many dreams that I remembered when I woke up, and tried to interpret, but they all happened during a 3 or 4 year period, when I seemed ultrasensitive to the non-physical, non-tangible world around me. But what's surprising and disappointing to me is that I seem to have lost that sensitivity. Those dreams that had seemed like my soul was sending me urgent messages, have stopped. Maybe this means that my life is going on its tracks, for now. Maybe when my train gets derailed again is when I need those definitive dreams again to put me back on track. So maybe I shouldn't complain about this lassitude on my soul's part, but instead should take comfort in the rightness of it all, for now.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

My Secret Garden

Well, it's not really my garden, but it's my secret. I discovered this garden one winter afternoon, looking for a place to eat my soup during lunch time. When I saw a small blue sign that said the garden was open to public (for free!) I turned in through the entrance through tall stone walls, not knowing what to expect, parked, and entered through an iron gate into a huge walled garden, completely enclosed. There was not a soul in there. It was quiet and serene.

The tall walls were covered in ivy, Virginia creeper, and other vines that I couldn't recognize, but they looked like they could reach out and strangle me if they wanted to! They were benign on this sunny day though, merely draping me as I walked along... 

Walking along a path of paved stones, everything was brown, broken or dead, or so it had seemed. But even that didn't curb my excitement at finding this delightful place. I've been going back ever since, on most weekends after yoga (and so I went again today, took pictures).

I had wanted to see what spring would bring - if any of these seemingly dead plants would come alive. And they did, first the snowdrops and hellebores, even before the snow melted, then tiny Virginia bluebells, drifts of them, in the early early spring, and after that, each week there was a new surprise for me - daffodils and dandelions, poppies and peonies, irises and roses, and now lilies and lavender...

The iron scrollwork everywhere is still surprisingly sleek and nice...

and I love the benches to rest - under trees, grass underfoot, and large enough to nap, if you brought along a pillow (I always have one in the car). Look at the green-laced flagstones... they invite you to take your shoes off and walk in bare feet

But oh how inviting does this doorway look!?
It wasn't locked, and so of course I had to go in. There was a smell of damp that foretold decay inside... it seemed like it might have been an old potting shed... and there was nature not just knocking at the door, but knocking through the door...

 Despite Madame Nature slowly taking over the thin veneer of civilization, there are some fair maidens still standing, and also a sort of stage or a folly at the end of a grassy path

and more mysterious doorways... and Nature making her way through them all...

But the best part of it all was this teeny cottage covered in creepers - I'd like to think it was the gardener's house, although it was more likely a garden shed. Still, I can dream that it can be made into a little house, and how wonderful it would be to live there, surrounded by this exquisite garden that comes alive each spring and summer!

Friday, June 17, 2011

My Grey Soul

I'm reading Karen Armstrong's Spiral Staircase. She entered into a Catholic convent to become a nun, to find God, but left after seven years due to health problems. She went on to Oxford University, and even though she enjoyed the academic side of her new world, she couldn't quite fit into the outside world of the 60's. This is her book about her "climb out of darkness". It's written honestly, brilliantly, and even though I'm neither a nun, nor an Oxford graduate, I can relate completely when she talks about her spiritual struggles. I think the story she shares is human, everyone goes through similar phases of desolate despair, seeking liberation, and finding fulfillment.
Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights

"Almost certainly, hell was simply the creation of infirm minds like my own... That was a wonderful and liberating thought, but what if God was also a mental aberration? The ecstatic, celestial visions of the saints could be just as fantastic as my own infernal sensations." --Karen Armstrong

I can totally relate to what Karen says - I think this myself many times. Heaven and hell are within me, God and the devil are within me. Compassion and crime are within me. Sin and saintliness are within me. I, like most other people on this planet, am trying to climb my way out of darkness into light, forget the past and step into the present, disregard my nightmares and dwell on my dreams, but it's not that easy, is it?

It's not always as easy as black and white, to distinguish between right and wrong, the joys of the soul versus pleasures of the flesh, what feels right versus what is right, whispers of the self from the temptations of the mind. What felt right five years ago may not feel right now; what is right to one person may not be right to another; one person's wish may be another's person's vice. What gives context and meaning to these rights and wrongs is where a person is on their own evolutionary path. There are no specific places that are heaven and hell - heaven, I believe, is simply peace of mind; and hell is simply a place in my mind that still needs to heal, learn and grow. The devil that drives me to do things is entirely in my mind, and the God that guides me is wholly within my soul. As narcissistic as this sounds, my whole world begins and ends with me, within me. My climb out of darkness into light is my path from myself to myself.

Asatoma Sadgamaya
Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya
Mrityorma Amritangamaya
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti
(a Sanskrit prayer that means: Lead me from delusion to truth / From darkness to light / From death to immortality / May there be Peace always)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Zesty Nasturtiums

I love how fiery and vibrant these nasturtiums look! They're so easy to grow from seed, and even before the flowers come out, the round leaves with a hub in the middle and spokes going out to the edges look like tiny lotus leaves. The flowers can be a sunny yellow, a bright orange, or a brilliant red, all on the same plant! Both flowers and leaves have a way of standing tall, but still look graceful, they're strong yet somehow manage to look slender. This is the first time I planted them and I couldn't be more pleased. This is one plant I know I'll plant again next year.

Did you know Nasturtium translates to nose-twister in Latin? I'm guessing it's because of the peppery taste of the leaves and the flowers that could make you sneeze. So yes, they're edible, tasty, and make a pretty, colorful garnish on salads.

Nasturtium Salad
Ingredients (1 serving)
A big handful of any mixed greens
1 small chopped tomato
1 tbsp diced red onion
A few nasturtium flowers

For the vinaigrette
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
a dab of mustard
1 tsp honey
1 tsp olive oil
a dash of salt
a sprinkle of pepper

In the bottom of a salad bowl, briskly whisk together all the dressing ingredients until they are thoroughly combined. Add the mixed greens, tomato, and onion to the bowl and toss them together in the dressing until all the leaves are coated. Pull out the petals of the nasturtium flowers and sprinkle them on top. This is a basic salad recipe, but you get the drift - you can add these lovely little flowers to almost any salad.

If you're really ambitious in the kitchen, you could even try to make Nasturtium Vinegar - simply add about 35 flowers to 350ml white vinegar, and store it in a cool dark place for 3.5 weeks until the vinegar turns a golden red. Strain it and use this pretty peppery vinegar in dressings.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Outlandish Dream

I have this far-fetched dream about owning a hermitage - a small cottage, set in a lovely location, with a beach near by, to walk along and pick shells, long views of trees, a small patch of vegetable garden. It doesn't have to be big - in fact it has to be small - just one room for a single bed, a chair, and a table, for writing, eating and working. A small kitchen and a small bathroom - that's all.

This day-dream of mine has been building inside me ever since I had a dream, I think about 4 years ago, of walking along an ocean on a moonlit night, everything touched by a silvery sheen, pure, peaceful, a flock of graceful swans descending from the heavens, a pride of lions standing in the water swishing their tails, a brilliant white, every single one of them. At the end of that walk, I reached a cottage, my small cottage on the beach, and that was the end of the dream.

All my life, I used to pride myself in saying I had no dreams - and it was true, I didn't have any, until this dream came along. And once this dream took form in my heart, I opened up my heart to my other dream that I had never acknowledged, always shushed it away - to become a writer. So I built a dream of a life I'd like to live - to quit my job, buy a lovely little hermitage, become a recluse, and earn my living through writing.

But the problem is that I don't have the courage to indulge in my dreams. I have fears about quitting, living alone, with no help from anyone, to be able to let go and run away from it all. I think I have those fears because I don't have a bridge between the real life I'm living now to the dream life I wish I could build. How do I quit my job without another one lined up? How do I make a living out of writing? Do I really have it in me to work that hard? Even if I did, who would read what I write? Who cares what I write or think? All these questions crowd my mind and I come to a dead stop - I repeat this pattern over and over again, and so I stay in this same job and same place year after year.

For the first time today, I've had an idea that I don't really have to wait till I retire to buy my own hermitage. I can may be buy one now, not to retire in, but to retreat from my daily grind now and then - as a way to experiment, to build that bridge from my real life to my dream life. Now I don't know if I have the courage to pull it off, nor any idea where to start this whole project! But if I could go buy that perfect little cottage now, oh my!
Thanks for reading! Do you have wild, outlandish dreams that you could hardly dare to dream? Have you done anything about them? Feel free to share them here, if you'd like. If you want to see more of these tiny homes, all the pictures on this post are from (If anyone thinks I'm violating any copyrights, let me know and I'll remove them.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Homemade Chamomile Tea

I remember sowing some chamomile seeds a couple of years ago in a pot, but unfortunately, they had never established. So it was a lovely surprise when I realized this plant that grew out of nowhere in my garden this year, is in fact chamomile! It is a healthy plant, and the little daisy like flowers are cheerful to look at too. I love chamomile tea at the end of the day - it's so soothing, it makes me feel sleepy almost instantly, so I thought I'd try to make fresh chamomile tea out of these flowers, and it turned out lovely, better than the store bought kind.

1 cup water
a small handful of chamomile flowers

Bring water to a boil.
Put in chamomile flowers and continue boiling the water for another minute or so.
Remove from heat, and let the flowers steep in the hot water for another minute.
Add honey.
(You can add lemon juice too if you like, but I prefer without)
Relax, Sip, Enjoy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Tale of a Tiny Turtle

Hey what have we got here!? Hiding inside the plants under the mailbox! Do you see it?

Now do you see it? A painted turtle! A pretty painted turtle lost in town...

A new creature? Jazzy's instantly curious... better get the turtle away...

So we put him in a tub... and gave him some weeds to chew on...

and went to get the keys to take him to a nearby pond... but oops! he got out...

So we got a taller bin...

and took him on a drive in the car...

to a pond near the entrance of our neighborhood...

and let him out... he got out quickly!

looked all around...

and soon enough, found his way to the water
slipped in...

swam around...

and made himself home!

Good Bye, Brave Little Turtle, have a terrific day!

And so we found out
that a good deed a day
keeps our blues away!
(at least for a day)