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Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

Yesterday, a crocus pushed its shiny, new green leaves up in our garden. I remember always being surprised to see the little flower in the midst of snow and ice in the Berkshire Mountains. It is the harbinger of spring, just as sure as a robin jumping around in the grass. But this time, it’s too early; the first week of a new year should find us deep into winter with hats and scarves and gloves. Instead, today it will be 60 degrees.

“In addition to Crocus’ merit as a beautiful and cheerful winter bloomer, one species, C. sativus, is the source of the spice saffron. Henry Beston describes C. sativus in Herbs and the Earth (1935, D.R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.): “An autumn Crocus with a long history as a drug, a flavoring powder, and a pigment, only the golden stigma of the flower being used… May not overwinter.”  True enough, although many Crocus are perennial in Tennessee, as a USDA Hardiness Zone 8 plant C. sativus may not overwinter for many Tennesseans. If that doesn’t deter you from growing your own saffron, Steven Still writes that “about 7000 flowers are required to produce 3 ounces of saffron.”  https://ag.tennessee.edu/news/Pages/POM-2016-02.aspx

I had no idea the costliest spice in the world comes from a crocus!

Makes me want to dig up my old, Julia Child paella recipe. I was thinking about my younger, newly married self in the car the other day; living in Cambridge, MA and spotting Julia herself at the small green grocers’.  NPR was interviewing a chef about his “…worst kitchen disasters.” Of course, it was slicing off the tip of a finger with a mandolin his first time on live TV!

I’ve managed to avoid the dreaded mandolin injury – I use mine to slice whisper thin vegetables into my veggie lasagna. But one of my very first attempts at the fine art of cuisine in Cambridge does come to mind. I almost torched my kitchen when I tried making Julia’s recipe for Coq au Vin! Since then, I’ve left anything flambeed to the experts. Even resisting the urge to buy a tiny blowtorch to crinkle-brown creme brulee – my favorite dessert!

I wish my keyboard did l’accent aigu“Getting your (French) accents right is the difference between being a pêcheur (fisherman) and a pécheur (sinner). Which one would you rather have on your résumé?”

Parsley and rosemary are still growing in the garden, even some of Bob’s winter kale seems hardy and ready to be harvested. The Bride and her family are returning soon from Hawaii and I’d like to cook them something for their first night back. Maybe I’ll buy some red wine and make a big pot of Boeuf Bourguignon! Like every good semi-Southern cook I’ve got some bacon in the fridge and I know the L’il Pumpkin loves this dish.

Although, after hearing about their first Kalua Pig in a Pit, where the Love Bug definitely did not like the idea of unearthing the body of a full-on, dead, roasted pig, I may have to get creative with vegetables and her old stand-by, pasta. Maybe we’ll roast some marshmallows on the fire pit, and pretend it’s still winter! Here they are on a lava rock.

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While my brother Dr Jim was getting punished with a foot of snow in MN, Spring has sprung here in Nashville.

We’ve been busy collecting the daffodils in Ms Berdelle’s secret garden, and practicing Quigong on her patio. This past weekend I enlisted my young neighbor, Ashley, to give this ancient form of exercise and healing a try; but when she asked me what Quigong actually is, I was at a loss. I’d only studied T’ai Chi in the past and since today is Tuesday, I’ll be aligning my Chi pretty soon!

Still, Berdelle’s son is a Master of Quigong, and luckily he was visiting and the weather has been cooperating, I was game to give it a try:

When you start practicing Qigong exercises, the primary goal is to concentrate on letting go, letting go, letting go. That’s because most imbalance comes from holding on to too much for too long. Most of us are familiar with physical strength of muscles, and when we think about exercising, we think in terms of tensing muscles. Qi energy is different. Qi strength is revealed by a smooth, calm, concentrated effort that is free of stress and does not pit one part of the body against another.  https://www.consciouslifestylemag.com/qigong-exercises-healing-energy/

If that sounds like a song from a Frozen movie you’d be right. This is less like a Pelloton workout and more like a meditation on harmony, with birdsong as background music. When our Yin and Yang energy becomes unbalanced (or as Dr Jim would put it, we are too tightly or too loosely strung), it’s important to LET GO of everything that is holding us back and weighing us down.

Since Great Grandma Ada’s NJ house has just gone on the market, I’ve noticed a change in her – realistically she knows that her “collections” have served their purpose and she doesn’t need the hundreds of dishes, pots, silver and heavy furniture she has accumulated over a lifetime. In fact, she has sent the Steinway Grand piano out to California for the Rocker to enjoy!

But emotionally, she is still coming to terms with this new reality. Who are we without all our stuff?  

When I studied Buddhism at UVA, our class was told to write down words to describe who we are: Woman. Mother. Writer. Wife. Gardener. Chief Cook and Bottle Washer. (I wasn’t a grandmother yet)… but you get the point. How do we define ourselves? Irish. Democrat! Progressive! Feminist! Then our teacher told us to erase all those words, and some people had plenty of descriptors.

We were looking at a blank page.

The point was to empty our minds of all our labels, labels meant to divide us socially and politically, to create havoc and borders and even war. This past week we watched House Democrats try to come up with an Anti-Semitism bill that devolved into an anti-hate bill and lost its legs – criticizing a policy of racism and apartheid is not the same as hating a people for their ethnicity. Or spreading stereotypic garbage for that matter.

Is it possible to become one with the human race? To meditate and find the flow that connects each and every one of us to the earth and other living things. When I look into Ms Bean’s soulful eyes I see unconditional love. When we look into a new baby’s black, blue or green eyes we experience that same tenderness.

For some this is a very hard exercise, to give up everything we think we know about ourselves. We might feel like a ship stuck at sea with no harbor in sight. But for some, it is the very definition of freedom.

The Bride was asking me about Great Grandma Gi the other day. She wanted to know how and why the Flapper came to love Buddhism because she is seriously studying Yoga. Born in 1908, my Mother had a long hard life – she was abused as a young girl, had to relinquish two of her children for a time, and then her sixth and last child, me, after our Year of Living Dangerously. She survived a horrific car accident and buried three husbands. But her strength was a direct result of her suffering.

Gi was not a fabulist or a pollyanna in any way. She worked hard and constantly told me that every person has a story. Studying the interaction of mind and body became her religion in late life; just as integrative medicine, blending Western science with Eastern philosophy, has become accepted by wellness experts in America.

In this Year of the Pig, I will try to meditate, to breathe and to plan on letting go.

“I will practice coming back to the present moment,

Not letting regrets and sorrow drag me back into the past,

Or letting anxieties, fear or craving pull me out”

Thich Nhat Hanh 

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Things are springing up around our little house. Crocus are about to bloom, daffodil leaves are reaching for the sun, and temperatures have been hovering around 70. No bugs or humidity yet; “This is what California is like all the time,” I said to Bob in my most ingratiating tone of voice.

When we were living in New England, this time of year was called “Mud Season.” Snow was melting and everyone coveted a “mud” room, a place to ditch your dirty clothes and hats and gloves and boots before entering your house. The rest of the country might call this a back porch. But Berkshire sentimentality aside, I love seeing bluebirds playing on my deck. Spying a Tiffany-blue breast makes me want to break out in song!

Bob breaks out the tractor and the gardening tools. For him, this is pruning season. When we built this house we picked out every tree and shrub, which means we now must keep them from enveloping us entirely. My French friend looked us up on Google earth and said we must live in a forest, and she’s right. Our tract of land demands constant vigilance! A herd of deer trim our most succulent new growth all winter, and now it’s time for Bob to play his part.

The viburnum, the hydrangeas, the crepe myrtles! No one is immune to Bob’s pruning shears, loppers and hedge trimmers.

Ms Bean must do her part too. She refuses to come in when all the gardening work begins. She offers up a tiny dead field mouse to our back door, while Bob shows me an abandoned bird’s nest at the front door. These “gifts” are received calmly, while I check to see if anyone has taken up residence in the bluebird houses Great Grandpa Hudson put up years ago. Anyone that is, besides the flying squirrel who scared me half to death with her bulging black eyes!

But usually I prefer more indoor activities. The National Men’s Indoor Tennis championships have been taking place at our gym, so exciting matches are on the docket all the time. And when I’m not watching tennis, I was learning how to string and knot pearls this past weekend. It’s slightly meditative once you get the hang of it. It’s an escape from the news.

When a friend told me she and her husband were in a Jewish Community Center yesterday when a bomb threat was phoned in, I didn’t realize it was one of many seemingly coordinated around the country. And I wondered if the Love Bug’s preschool was shut down again for the third time since Mr T’s inauguration. And a knot formed in my stomach, the kind that’s always there whenever I try to suppress an emotion.

I wonder how a president who shouts down an orthodox reporter and scolds him for asking  a complex question about anti-semitism, only to bring up his polling numbers again and again can possibly protect this nation and heal our divided people.

Here is my second attempt at knots, with pearls and lapis – a “so-called” selfie/portrait with Bean and an old gardening broom in the background. img_0119

 

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We are traveling again. Can you tell where we’ve landed?

Touchdown makes Bob laugh

Birds and builders compete for attention

Vaval has been burned on the beach

Colors of the sea range from indigo to periwinkle

La cuisine est magnifique

Oops, did I give it away? Time is standing still here. The people are the most welcoming of any island paradise. It’s a place to slow down and breathe, read, knit, swim, and refresh ourselves. Thank you for my Valentine’s flowers.

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