ruminations

MARCH 27, 2019

Early-ish start today, considering I worked late last night and didn’t get home until after midnight… and to sleep for another hour still, after that. I was thirsty for water, and a couple of weeks ago I finally bought a Britta pitcher but hadn’t yet washed it and run the precursory three jugfuls of water through it before first use, so I did that, finally. The water quality is awesome here in B.C. but these old pipes in our building (that keep making themselves known by bursting on the regular) produce a pale yellow coloured water (rust, maybe?) and I’ve been thinking that maybe consuming it in copious amounts might not be that great for my own inner plumbing.

Anyway… I digress…

In the last month, I’d fallen back into the unenviable habit of ruminating. I say this because I used to do this all the time, in my teens, twenties, thirties, forties. It seemed to have switched off, thankfully, finally, in my fifties. I recognize that not all people are so afflicted, and that ruminating serves a purpose. It helps us become self-aware, and allows us to process things. I have learned, though, that there is a point at which the cud just needs to be swallowed and allowed to pass through.

It’s a tough call, that one. It’s like deciding when a piece of art work or writing is finished. Should I dab on another little bit of paint? Do another read through and edit with a fine-toothed comb? How much do I want to lean into perfectionism and where and when does it stop serving me, or others?

I’m rereading the material from the mystery school that I have joined. It sort of goes hand-in-hand with the ancestral healing work I’ve also decided to walk the path of. Whether looked at literally or figuratively, this work is important to my inner life, which in the end also affects my outer one, and by default the lives of those around me. Self-examination is a huge part of the process.

I’m rambling. Clearly a shortage of coffee in my yet morning-addled brain…. so circling back around.

Ruminating serves a purpose, though I’ve come to realize that it can also be fettered down by beliefs about the self or perceptions of external factors that keep me locked down in a loop, sometimes a self-defeating one.

So I choose to bear witness to the thoughts and then I let them go. I choose which actionable things I can do in order to get to the crux of the issue and then release the rest. I continue to work towards being the best version of myself, and that, I’ve found, is a persistent and life-long process.

I leave you with this. The road to improvement, whether of the self or the environment around us, can be hard or soft. For most of my life I’ve chosen the harder path, the one dubbed “hard-knocks”. Though I never knew quite how they would become realized, I consciously chose the most difficult ways to accomplish things, to learn the lessons my spirit seemed to need to learn. Man, it’s a rough way to go about life, and it breaks you, over and over again, and then some more. There are only so many times a pot can break and be fixed before it becomes irreparable, no matter how much I lean into the concepts of wabi-sabi and Kintsugi.

As I wished a friend for her birthday, I wish you all the same:

May the road meet your feet with gentleness and grace,

may the winds bring you all you need,

may the fires burn brightly in your heart and warm you,

(and I add this, now…)

may the waters quench your thirst and cleanse that which no longer serves you.

xo

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one Sunday afternoon

I’m sitting at the kitchen table, drinking my third mug of coffee, flipping through the pages of my mother’s old phone book. What I hope to glean through doing this, I have no clue.

Names had been added and crossed out. I recognize my own handwriting in it, my mother’s, my father’s. I recognize the handwriting of a family friend, who used to live in Kingston, but now I wonder if she, too, has died. Probably.

There are names in it that I don’t recognize, names beside which there are Hungarian addresses. Excavating a life becomes difficult, post-mortem – as in life, we only seem to discover the things they want us to know while the rest is buried within them, within the past.

This tracking of my genealogical history has been difficult and unsatisfying. There are more questions that arise than answers, even in this time of technology and the relentless categorization and tracking of data. I do online searches today and find nothing. Ten years ago I could plug in the name of a person and find all kinds of various hits, but now that data is controlled and funnelled through a “smart” A.I. program, only the ones it thinks are relevant pop up. Only what the world deems important comes to our eyes.

So it’s always the squeaky wheel, the loudest voice, the most vociferous opinion that we see on the platforms which for two decades provided us with a wealth of information.

Today? Not so much. I might as well hole up somewhere with a box of microfiche and get to it. I feel like answers might be found in Hungary, but my command of the language has suffered much since my mother’s death, and was never that proficient to begin with. English is my language of choice, the language I have been educated in, learned to be curious in, to think in.

In light of the discussions within my ancestral healing group over the last several weeks, I mourn that loss of language, because within the language, its context and use, are the secrets of my past, the ones I can intuit in my bones.

Words hold meanings, the memories of things. In one language a word could mean the same thing as in another, superficially, but in each language it has a timbre to it that is relevant to the people whose mouths made those words, who spoke those words, a meaning that I will never really know as a member of a diaspora.

These meanings… they can be passed down, if people choose to, but often there is too much of a burden that is carried in their wake, one each generation that comes before the next wants to burden itself with but to not pass on to the ones that come after because they want them to have a better life, a brighter outlook, an untainted future.

But with that loss, there is also a loss of rootedness, a kind of cultural and historic amnesia. It is no small wonder that we find ourselves in a world that holds itself to nothing, that consumes without thought, where everything within it becomes disposable. Some days I wonder if we’ll recover from this illness of spirit, for that is truly what it feels like.

We find ourselves living on the lands of others, people who have suffered, just as our old peoples had, at the hands of others. They are still here, listening to the murmurings of the waterways, the flailing of the trees as they fall to deforestation, to the sound of the thick blood of the earth as it is getting bled out while its face is pitted with the byproducts that make teenage acne look like a walk in the park.

Our elders had gone silent in an effort to shield us from the pains they carried over centuries. We had a chance for a new start, but without their wisdom and the knowledge of all that came before, we made the same mistakes all over again.

When I was a teenager, I distinctly remember refusing to acknowledge any worth to the words of my parents. The separation required to become an adult is a tough journey, especially if those that teach us have become complacent in the comfort of their own lives by the time they come to witness our transformation, and don’t find a good way to guide us, to lead us through by example.

Maybe they are still struggling too.

Maybe by that point we’ve already seen too much of the darker sides of humanity to want to trust anyone else in this process.

I was young and brash, yet I was also sheltered, naive, and wholly unprepared for the world and its people, especially the ones who saw me coming and couldn’t help themselves in taking advantage of me – but I didn’t know that I had this deficit until it gouged holes in my spirit. I took advantage too, in my own way. I suppose that is how I learnt, but I can’t help but feel that there must be a better way to do this.

So here I am, on a Sunday afternoon, alternately staring out of the dining room window, typing this with two fingers on my phone’s keypad, listening to the birds calling outside (seagulls, crows, and another I can’t identify), to the chirping of the cross-walk signal, wondering what I will do with the rest of my day.

There is so much I want to do. I have a long list of chores that I keep ignoring, books that I want to read piling up into stacks that I may never finish reading in this lifetime, stories I have written but that have languished uncompleted, dishes piled in the sink that need washing, a refrigerator that needs to be sorted and cleared, choices to make on food plans for the week, clothes that need to be laundered and stowed, a cat litter box to clean out… to name a few.

In this overload of choices, I often choose… nothing.

and the world cracks open

It’s too early for me to be up. I got home well after midnight last night (earlier today?) and didn’t get to sleep until after 2 a.m. I suppose the massive size of my to-do list is weighing on me… which I can’t divulge  because the surprises I have planned for this weekend will not be .. surprises.

I’m sitting at my dining room table, listening to traffic noises and a crow cawing while I sip my delicious Saltspring Island coffee and tap my phone screen to write this. The sunrise outside the living room window is astonishingly beautiful. I said so, to the cats, but I don’t think they understood, although Leia did hop up to her perch by the window and intently stared at the birds flying by.

The big oak trees in the park have shed most of their leaves now, though there are a few hangers on. The evergreen conifers stand out amongst the filigreed deciduous tree limbs. I’m thinking a snowfall would be lovely just about now, although I think it is still too mild for one. The sky has that metallic grey pallor that hints at winter though, so I may get my wish for a white Christmas yet.

There is a mountain of chocolate on the table amongst other gifts I’ve been amassing over the weeks. I may well spend the actual day of Christmas alone this year, but the gifts will begin filtering out soon, into the hands of those I cherish.

As I sit here alone in my little dining alcove, I am overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude, for my life as it is now, for the wonderful beings who people it, for the person that I am discovering within myself. There is a sort of peace in self-acceptance and appreciation. I am not perfect but I have grown to appreciate my own company.

I’m not sure what that means. I have been uncoupled for what will soon be eight years. I have a full life and enjoy the continual journey of discovering what other treasures I can discover within it – many, this I am certain of. I hope that I can in some way repay the pleasure that life gives me by giving to it back in-kind.

The ancestral work I have been doing with Nikiah Seeds has been one of many catalysts, though it is clear that it has perhaps been the straw, but rather than breaking the camel’s back, it has opened up access to the sort of healing that generations upon generations of my people, my blood, my genes, have been calling for from the other side. We have only just begun. There is much to do, but oh, there is so much hope and an expectation of release. Soon, with Nikiah holding the space and sharing wisdom, I will deepen this practice further. I am infused with anticipation and excitement. What a gift, truly.

I am grateful. I am grateful. I am grateful.

Us

I have a headache… probably from staying up too late, watching “This Is Us”. The writing is brilliant. Beautiful. Heart warming. Heart breaking. Both, sometimes at the same time.

Why is life so complicated? How did kindness become such a challenging state of being to bestow upon those around us?

I am constantly reminded that kindness is a choice, as are many other things, and sometimes kindness means to be honest with the kind of integrity that makes you quake inside, that makes you worry that everything meaningful you’ve ever hoped to build toward will crumble.

Sometimes it means to be brave and to persevere, even though failure might be the end result. I feel I’ve done that, time and again in my life. Not always, because sometimes fear yanks away the wheel from my grip and relegates me to the back seat, but when I let it drive for a while, I realize that I’m moving farther away from where my heart wants me to be. So I relent, find the resolve to take my seat in the front again.

I try to lead by good example, and I fail that too, at times. Spectacularly. I fail because I can’t see past my own humanity, or that of the ones who surround me, by whom I fail, sometimes. I look at people and see what they are not. What they could be. What I think they are, however erroneously. The strengths and weaknesses intermingled into one hot mess that I can’t rise above, at least not then, maybe not ever.

The thing is, I keep coming back, showing up to give it another go. I do that because I believe in us, all of us. I believe in people, and their beautiful frailty and strength. The two don’t diminish each other, they make each stronger, more enduring.

When I was young, I would get into these dark moods. It was a kind of sadness that would grow out from my marrow and overwhelm me. It felt sort of like covering myself with a big comforter in the early morning, in an attempt to sink back into sleep, not sure whether it was to rest some more or as an escape from the weight of trying to learn to be a human being.

No one really teaches you how to be that. Sure, we are told what to do and not do by anyone who has an opinion to give. Mostly though, we each end up finding our own way, no matter how skewed the journey. We learn from those around us how we want to be; who we want to be less like. Our hearts are broken a million times in a lifetime, and in the end it is up to us to figure out how to find a way to mend each break.

Sometimes, people come into our lives, at times briefly, at times more enduringly, and teach us the things we need to know to become more of who we are meant to be. Sometimes they just hold our hands while we figure things out, and sometimes they hold all of us, our lives, together while we make our way through to the other side of the painful things that break us down and force us to remake ourselves again. Sometimes, they do the breaking, or watch us break, hoping that we will find a way to mend ourselves, on our own.

I have no answers – I never have. I have only more questions, many without any answers.

I’ve learned that being told what to do seldom works. My mother, on those darkened days, used to urge me to “cheer up”. There was never a moment that she reached out to try to solve the why of it, or how to go about finding a solution. It’s not that she had any answers, per se, but maybe going through the motions of coming up with solutions, to be witnessed instead of reacted to, I might have found my own way to the answers, at least a whole lot sooner than fifty some-odd years in.

I still don’t have all the answers, though, at least not definitive ones. The solutions change as quickly as the dilemmas do, and what worked today may not work tomorrow. What I have learned though is to stay the course, through the good stuff, the less than pleasant stuff. There is always some kind of revelation that arises, if I am patient enough, if I allow myself to be open to its receiving. If I forgive myself when I give a less than stellar performance and allow myself to be the human that I am.

Life is miraculous. The fact that we exist is miraculous, that we’ve persevered as a collective species; that I am alive, despite so many odds of it being otherwise. I don’t understand, can’t even pretend to know, why it is so. That is part of the great mystery.

What I do know is that the reason we have survived is because we have been able to find common ground… to pull together and help support each other in the face of insurmountable odds. We have found ways to persevere, and to thrive because we have been able to become greater than the sum of our collective parts.

Sure, for millennia, the weakest amongst us were eliminated from the gene pool by virtue of the fittest outliving those that were less so. We live a comfortable existence today, by comparison. We have luxuries and comforts that very few were afforded with any sort of regularity even a century ago. You could say that such softness was an affliction of the ruling class, a class that got to where they were by originally being the hardier and smarter of the populace, but that became diminished by dint of their self-inflicted segregation.

We weaken when we become exclusive, when we stop engaging with each other. It is a sure recipe for die-off. We owe it to ourselves, our children and their progeny, to learn from what has come before, to let all of that sink in real good, and find a way to rise above all of it.

Don’t forget the tulips

Every weekday morning I sit at the table in my dining alcove. This morning the bouquet of tulips and freesias from last Friday are spreading their petals wide, in an unabashed embracing of the sun. Today it filters through a gossamer thin layer of clouds. A seagull flits through the screen of the living room’s picture windows – I am here to bear witness. Crows that I feed almonds to click and caw from neighbouring trees. For an instance, I am shrouded in a blanket of silence so complete, it is as though a giant hand has turned the outside world’s volume knob to zero. The only sound I hear is of air propelled through the blades of a fan I sit downwind from; it stays like this for seconds. I am about to settle into this brilliant white absence, but the groan of a truck, its gears grinding, edges in and rolls to stop when the light changes; the engine idles. A crosswalk bot beeps at regular intervals to assure pedestrians of a safe crossing.

I’ve fretted for months on the placement of things; in their accumulation I have deemed them as necessary for my survival as the air I breath, but I have yet to find a place for many of them, patient boxes of furniture lean against walls while they wait for assembly, photos and music CDs stacked high in corners, sheaves of paper in bankers boxes waiting for my consideration on whether to be kept or shredded. Some things are stowed, though, have found their rightful place, for now. As unsettled as I still feel, I remember that I have slept here for almost half a year, have seen the light shift from fall to winter to spring through panoramic windows, seen it dance across the surface of a river that flows a short distance away, where generations of logs were herded to lumber mills downriver over decades, long before my arrival. I have seen the trees renew themselves, shed their leaves and start over, abandon themselves with an unshakable faith to whatever outcome the passage of time may bring.

cauliflower .. the virtues of

Well, even though I should be working on my novel (which I’ve coined “TIVOC” for short), this is happening, because we need to subsist, after all.

I’ll be taking this in to work this afternoon for dinner, along with some plain steamed rice.

Roasted cauliflower recipe:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cleaned and broken into florets
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced and rind grated
  • 1T sumac
  • 1T cumin
  • 1T coriander
  • 1t garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425F.

Combine oil with next 5 ingredients in a bowl and toss cauliflower. Lay out on a covered cookie sheet (I used foil but you can use parchment or a silicone mat) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I have been personally favouring Maison Orphée grey sea salt lately.

Bake in oven until nicely golden brown, turning occasionally. Every oven is different so just keep an eye on it. Half and hour should be plenty.

Roasted turkey breasts

  • fresh turkey breasts (mine are skinless and deboned but you can use chicken or bone in and skinless of either)
  • glug olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • summer savory
  • ground coriander
  • glug of white wine
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.

Place meat in baking dish. Add glug of oil, glug of white wine (I use whatever white wine I have open and on hand), lemon juice and zest. Sprinkle with garlic (I usually just press the cloves right on top with a garlic press) and summer savory (I got my tin from Pomme, a specialty store in Coquitlam – it’s a bit hard to find in regular grocery stores). Sprinkle with salt to taste (again, I used the sel gris) and bake until done. Follow safety guidelines for cooking poultry per weight and type. The liquids keep things moist so if you err on the side of longer cooking times (like I usually do – I left mine in for 50 minutes), it keeps things from drying out. I end up shredding the whole lot into the remaining liquid and using it to top the rice.

Enjoy!