We blog to tell our stories, meted out in little bits and mini chapters, and to remember- even hardships and challenges because there’s value in reflection and retrospection. We blog because it’s instant publication for those of us who have been writing for a lifetime; a way to project our little corner of the universe onto the worldwide web. It’s modern day campfire story telling, encompassing all that’s helpful about connecting our dots to the great grid and constellation we compose.
My blog is a way to tell you how I am applying the things I teach to my own life. To tell the story of connection to food, land, challenges and triumphs, and of the aspiration to make my whole life my spiritual practice, in all its stuttering starts and stops; in the awkward moments when I’m feeling insular and hopeless or on the other end of the spectrum, thrilled and elated.
I blog to to communicate with you my friends and students, peers and elders. To pass on any shred of wisdom and epiphany I pick up along the way and pose questions I think are universal. I do it to share my experience, adding myself to the collective and keeping track of my moments within this public journal; confessing, revealing and being vulnerable with open eyes and pricked ears.
And so… The month of March. Red pine tops at the beginning and end of a walk were bookends to a typical outing. It was bitterly windy and cold much of the time and I tried to tell myself that it was refreshing.
Work was busy; the backdrop against which I helped put on a fundraiser for a domestic violence resource organization whereby in the process dealing with raw uncomfortable feelings that came up while working with someone who I thought dismissed and disrespected me but who deep-down didn’t mean to and couldn’t much help it I figured. It was like she was painting a picture and anyone else who came along was scribbling on it. During this time I practiced trusting my perceptions and speaking my truth. But neither were easy. I practiced looking at how I may be contributing to the dysfunction. I talked, worried and obsessed. It took up a lot of mental bandwith. The event was a success by any measure but I’m glad it’s behind me.
Our dog’s tail continuously bled, as did his paws, so that the month of March can best be described as one of perennially slowly leaking blood from our little guy, prompting a cursing fit in front of my friend, throwing things around in the kitchen in a mild rage, and taking to filling an entire paper shopping bag with first aid materials. I thought guiltily about all of the parents out there with truly special needs children, conjuring bleak scenes of dependency, feeling fortunate for this perspective and sweeping sadness for all who toil for their beloved infirm. One ill-fated night we went to bed angry: I had been to the vet for the second time in two weeks because I was afraid Scabby’s tail was becoming infected and she’d shaved and disinfected and cleaned his wound. That evening I put his cone on in the car (he must wear it any time he’s not being monitored) in order to go into a store, thinking of course that this would ensure the tail’s protection, but when I got back to the car, I found my dog on the back seat trembling from a mixture of pain, itchiness and dread, fresh blood spotting the towel on which he shook, oozing blood glistening all the way up and down the tail he’d lit into like corn on the cob. The cone it turned out, was just slightly too shallow to prevent access to his painfully itchy nightmare of a tail. I went home nearly in tears because Chris had been away and I’d been doing it all myself and now on day ten of tail-wound dressing, I was plain old terribly discouraged, unable to smile when Chris returned from this business trip. My dear, patient boyfriend bandaged his tail with such care this night, that he undoubtedly deserved praise and adulation, but was instead tragically banished when the mere touch of ointment to said wounds elicited such heart-wrenching whisper-screams from our dog that I shrieked and chided and pronounced that I could do it myself. Even though I did hardly any better, somehow I felt just slightly more in control by being the one to inflict pain. Then one afternoon, to add insult to injury, as he and Banjo jumped excitedly underfoot at the beginning of a walk, I accidentally stepped on his foot with my ice spikes (it was still icy in the woods). This is a story for another day, but suffice it to say it produced a long gash atop his already vulnerable, sparsely-furred mange-ridden foot and a sharp cry as he dangled his paw, neon bright blood dripping onto the snow. I might as well have taken out my own heart and stabbed it. He was okay, but more bandages ensued. I was haunted by the sound of his cry. He is the most patient little dog in the universe I might add, and forgiving. About fifteen minutes after I stepped on him, he licked me and wagged his tail.
There were three trips to the vet for cutting-edge UV light and Ozone treatments to boost Scabby’s immune system. There were hours of driving, waiting, treatment, worry, money and above all, doubt and marvel in equal parts at the lengths to which we’re going to help him get healthy. Now, already halfway into April as I catch up on the blog, we’ve moved onto a stripped-down approach with a different vet: no supplements, no pioneering treatments and a new hypoallergenic diet of turkey and chickpeas. After all of this, it could be food allergies plaguing him all this time.
On a happier note, as citrus season winded down, there were many Orange Julius smoothies for breakfast and snacks, and lovely meals by Chris, but not enough time or energy to blog about them. (orange Julius: in a high-speed blender combine two peeled and seeded oranges, coconut water or coconut milk and vanilla liquid stevia. Optionally, add or blend in some ice.)
All month I counted down to my 40th birthday (April 6), trying not to fret about the past or worry about what I haven’t yet done. Why is it so seductive for me to focus my sites on where I haven’t gained traction, where I haven’t yet gone? To dismiss what I have done? How can I get away from this depressing habit? In equal parts jest and deconstruction, muddling through feelings (grief, fear) as I approached this milestone (or arbitrary number depending on whom you ask) I wrote: When you’re forty, you’re old enough to be published and in fact it’s nothing special, all of the adept and talented things you may accomplish, because you’re a real adult who’s had twenty whole years of quasi adulthood to get to this point. You should have things figured out, like what you want to do professionally and whether you’re having a baby already. You should have made an album or two and written at least two books. Your CV should contain scores of international art exhibits in which you’ve participated, and you should be organized, punctual and have nailed down your look. By now there should be concrete evidence of creative accomplishment- real tangible things sprung from the stacks and stacks of journals and notebooks amassed over the years, and upwards of 80 songs living on hard drives.
Now, as anyone else this hard on themselves? And how is this helpful? (More on this later). Self-flagellating folks out there, I feel your pain. But what is the purpose of such sweeping judgements, failing to take into account all the hurdles and challenges and unique disadvantages (and advantages, to be fair) we’ve faced over the course of our lives? Why even look back in this way when it does nothing to energize or promote forward motion? I share this because I suspect many are faced with this penchant for reflexive unproductive remorse and need to choose a different route. Let’s all work on shifting away from this, OK?
In other news, in March, I watched Downtown Abbey season one and most of two. It was a fun escape.
I also read from this wildly entertaining new memoir.
There were great one-pot meals (see below).
There were Narnia-mornings followed by dimly lit, slush-filled days, a toggling between shimmering blue and opaque chalk skies. Mud. Cold. Snow. Sunlight on snow in prisms.Walking. Tending to wounds. Working. Eating. Repeat. I didn’t sleep super well in March. It’s better in April with the reintroduction of this supplement.
March was full of a concerted effort to spend time with friends. Six years ago at the end of a controlling relationship, one that left me looking around astonished that I had no friends anymore (either distanced by the relationship or having moved away) I was bereft and chronically lonely in a completely foreign way. I used to make lists of my friends, wondering where and who they were as I worked on building a new city out of tiny wooden blocks, like repopulating a post-apocalyptic world. Now, I have a network again. I am a person who needs a proper mixture of solitude (quite a generous amount of this) and meaningful socialization. We played with our friends and their kids and spent quality time with both new and old, silver and gold.
There was a trip to Portland Maine this month and Crane beach with the dog… where Scabby was in heaven, being from the Carribean beach and all. The Atlantic ocean in winter’s stark grey-lit glory is mottled skies, purple sand and plenty to pick up and touch.
There was beauty in the bleakness, harshness, gentleness, struggle and in the reaching in and holding out.
This was March.
Poulet Provençal (rustic braised chicken adapted from My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss)
- All purpose flour for coating
- 4 chicken thighs (with bones)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 minced shallot
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 4 medium plum tomatoes coarsely chopped or 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 clove garlic mashed and chopped
- 12 pitted oil-cured olives
- 1 tablespoon minced flat leaf parsley
- 1 bunch of swiss chard, stems included, chopped
- salt/pepper to taste
- Rinse and dry chicken, salt and pepper liberally and flour them. Set aside.
- Put olive oil in broad 3 quart saute pan or cast iron pot over medium heat and when shimmering, cook chicken until browned, 5-7 minutes per side. Take out and set aside
- Lower heat, add minced shallot and chopped chard stems and saute for 5 minutes. Add wine and simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Add tomatoes, roughly chopped chard leaves, garlic and olives and stir well. Add chicken back into the pan and cook over low heat for another 15-20 minutes. Stir in the parsley a few minutes before the end and let rest off the heat a few minutes before serving.