Thursday, January 2, 2020

Ah, 2020.

In the coming weeks, social media will be filled with posts about self-care, fitness, and weight maintenance. This happens at the beginning of each new year, in a cyclical desire to clean out the old and begin afresh. 

I've mentioned in a past blog post that I perform a deep clean of my house with each change of season. The winter deep clean is put off until after the holidays; after the decorations are stashed away, the frenzy of shopping, cooking, and baking are all behind me, and the parties are a fond memory. 

My husband spent some time on New Year's Eve clearing our cupboards, which was a tremendous help. In the next week or so, I will dust the ceilings, wash the windows, move the refrigerator and dislodge the litters of dust bunnies burrowing underneath it.  I will get into the corners of the baseboards with a vacuum and a toothbrush to remove all remnants of Sophie's fur. Sophie is my 18 month old Great Dane, and unbeknownst to me, Danes shed. They have very short fur, but they shed it. A lot. 

So, the house will undergo a pretty drastic cleanse. 

And, as happens at the New Year, I will be examining how I can return to a healthier self. 

I will not be making any grand pronouncements about my fitness goals, or the magical number I would like to see on the scale, or how I am going to mediate more, and get eight hours of sleep per night, and reduce my screen time. Nope. No grand pronouncements. Not for me.

What I aim to do is rediscover the joy I once had living in a healthy and fit body. I will not denigrate the body I currently reside in. I will cherish it, and not make myself crazy with how many steps I walk each day, how many calories I've ingested, what color food I have on my plate, whether I've gotten enough sleep. I will find the fuel for my body that is nutritious and diverse, but I will not allow myself to be pressured into a particular type of eating lifestyle (once called "a diet"). 

I will let you know how that goes. And I hope you all find health and fitness choices that work for you. 

Welcome, 2020!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Gratitude

My property is surrounded by trees.  Large trees.  Several Norway Spruce, maple, elm, oak.  Smaller trees dot the property.  Cherry, pear, juniper, mulberry, dogwood, elder.  The neighbors across the way have a yard filled with white pine, planted at least fifty years ago.  Usually, being surrounded by such greenery gives me a sense of serenity.  Usually.  

During storms, I worry about a particular Norway Spruce that arcs toward my bedroom wall.  It was lush before the vines strangled it, leaving its branches bereft of needles.  The trunk is tall, slender, curved, powerful in its own way.  I imagine this trunk crashing through my roof, letting rain and squirrels in, allowing our indoor cats a way out.  

In an effort to  breathe more easily during storms, I had the trees around my property trimmed, and the dead spruce removed.  The pruned trees are vibrant.  Light filters through the canopy.  Nutrients flow to healthy branches and leaves.  Ground cover flourishes.  

A few weeks after the pruning, a monster storm battered the area.  Heavy winds, buffeting rains.  To the rear of my yard lives a robust maple.  About ten feet to the right of the maple is a majestic Norway Spruce, one of the trees that had been thinned.  It did not handle the strong winds well.  With a crack that sent me running to the window, the trunk broke, and the canopy fell into the crotch of the maple at a 90 degree angle.  

Within a day the tree was carved, and logs of spruce lean against the shed.  

It would be easy to be annoyed about a tree falling so soon after we'd paid to have it pruned.  
It would be easy to be annoyed about spending more money to have the tree cut down.  

It is easier, though, to be grateful.  

No one was hurt, no property damaged.  The maple was not injured as it supported the spruce.   

Gratitude.  

I am reminded to be grateful each day.  Last week a deer hit my car with a thud that shook me.  It disappeared into the woods, leaving my car damaged, me unhurt.  I am grateful that I was not harmed in the collision.  I am glad that the deer ran off.  I am grateful that I have insurance, and I know of a trustworthy body shop.  I am grateful that the road was not busy and no one else was involved.  I am grateful to the police officer who took my statement and wrote up the report.  I chuckled when I read it.  "Deer was at fault for this accident."  I have an online friend who creatively took to social media with the story from the deer's point of view.  I had another chuckle.  

Today, as the temperatures plummet, I am grateful for the heat in my house, and a hot cup of tea.  

As we approach Thanksgiving, more of us are paying attention to what we have, and remembering to express our gratitude.  For friends, for family, for jobs, for homes, for food, for health, for loved ones moving peacefully into death, for infants screaming their way into this life.  

It is in that remembering that we heal ourselves.  

How will you keep the season of gratitude alive throughout the year?  

Let me know.  I'd love to hear from you.





Monday, July 14, 2014

Abundance

The kitchen is filled with gorgeous vegetables.  A visit to my CSA, Z Food Farm in Lawrenceville, NJ (www.zfoodfarm.com) yielded riches in jewel tones of ruby, emerald, and deep amethyst.  Bunches of kale, swiss chard, scarlet breakfast radishes, purple scallions, bags of string beans, a head of lettuce, and a bulb of frilly fennel came home with me.   Unfortunately, I had not yet used all the produce I'd picked up the week before.  I was faced with an overabundance of food, and a strong desire not to waste any of it.  

What to do?   

Organize, of course.  Then cook.

I sorted all the produce into age and type, considering which items would wilt or rot first, which could last another few days.  The kale and chard would limp quickly, and were not really finger foods like the beans and radishes.  Making a salad of lettuce, radishes, scallions, string beans, cucumbers, carrots, and tomato left me with little to return to the crisper bins, and would be the bulk of our meals for two days.  The fennel would last, and looked lovely on the countertop.  

The kale and chard faced me down.  I could juice them, but doing so would leave the abundance of nutrients in the pulp.  The pulp could then be used to create a vegetable stock, but I had a freezer full of stock.  Hmm.  Ah, the freezer!

I decided to freeze the leafy greens.  First I blanched chard leaves quickly in salted water, then dried them in towels to remove excess moisture.  I placed a single layer of the tender leaves on a sheet of parchment paper, alternating paper and leaves until all the chard was used, and finished with a top sheet of parchment paper.  Neatly folded, it fit into a gallon-size freezer bag the way a dollar bill fits into a wallet.  Labeled and dated, into the freezer went the chard.  I repeated the process with the kale, using the same nutrient rich water I'd blanched the chard in.  I let the water cool and then fed it to some unhappy looking outdoor plants.  They perked right up.  Watching the plants respond so positively, I was reminded, once again, how to perk myself up.  A little green goes a long way.

Next time, I'll be talking about the abundance of wind and rain, and what happens when the Norway Spruce meets the Maple Tree.  I'll be making a lot of medicine between now and then.



Monday, June 30, 2014

A Great Time for New Beginnings

Just a few weeks ago I found myself scrubbing the house like a madwoman.  Using cotton swabs to wipe down the baseboards, reaching for the last of the linty fuzz in the dryer, sweeping the ceilings.  It was that sort of maniacal cleaning, although I stopped short of pulling out the fridge and washing the usually hidden floor and walls.  I wondered what drove me to this frenzy and came up with a short list of the usual suspects motivating me to grab the scouring supplies.

  • Company - I wasn't expecting any.
  • Overwhelming clutter - the house was neat and clean, just not sanitized.
  • Puppies and Kittens AKA Dust Bunnies - a quick vacuuming always takes care of them.
  • Procrastination - okay, this may have fit the bill, I did have a few things that needed to be done, but I certainly didn't need too many hours away from my other responsibilities.
Then it hit me. 

Spring cleaning!  

Just as spring was giving way to summer, I was following a primordial need, one deep in my blood and bones, to get the house in order at the change of seasons.  I've been doing it all my life without paying any attention to it.  A quick glance at my tax receipts show that I donate household items, including clothes, shoes, dishes, etc. four times a year.   My daughters have a code for my cleaning frenzies. "You know how Mom gets?"  
"Yeah."  
"Well, she got."  

New beginnings require cleaning out the unused, the things that no longer serve.  As we begin the summer season, the new month, the new week, it is worth taking some time to reflect on those feelings, behaviors, relationships, and patterns that no longer serve us, that weigh us down.  

It is also a perfect time to clean out the pantry and the fridge.  Replace the cookies and puddings with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Donate the pasta and follow a recipe for zucchini pasta.  I like this one.

Make some fresh iced tea, lemonade, limeade, or orangeade.  Add sliced cucumbers to water for a refreshing beverage.  

In this time of new beginnings, I've been working to launch Emeralds Botanicals, my own website devoted to my herbalism practice.  The website is still under construction, so stay tuned for my virtual grand opening.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Snow, Groundhogs, Pagans, and Saints

I spent a few hours last week shoveling the latest ice and snow from my driveway.  Thanks to a neighbor with a Bobcat, and a husband with a John Deere, snow has been pushed and plowed into something resembling an ever-growing fortification wall on both sides of the drive.  I'd been away from home for a while, sitting in dark corridors, staring through dirty windows as the weather turned gray and messy.  I was looking forward to getting outside with shovel in hand.

For me, shoveling is comfort, solace, movement, solitude, a time for creativity.  My mind wanders to the beauty and the stillness of a winter afternoon.  I notice the light passing through the crevices and gullies in that wall of snow shining glacier blue, a color I've seen only in photographs of the picturesque north, say Alaska or Norway.  It stops me in my tracks, this unexpected gift.  I take a few moments to breathe it in.

The trees are covered in ice.  They look festive, bejeweled.  A red-tail hawk passes overhead, then a black vulture.  A crow caws, settling down to roost for the evening.  The neighborhood is quiet once again.  As I return to my work, I hear the crack of a limb nearby, and am momentarily stunned with an unnamed fear.  Across the street, a bough breaks and falls.  I have not been crushed, and my fear abates, but I am saddened for the white pine.  She has suffered much through the many storms we've had these last two years, and her gashed trunk bears witness to these amputations.  I offer a healing prayer, and one of thanks.  Pine makes great medicine, particularly for coughs, and I will take the gift of  white pine indoors to make syrup.

Holiday season is upon us once again,.  It is the week of Groundhog Day, Candlemas, the Feast of Saint Blaise, the celebration of Imbolc, and of St. Brigid.   Chinese New Year hovers in this time.  We are midway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox.  The groundhog tells us we have six weeks of winter remaining, whether or not he sees his shadow.  The earth is quickening, the sap is rising, the land is beginning to show signs of spring.  Snowbells bloom, raising their heads through the snow.  Maple tree tapping season begins.

I usually observe the holiday by lighting a candle, and having a special meal.  This year I observed.  Simply observed.

Onion grass pokes through the snow.  The sun sets later and later in the day.  I listen for the crack that heralds another bough breaking, and understand the fear.  I appreciate the dull asphalt blackness growing in the drive.  It is beautiful to me.  I know I will not slip and fall, not today.  I am stronger for the shoveling, healthier, and at peace.

How will you find your beauty in the solace of this season?  How will you face your fear?