30 November 2008

Subtle Beauty

November 30th already! Fall's glorious colourations have faded in my woods, but, even with her psychedelia temporarily dimmed, Mother Nature continues to create spectacular tableaux.

20 November 2008

14 November 2008

Drink The Messenger

That's it. From now on, I am taking the advice of my tea.

What? Is she crazy? Desperate? Or simply open to whatever clues and signs the Universe sends, no matter the messenger?

"When we practice listening, we become intuitive"

I'd like to think the last, that I am taking this tea-bag slogan to heart and practicing my listening. There's a lot to know and a lot to learn, and you just can't always predict whence the information may come.

I remember, in the way-back when I was teaching pre-school, one day I used a famous book to show the kids how to draw. It was a very structured, easy and effective method of helping young ones create recognizable objects on paper, instead of what looks to us adults like scribbles.

We went through several of the examples: a teddy bear, a chair, some fruit. Then I gave the kids a choice of items from the pictures in front of me. A high-pitched, excited voice was raised: "Can we draw a sphinx?" Uh...(panic—that wasn't in the book!) After a moment of silence I admitted, "I don't know how to draw a sphinx, Nathaniel." "It's ok, " he comforted me, "I'll show you." And he did.

Not every message the Universe sends has that same wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee-it's-spilling-in-your-lap kind of action. Sometimes it is just utilitarian stuff. The other day, for instance, I went out in the rather chilly afternoon to hang up some laundry. To my shock and dismay I found my way barred by an animal. A very still, possibly dead, animal. A skunk animal. Oh, no. How did a skunk end up in the middle of my lawn in broad daylight, probably dead? (And where is Miss Marple when I need her? Or better yet, Kinky Friedman!)

And how incredibly fortunate that Brujo hadn't noticed it when he went out earlier. (Believe me, this is tremendous luck. Brujo loves to play with skunks—he bites at the spray as it hits him in the face— and he adores almost nothing more than a good, fresh, sloppy carcass to roll in. Who'd've thought our cute, playful, lap-lovin', bath-hatin' Boston Terrier puppy would turn out to be such a Mighty Hunter that he needs to be masked in the scent of his prey at all times?)

I took the laundry back inside (Why? I dunno. Shock? To keep the skunk smell off of it?) and made the announcement. Chris went out and returned with the news that "...she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead." Poor skunk, but, whew. My great worry had been that the skunk was sick or injured and I would have to figure out how to care for it. (You may have guessed, and rightly, that that sort of thing has happened to me before—though never with an animal who possesses quite such a persuasive defense mechanism—and that I really wasn't feeling up to the task.)

So out we went for the burial. We decided that over the fence was the safest spot, as Brujo would be unable to retrieve, and possibly attempt to resuscitate ("C'mon, let's play!"), the body from there. Bringing the skunk and a shovel, we trudged down the hill, through the bit of woods to the far left fence corner. When the deed was done, and we had wished the skunk spirit safe journey, we turned to go back inside. There in front of us was the crushed remains of the far right fence corner, the large dead tree that had deformed it, and a perfect escape-route for our adventure-lovin', runs-at-moving-vehicles, doesn't-necessarily-come-when-you-call-him, dog.

Well, you can imagine how we spent the rest of the afternoon, and, yes, I did finally get that laundry hung out. Back inside later on, our brains beginning to warm up, Chris and I had the same thought at almost the same moment: if it hadn't been for the dead skunk in the middle of the lawn, we'd have never known about the fence.

So, far be it from me to ignore a message, however it arrives.

As a public service, in case you haven't had time to read your tea bags lately or you don't get this kind of tea, I'll share some more of the wisdom, 'cause you never know when it might come in handy:

Empty yourself and let the universe fill you.

Your heartbeat is the rhythm of your soul.

Delight the world with kindness, grace, and compassion.

Appreciate yourself and honor your soul.

Every heartbeat creates a miracle.

10 November 2008

A Tale Of Two Minds

Someone left this about the house, and I simply couldn't resist picking it up. I haven't even thought about this book since high school but, you know what? It's marvelous stuff!

Certainly, Dickens is rightly poked fun at for so obviously "being paid by the word", and his reliance on the most ludicrous of coincidences to execute his plots is, well, ludicrous.

(For the life of me, I cannot figure out how it is that two men, who just happen to look so much alike as to pass each for the other—despite one being French and one English—both fall so madly in love with a woman they barely know, whose character is so thinly-drawn as to consist solely of long blond hair, obedience to rules, and an insistent soppy-saccharine compassion, that they would each give their life for her happiness and safety, but...that's Dickens.)

Still, there is something here of brilliance. So many of his passages possess a rare and soulful elegance of both syntax and meaning. Witness this description of Darnay meeting the other aristocrats in prison:

So strangely clouded were these refinements by the prison manners and gloom, so spectral did they become in the inappropriate squalor and misery through which they were seen, that Charles Darnay seemed to stand in company of the dead. Ghosts all! The ghost of beauty, the ghost of stateliness, the ghost of elegance, the ghost of pride, the ghost of frivolity, the ghost of wit, the ghost of youth, the ghost of age—all waiting their dismissal from the desolate shore, all turning on him eyes that were changed by the death they had died in coming there.*

It's beautiful. Honestly, brings tears to my eyes (though that may also be the must and mildew wafting off the pages themselves...)

The craziest part of rereading this book, is how much, and how quickly, my thought patterns have become infected by Dickens' style. Perhaps you have picked that up in the paragraphs above, but here is an even clearer example. Yesterday I made a big pot of Cheese Beans from the original Moosewood Cookbook (the recipe is massacred in the revised edition and I don't recommend it) and my carnivorous brother announced that it tasted like vomit. This is the answer my Dickens-saturated brain produced:

"Tastes like vomit, Sir, I say you nay! Now, had you declaimed that yon warm cookpot contained a material which, upon first and cursory examination, did resemble vomit by looks alone, I might be inclined to agree—'tis true that the swirling sauce in company of so many indistinguishable bits and cutouts of vegetable matter and other edibles does come over in appearance altogether autumnal or spew-like in hue, but good Sir, that is in appearance alone! One breath of the sweet and savory aroma, one tiny morsel slipped delicately between the lips and the truth is out. 'Tis ambrosial in the extreme, Sir! And I , for one, intend to partake of it heartily, and, if need be, with the blindfold of Justice herself, that most impartial of Saintly Virtues, upon mine eyes to disguise any apparition of puke."

*Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. 1962, New York, London, Richmond Hill, Ontario: Scholastic Book Services,7th printing, pg 316

07 November 2008

A Sheepish Obsession

I have become enchanted by fiber. Utterly, completely ensorcelled.

Mesmerized by mohair, lured by llama, beguiled by bamboo, conned by cashmere, won by wool.

How do I know?

Even when I am sorting through a poorly shorn or sloppily skirted fleece, audibly bemoaning the profusion of too-short-to-use second cuts, complaining about the multitude of friable, sunburned tips, deploring the way-too-nasty-to-clean giant
dung tags I have to snip out and drop, somehow without touching them, into the compost bag, I do so with undertones of awe.

Has the rich smell wafting off a dripping-with-lanolin Border Leicester lamb fleece clouded my wit? The glistening, starry midnight of the downy
thel, (undercoat) of a black Icelandic bedazzled my common sense? The indescribable satiny-softness of Kid Mohair abducted my intelligence? The luminous, rich colors of hand-dyed Bombyx Silk blinded my judgment?

Perhaps, all of the above.

And this: what slips through my fingers as I wash and card and spin is not wool, or alpaca, or linen. It is energy on the brink of transformation. It is the art-i-fact of some animal or plant's cycle of growth. It is a part of the Life-force that is about to become clothing or craft. It is a gift from Nature. It is Food for the Soul.