Weekly Roundup

Inspirations of the week:

Jhereck Bischoff Q2’s Music Spaces on NPR Jhereck Bischoff is a young composer, and more importantly, a fascinating human. He grew up on a sailboat, mostly docked off Bainbridge Island. They were all extremely tall people, his family and he, who played inordinately large instruments for such cramped quarters. His father was in the avant-garde band Amra Arma, and named Jhereck after some science fiction character. First listen to this interview on Fresh Air for a good introduction, then when you are totally captivated you can see his sleeping berth on the sailboat he grew up on, and never feel sorry for yourself again for not having the most ideal circumstances to create art in.

Rilla Alexander Without the Doing Dreaming Is Useless  An illustrator on nurturing ideas to fruition and common creative problems. About procrastination. Inspiring.

Rose Petal Jam I don’t know who this Harry Partch is, but this is a most enthusiastic rendering of rose petal jam… ever.

I bought several pounds of rhubarb at the farmer’s market and then got kind of busy and couldn’t deal with it right away. So I was under the gun to make good use and this is what I came up with: Rhubarb Muffins with Almond Streusel from Saveur. This recipe made two dozen, I ate at least twelve of these myself.

Also, Rhubarb Spoonbread from the charming blog autumnmakesanddoes.com. The spoonbread recipe originated with Edna Lewis. Which led me to this video Fried Chicken and Sweet Potato Pie about Ms. Lewis (I am in love) and her friend Scott Peacock. Her relationship with Mr. Peacock is, um, wow, pretty interesting.

All cooking is done to podcasts of these fine radio programs: Snap Judgement, this week’s episode, performance anxiety, something I could tell you a little about, Radio Lab, Fresh Air, who knew Steven King was so down to earth, interesting even, same with Bradley Cooper, and Julianne Moore. I think Teri Gross make these people more than they otherwise would be. Have you ever heard her snort when she laughs? And, This American Life. Ok, and on this On the Media Brooke Gladstone interviews, and surprise, surprise, can’t control Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi Lauper is more than just wacky.

I dyed my hair red. Was always curious about red hair. I’d say it turned out better than I thought. I used Naturcolor that I bought from Super Supplements. I think it’s actually good for your hair (but I know nothing of such matters, really).

This post brought to you by Bookwalter Couplet 2012.



Yoga as Metaphor


It is the first day of yoga teacher training. On the way to the studio I am feeling confident– I am fifteen minutes early, off to a good start, I tell myself. I am going to be such a good student. I turn into the full parking and a panicky feeling takes hold—there is no coming and going, everyone is already inside. Somehow I am, in spite of my efforts, in spite of plugging the schedule for the training painstakingly into my Google calendar, and writing into my planner, for each month from now until December, I am late. The rest is classic, I walk into the class, and everyone turns to look. It was college all over again.

Then yoga teacher training commenced, the study of Sanskrit, anatomy, and asana practice, for five days.

My illustrious entrance into teacher training aside, what I came away with was a strong sense of yoga as metaphor. The first time that I noticed a lesson from yoga that was oddly transferable to everyday life was during a beginner’s workshop series, when Heather Anastos, the owner of Yoga Community, encouraged the class to practice some moderation in poses. She said to do the pose to 80% of your strength and ability because you need to allow yourself that remaining 20% to come out of the pose. This idea has never gone away. Of course at that time it was antithetical to what was then my current practice—balls to the wall everything—do everything as hard as you can and then try to do it a little harder. Get your nose closer to your knees! Head to the floor! Leg higher! Stretch! Hold! It was Pitta Gone Wild! So, she said that, and it penetrated my practice.

Then I began to look around at my life and notice how many things I was involved in that seemed to need way more than 80% of me; grad school, being a mother, a job, to navigate the break up of a relationship and its effects on my family, and then to begin one anew, even just keeping my house clean, or staying in shape. Somedays I was maxed out on just one of these things, sometimes completely overwhelmed trying to give everything 100% at the same time.

As my yoga practice has matured I have greater awareness about when to it is ok push and when I need to pull back. I have become more attenuated to what my body is telling me. When my body is in alignment in a pose, say Virabhadrasana II, and my legs are burning, that’s good—it’s a strong pose and it’s a good time to go for it, to kick ass. When I’m in Supta Baddha Konasana and the feedback from my body is not, “Awesome stretch!” but instead visions of double hip replacement, I know I need to support my hyper-laxity by putting some blankets under my knees.

It’s not always as clear to me in the rest of life. I suspect that, just like in Virabhadrasana II, when I want to push, work longer hours, or take on a new challenge, I first need to be in the correct alignment, and that what this means is that the foundational things are in order; kids, health, finances, relationship with my significant. This requires awareness, being present, in both my life and my practice because I usually don’t figure it out first and then do it, I usually figure it out as I’m doing it. Sometime in a pose, as in life, I am practicing my strength, sometime it is only an exercise in strain.

After the teacher training I began to wonder, where in my life am I straining, trying to do too much? Is it not asking for as much help from my family as I need around the house? Am I financially hyperextended? And where in my life am I practicing my strength, where my alignment is there and I know it’s ok to ask a little more from myself? And just like a yoga teacher would make sure there was flow and focus in her class, is there any flow and focus to my days? Would I be the teacher trying to cram too many poses into one class? And finally, do I have anything in my life that is like Savasana, where I rest, process and recharge? Some of these questions I know the answers to, and some I am still sitting with. The possibilities for extended metaphor are endless as individual practices and practitioners.

and so it begins…

This garden, my little garden, has caused me to be broke already and it isn’t even April yet. Lumber for raised beds, soil and soil amendments, plants, pots, seeds, a shovel, a rake, hand tools, hoses, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Honestly, I love it all.

It is not my first garden. My first garden was a little back yard affair, tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers. It was simple, and successful. To my surprise everything “worked.” I had eggplant that looked like they could have come from the grocery store, and, of course, so many zucchini!

My second garden was huge, tilled into a field of weeds. We put it in in April, my daughter was due mid-May and I had visions of spending the summer in a wide-brimmed hat while Bijou napped on a quilt nearby. By the end of that summer the weeds were six feet tall and I was in some post-pardum macrobiotic mania in the house deep frying mochi in olive oil. We moved before harvest. Garden heartbreak.

This year is different. I’m not winging it. I have good help. My sweetheart built me several raised bed frames. I have McGee and Stuckey’s Bountiful Container, Gayla Trail’s You Grow Girl and Grow Great Grub, and The Quarter Acre Farm by Spring Warren is on my night stand. The mail person should be here any minute with Novella Carpenter’s Farm CityTart and Sweet: 101 Canning and Pickling Recipes for the Modern Kitchen by Kelly Geary and Jessie Knadler, and Gayla Trail’s newest book Easy Growing. And, yes, I am also broke because I buy too many books, but that’s ok. These books are both inspiration and instruction. I need them. I’m enrolled in the Master Food Preserver Class. I plan to learn a lot.

So, this is the beginning. My favorite ethnobotanist Frank Cook (everyone has a favorite ethnobotanist, right?) talked about plants not as things to be used and manipulated but as teachers, with wisdom that is revealed to those who pay, not with money, but with attention. Frank is no longer around but I’m grateful his teachings have been preserved, and passed on. I know he liked to say, “I am done with end-users.” An end-user is someone who uses, takes, consumes. It’s the last stop. I’m guilty of being a consumer of other people’s ideas, and images without sharing anything in return. I hope, though, to be more than an end-user. Both writing and gardening require a little letting go, wind catches seed, and voila, something new is born. So for me, and maybe for you, this can be a place where things grow.