Monday, May 18, 2015

Curmudgeon Lane or Community?

Which Do We Choose?

Suddenly atavistic and at the ready... Earth rips open; a train derails; grapefruit sized hail smashes through the ceiling of one's living room.

Awareness lurches from disengaged to heart-poundingly present, virtual to visceral.

Fear comes first. What on earth do we do with it?

Lash out? Control-freak family and neighborhood? Curl into a ball?

A relative lost a house roof to tornado and giant hail. No power, no water.

She and her little boy crouched in the teepee set up in his closet; wind whooshed around the house. The boy, brave munchkin, laughed at new experience. Wind roared louder; suddenly poof: no roof.

Trekker friends have been shaken by villages in Nepal, loved and held in memory, now buried by rock slide or avalanche. Prayer flags fluttering and enigmatic Buddha statues above the rubble.

What do we do about earthquakes, asteroids and coronal mass ejection, when we can do nothing?

Red-caped Superman may not soar out of a phone booth, but neighbors may emerge as community. Ready or not, what do we become, fear acknowledged and need around us?

Community has been much on my mind, and fear which may try to destroy connectedness.

I lived on a lane of predominantly wonderful neighbors, folks one could count on, two-footed gold.

One neighbor whose path stalked fear and violence essentially projectile-vomited those demons, his very own. He took to controlling and harassing the small community with nuisance lawsuits.

Saner neighbors paid up, hoping it would be enough. But, for fear-based existence, no thing is ever enough.

Two of us are leaving. Sane and kindly neighbors have already helped me to fertile valley, fruit trees and sound of bright water. A blessing rising out of the macabre of bad manners.

When dormant volcanoes come to life, how do we treat ourselves and one another?

My lane gone bad is a little story of fear turned outward and ugly.

A big story might be governments fearing loss of power and going rogue, unrestrained by law or decency.

Finally each of us will choose, to be neighbors or complicit snitches. What'll it be?

Today, I planted Hansa, a hardy Rugosa, fragrant, which forms great crimson rose hips in autumn. (See, "A Pocketful of Rose Hips" for recipes.)

To prepare the soil, my spading fork sank like butter into earth loved by a long-ago gardener, a quiet and enduring legacy.

I thought about the self-styled Lord of Wasteland on the lane, and of quick-buck-AgBiz, its cheap food and land laid waste.

That's one choice. The gardener I can never thank left me the richness of another.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Elders, Bullies & Gulags

Elders, Bullies
& Gulags

She hobbled in leaning on two canes, her hair soft, white and abundant, piled in a loose figure eight, yea, sloping toward infinity. She thumped down into the chair and stared at me with the unblinking scrutiny of grand age.

"How long have you been here? I've seen you around."

"Um, ditto. Not as long as you."

"Not hardly. You see those mountains? They rose up when I dug the Rio Grande!"

I guffawed. 

A man poked his head around the curtain, grinned, and hushed us; a filming was in process.

She had wonderfully sparkling eyes, an elder with long life experience and heart enough for wit.

It set me to thinking about maturation, the contentment of hard-won self-scrutiny, and of kindliness. 

Or not, as the case may be.

Lately, I've had an encounter and ending with an older but immature bully. This, while crafting a children's book about bullying, speaking of guffaws!

Not a great leap from my little life micro-ugly to governance gone rogue, bullying one's own people and launching wars.

Distract, divert and obfuscate power-greed in the maelstrom of chaos. But fear not, Darth Vader will bring order, Ordnung, compliance. The Boys in Blue, gone goth-black.

Strange military training of "law" enforcement, target practice to de-humanize targets. Tim Laden the CIA operative, dead repeatedly, caves, villages, buried at sea... and the mouths of Navy Seals magically sealed by opportune copter crash. 

Those fearing loss of control, need new scapegoats: Old bulls-eye targets no more, bring on civilians, the domestic irritants to absolute powah. 

A company with DHS funding came up with the "No Hesitation Series" to focus on civilians as "Domestic Terrorists." Not met with universal acclaim, but who ARE these control freaks, these bullies?

"There are seven targets in the series: Pregnant Woman, Older Man 1, Older Man 2, Older Woman, Young Mother, Young Girl, and Little Brother."

First order of business of Hitler annexing Austria, Stalin seizing power and Australia for goodness sake, was to confiscate hunting rifles from farmers. 

I have a classmate in Oz; his ranch is crawling with poisonous snakes. He never checked fence lines unarmed. He shot snakes. Don't know what he does now.

Criminals of course are not discommoded by gun confiscation; they'll always find sources. After Australia seized guns, murders and felonies increased. Criminals ran rampant, unchecked by citizenry.

If the government itself turns criminal, what then? Eighteenth Century writers in Europe and the American colonies had a lot to say about that, the so-called Divine Right of Kings and infinite corruption of empire.

Any wonder that history and civics have been expunged from gov-issue education?

“A state of war only serves as an excuse for domestic tyranny.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Monday, March 23, 2015

Ghost Ranch, Artists & Singers, Oh My

Spring Equinox Leap
(& a children's book)

First I got lost. Stopped at a little market to ask directions, a country woman.

"You go north, just keep on straight."

"Is it marked?"

She gave me an appraising look.

"If you're looking."

I laughed and called over my shoulder.

"Land's too awesome, not to look!"

Did wander lost one more time, but satisfyingly, on rambling dirt roads above Abiquiu, having come from snow peaks to wild plum and apricot orchards in bloom!

I had traveled the back of the beyond route from burnt umber volcanic basalt though cliffs of stratified creamy-ocher sandstone. The mesas had begun to show peach and rosy hues. I was headed to Ghost Ranch, beloved of the painter, Georgia O'Keefe.

A wild-assed impromptu adventure. An old friend called on Spring Equinox morning, already chockablock with gongs and Chi Gong celebration, to mention an evening performance of a male a capella chorus in which her basso husband sings.

"You might come?" she wondered.

"To Ghost Ranch? Today?"

I came roaring back after gongs and sore Chi Gong legs, stuffed the car with sleeping bag, provender, maps, and headed out.

The land grew wilder as I neared the Ranch, burnt orange and fiery reds, crossing rivers, and a cobalt sky.

Wonderfully arty folks were gathered for plein air painting workshops, out under the brilliant sun. My friend and I walked the land, among huge old cottonwoods, firs and wild plum in bloom. Early in the day, she had listened to honeybee music, a grand old plum tree alive with their sound.

That night we sat in the window alcove of a high abobe room with sweet acoustic as the men sang like angels, like thunder, like the dawn of the world.

We came out into Equinox night alight with stars, and with little flashlights started up the zigzag trail to the mesa top.

"Look at the moon!" the basso leading the way alerted us. Just rising over the ancient land, a cradle, the new moon, silver, the old moon penumbra in her arms. 

And as suddenly she set.

Equinox Whimsy
A story about being bullied, for being different. The fourth Wayfaring Traveler book; color illustrations by Wayfarer's mother.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Nesting Season & Ponzi Schemes

Blue Birds 
and Stories

Watching a mountain blue bird pair reconnoitering for nest site, sent me into town for a nest box, made of sturdy white cedar and now affixed to the trunk of an old crab apple tree.

Will they choose to build a nest there? Be still oh my beating heart! A pair nested last year at dear friends' across the arroyo. Glimpses, of darting blue birds at the feeder which I tend, made my heart leap.

If instead wrens nest there, what fun and what a privilege to be alive at nest building, feeding and with luck, the flight of tottery fledglings.

Birds are thrumming my imagination at the moment. I've written a fourth book, this for children and those of us who still love picture books and a pretty good story. 

The water colors for the adventure, about a larger bird of blue plumage and handsome crest, were done by my mother. Jeremiah, the Bald-headed Blue Jay will be released just after the Spring Equinox.

It's chilly in the mountains. High elevation light is richly lapis lazuli to aquamarine and wind comes blowing down the glittering peaks and across still snowy north slopes at this elevation.

It's the magic sunset time. Just before the sun disappears, slanting light catches the snow peaks and for a breathless moment, the peaks turn rose-pink.

That being the only harbinger of spring color we have so far, after days of steady snow fall, and sheltering in place! The lane here does not get plowed.

Bulbs are showing, however, just poking their noses up through the leaf mould. Tulip leaves came thrusting through the snow.

In 17th century Holland, the normally stolid Dutch burghers lost their minds to an exotic new flower from Turkey. Tulip bulbs were traded like mania-stocks on Wall Street. Fortunes were invested.

"Prices rose to such heights that by 1610 one rare bulb was considered an acceptable dowry for a bride." 

As the few costly bulbs were planted, guarded from theft and multiplied, finally becoming common, later investments of family fortune vaporized. Ponzi-scheme ad nauseum.

The human story is best pondered with a sense of humor, as we lurch from one obsession to another: pet rocks, cabbage patch dolls, or the latest texting widget.

And the Dutch? Good business sense picked itself up from mania blow-out, and centuries later lowlands reclaimed from the sea supply the world with tulips:

Our own Ponzi-schemes are bloating up like the Hindenburg, and normally generous people are feeling encroaching pain. Small entrepreneurship grows more creative:

Tomorrow, I'll attend a quiet fund-raiser for a community building effort, one home at a time, a home each year, for those who are desperately housed. It's called "Habitat for Humanity."

The local can-do crew is "selling" small bits of the project... X-amount of contribution for a bag of nails, a roof beam, an adobe brick.

Bird houses are going up, and soon, ground-breaking for an adobe casita! Can spring be far behind?

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Turmeric Travels; Recipes

Turmeric, Tamarind, Chai
Travels to India

India puzzled me. (Guffaws heard off stage; India is overwhelming, a portal into sensory-tsunami.)

Visiting Mumbai friends and traveling three months, an exotic hurrah before grad school, I was puzzled that anyone could be healthy there, rich or desperate.

Already interested in soil health and land stewardship, some years later I would be embarking on organic farming.

The soils in India the ancient shocked me: depleted, over-grazed, much of the dusty topsoil blowing about in a layer hundreds of feet high, in torrid heat and Beijing-magnitude air pollution.

Sacred cows wandered at will; their manure, needed as fertilizer, was used instead as cooking fuel, in that deforested land. Women slapped hand-print oval poop-patties on hot walls to dry.

Everyone used aluminum cheap cooking pots; DDT was strewn about like fairy dust to deal with billions of flies and mosquitoes. The daughter of my friends sprayed her children's sleeping room with insecticide EVERY night at bedtime.

And yet, lepers and near-cadavers sleeping on sidewalks notwithstanding, I interacted with physically beautiful people and many awed me with their education and IQ's.

How could this be, in such crowded, polluted and soil-impoverished conditions? What was I missing; what was salutary and unfamiliar?

Chai for one, the black tea, spiced with cinnamon, cardamon, clove and sometimes black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, star anise; sweetened with raw sugar and served creamy-colored from cow or water buffalo milk.

It's powerfully delicious and the spices empower immune health. Nations fought over control of the lucrative spice routes in the long ago days of sail and camel caravans.

2) Tamarind is eaten raw, made into drinks & confections, and cooked in curries; we understand now that it is one of the few miracles which can help the body detox fluoride from the pineal gland, thyroid and bones.

The fruit tastes tart-sweet; you crack the woody pods pressing with your thumbs, and suck the jam-like fruit from around the fibrous interior holding large seeds.

Yes, that's early hands-on experience. When waiting for the school bus outside the school's walled Key West garden, I'd clamber up a huge tamarind tree and sit in the branches spitting out seeds!

3) Turmeric enriched my cogitation on the WHY of India health. It's the orange-yellow color in curry powder and is being avidly explored in present time for its medical benefits.

Before we go further, it's contra-indicated if taking blood-thinners or if troubled with gall bladder disease; check with your physician.

Turmeric functions as an anti-inflammatory (think: arthritis, fibromyalgia, auto-immune disorders.) It's exciting holistic research in cancer treatment and in dementia.

Many markets and health food stores now carry fresh turmeric root, which looks a bit like ginger root but is brilliant-orange in cross-section.

Easy ways to use the fresh root:

Add thin slices of turmeric to rice pilau with whole clove, cinnamon, a spoon of coconut oil or ghee and either peas or raisins.

2-4 thin slices of turmeric are amazing in puree'd soups. My green-thumb aunt adds it to tomato basil soup.

I steamed a head of broccoli; added it and the cooking water to the blender with salt, slices of turmeric and ginger, a pat of butter, pinch of cayenne, and a chunk of cheese for a startlingly quick and nourishing cream soup.

Powdered turmeric is delicious beaten with eggs for an omelet.

Here's today's Guacamole:

1 ripe avocado sliced in half lengthwise, de-seeded, mashed
1/2 lime juiced
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 bunch cilantro snipped or minced
Himalayan salt to taste
1+ tsp red palm oil
1/2-1 tsp turmeric powder
dash of cayenne

Mash all together and use as dip with flax seed crackers or corn chips, or as rich salad dressing.

More recipes &