We’ve never done it this way before!

For many of us, this is a season for the way we’ve always done it.

When I was growing up, it went something like this…

Frantic housecleaning.

Three kinds of cookies. Always the same. Just like Granny.

Church, when I got old enough to insist.

Gifts on Christmas morning.

Most years, leg of lamb and, later, wild rice pudding. A wrestling match over who stirred the gravy.

Ed Ames and Andy Williams singing versions of carols that still run through my head.

(Feel free to adjust the details so they feel familiar to you!)

This year, though, has been different in our world and, just now, it feels like much farther than an hour and a half long flight from the deck of a ship wandering the western Caribbean, rocking my dearest ones gently.

And I, who generally “sort for” different, am oddly undone.

I’ve spent much of the day looking for words. It hasn’t been a wild success!

Just before brunch, I spent about an hour playing with a riff on Clement Clarke Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas.

It started something like this:

’twas the day before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

No stockings were hung on the bookshelf this year. Our gifts had come early. Our people most dear.

The beasties were settled, all snug in their beds, while memories of Camp friends danced in their heads.

And Bill in his hoodie and I with my scarf were plotting and planning a long winter’s nap. 

Well, you get the drift… And then, just a bit later… out on the lawn there arose such a clatter!

Literally.

Red winged blackbirds, 100 or so, fluttering from ground to trees and wires, some of them pausing on the roof of the house across the street.

A dark cloud with flashing points of fire. Like the recent flock of crows but decorated for Christmas! Up and down. Swirling and arching in a perfect ballet.

And then, just two, in the skeletal dogwood, just beyond the roses.

A sign, says my book of symbols, of a very large gift.

Come to encourage all who are open to draw out from each self the beautiful being aching to be born.

Which is, when you think of it, quite a huge thing that started long, long ago and lives within each of us and keeps growing and growing until all the world will glow with love.

Unlikely angels, those blackbirds, but singing peace and good will all the same.

May it be so for you and for those you love, however it is this year, now and forever.

Love, Sue

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Blanket of Peace

A bit of a southern snow storm and, perhaps, the fact that my latest book project is done – well, not entirely but we’ll get to that later – seem to have calmed my busy goddesses last night. We slept.

And woke to the silent falling of more snow.

Not enough to be a real problem, but enough to allow for my filters to shift just a bit. For my eyes to remind me that change is both inevitable and possible.

And so I have spent a couple of hours staring out at the garden, watching the snow flakes drift hypnotically toward the ground as a weighted blanket of white transforms the landscape around me.

At least most of a couple of hours.

I can’t help noticing that, in the midst of these quiet moments, I keep reaching for my phone, searching, I suspect, for assurance that my usual world goes on.

Watching for an email about my Amazon order that did not, in fact, arrive by 9:00 last night. (Which wouldn’t be such a big deal if it didn’t include the canvas for the painting class that starts today and gifts for my girls which need to go with me when Christmas starts early in our lives…next week!)

And a message from the awesome guy who delivered most of the dog food on Thursday and is supposed to arrive with the rest in the next hour or so. (Can’t send the beasties to Camp without groceries!)

And a couple of book reviews I’m hoping for.

With all that noticing going on, like the narrative sort of therapist I am, there must be a bit of wondering as well.

Am I electronically addicted? No.

Am I a bit anxious about the number of metaphorical plates I’m trying to keep spinning in the air just now? So it would seem.

Am I tending space for change, knowing that even the most longed-for of changes are inherently stressful? Yep!

Now, here’s where things get tricky!

For what changes, specifically, am I tending space? Who knows???

Or, as the old Quaker saying goes:

In order to learn, we must be willing to be changed.

We must open ourselves to the advent of newness. It’s a good time of year for that.

So, I keep setting the phone back down and reaching, instead, for my mug, comforting with hot water and lemon, while I huddle under my own magic weighted blanket and take deep breaths, watching the snow flakes drift hypnotically toward the ground.

And mentally orchestrating a book release for next week!

Stay tuned…

Should your goddesses, like mine, have a tendency to keep you awake, click here to check out the Mosaic weighted blanket thing.

And, lest you be worried, the dog food has appeared!

Peace!

 

 

 

The Power of Hands to Teach

Lately, my hands have been teaching me.

Planning. Planting. Watering. Watching.

Hope. Surprise.

Glowing yellow sunflowers, sheltering tiny sprouts of arugula under their towering stalks.

But before that, my hands taught me something else.

In the early months of 1985, I began working as a nurse in the operating room of our local hospital. Here’s the way the story began:

I’d only been in surgery a few days when an emergency came in and the surgeons needed more help than they had. I was scrubbed, gowned, gloved, and squeezed into the crowd around the table. “Hold this,” a surgeon said, “and don’t move.”

For the next four hours I stood, barely breathing, with my hand wrapped around a man’s beating heart. I was terrified. My feet fell asleep. My back ached. I needed to use the bathroom. And still I stood, with life in my hand.

Finally it was over. The patient was wheeled away to recovery and the surgeons scattered to their busy worlds. 

I went to wash my hands. As I stood at the scrub sink for the second time that day, I was overwhelmed with the certainty that humanity, in all its tremendous complexity and fragility, could not be an accident. What my hand had learned through all those long hours of sheltering a beating heart had taught my own heart the truth of a universe created in Love. 

Lately, my hands have been teaching me again. This time, wrapped around paint brushes. Feeling as if I am holding my own heart beating in a way I have not noticed before. Which feels, in turn, as profound as holding another person’s beating heart!

Pilgrimage is a time for growing.

I thought I signed up for this month-long journey I’ve been on for about two weeks now because I’m intrigued by Shiloh Sophia’s artwork and the symbolism involved in it. Because I became interested in the Black Madonna traditions through things I’ve read over the last several years. Because I wanted to know more about the truth that many scholars call the Divine Feminine.

All of those things are true.

There seem, however, to be other true things as well.

First, I have two granddaughters. Mighty mini women growing and learning by leaps and bounds. Full of questions.

Then, I seem to have been on this journey much longer than I ever realized.

I feel as though I’ve discovered parts of me, of my heart, that I never knew before.

As though I am literally painting my circle of faith larger and more rich in stories and symbols.

And I’m stretching my understanding of history, as well.

It’s exciting. And a little scary. When I stayed safely in my old circles, I knew where I belonged.

If you’ve been reading along for a while, you’ve probably heard me mention one of the most important books in my own journey of learning: Women’s Ways of Knowing. Written by a collection of academic types, this volume explores the ways in which women regard individuals and institutions with authority and what they accept as true, or not.

The fifth of these ways of knowing is called constructed knowledge. According to the authors, it is “an effort to reclaim the self by attempting to integrate knowledge that [women] felt intuitively was personally important with knowledge they had learned from others ” (134).

There’s more. Lots more. Here’s what we need for today:

“Constructivists become passionate knowers, knowers who enter into a union with that which is to be known…personal knowledge as…the passionate participation of the knower in the act of knowing”  (141).

The authors are frank about the observation that it’s not an easy journey. I would agree!

I do feel, in these days, a conscious sense of connection to a universal, archetypal “Mother” in a whole new way, making, as the old story goes, newness out of chaos.

It will probably take me a while to figure out where all this will lead. Except for more painting! I do know though that my hands have led me, yet again, to a place where my world is bigger than it was before. And more true.

Where are your hands leading you?

Oh, just in case you didn’t know…In the Hebrew language, the word for hand and the word for power are the same!

What’s on your list?

It’s 5:54 am, EDT on the longest day of the year and I am awake.

Frankly, this has far more to do with things rolling around in my head than it does with an ambition to see the sun rise on the Solstice, in case you were wondering.

I am, nonetheless, here, watching and listening.

We began with what passes for full dark in an urban neighborhood with street lights.

The very first bird chimed in, excited to sing up the sun. A tweet and then about four trilling sort of notes. Again. And again.

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One Skillet Wild Shrimp with Spring Sauce Verde

I’m just beginning to realize how much I hibernated this winter. Granted, it wasn’t that cold in Atlanta and we have heat. I seem to have hibernated, all the same.

Suddenly, my imagination is awake again. My hunger for variety. And company.

I treasure the freezer, still about half full of deep, rich bone broth after the dark days. I just want other things, too. Fresh, tasty, light things. Quick things. So, tonight, for the first time, an ongoing experiment and a relatively recent favorite, all with minimal dishes to do!

This is delicious. Tasty in a grilled sort of way. A bit of heat. Lots of crunch. Complex and, at the same time, very clean. Try it with leftover roast chicken breast or a seared, roasted, and sliced pork tenderloin. Or, to skip the meat, do the veg mix and toss with scrambled eggs, or top with fried eggs. (We will!)

Seasonal food is at its best when what there is and what you long for meet!

One Skillet Wild Shrimp with Spring Sauce Verde

Serves 2 hungry adults for a whole meal or 4 for a main course. WildFit/Paleo friendly & Gluten-free.

Total time, about 1 hour. Active time, 15 minutes. (A handy sous chef is helpful, as this goes quickly.)

First, dispatch someone wise in the ways of  local markets to “source”, as my foodie friends would say, some really excellent shrimp. For us, from Georgia. The Atlantic is good for US friends. Or the Pacific Coast. Whatever is “local” for you. (Shrimp from China and Viet Nam should be avoided for health reasons. If you must buy commercial, pre-packaged shrimp, please check the label!) You’ll also want some bright greens, as clean and local as possible. Here’s the list:

 1 1/2 pounds excellent shrimp. We buy the 16-20 size (large). I like them with heads and shells best. Today, only shells. (See below.)

1/2 large head Romaine (or other deep green, crunchy lettuce) per diner.

About 4 – 6 c. washed, trimmed, and chopped mixed greens. (The more, the merrier!) In this case, baby arugula, some Italian, flat-leafed parsley, a bit of fresh basil or thyme, and a few clumps of dandelion greens. (Reserve stems of parsely, if using. They’re great in salads, smoothies, or shrimp stock!)

6 spears really fresh asparagus, stemmed and sliced very thinly, from the garden, if possible. (Optional, but awesome! Sliced broccoli stems, or even chopped stems from collard greens, Swiss chard, etc., would work, too.)

1 Vidalia onion or a handful of scallions, trimmed and thinly sliced at the last minute. (WildFit friends may wish to avoid “sweet” onions like Vidalias in “deep Spring.”)

2 – 4 cloves of minced garlic.

3 excellent quality anchovy fillets. (Trust me!)

Juice of 1/2 a fresh lemon.

3 Tbsp. good olive oil, divided.

Freshly ground black or mixed peppercorns.

Good, Celtic sea salt.

1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes, optional, to  taste.

Optional – 1/2 c. or so of hot, cooked, organic rice per person for those who desire. (Bill does!)

And the plan:

About 1 hour before you wish to serve, remove shrimp from fridge, if still frozen. Rinse in collander and set to thaw/drain. (If your shrimp are thawed, start here about 30 min. before you wish to serve. Rinse and drain well.)

Place rice in oven at 350 F. to re-heat if needed. (Or steam, or whatever.)

Shell shrimp, as needed, reserving and freezing shells, if desired, for stock. I like the $2.00 plastic thing-y you can buy at many fish places to help remove shells and “vein”.

Drain shrimp some more and pat on paper towels. We want them as close to dry as shrimp get!

While shrimp drain & dry, start washing and trimming your veg as necessary. Tonight, I picked out the pine straw and tiny maple trees, and returned them to the compost. Halve Romaine the long way, remove any wilted outer leaves, rinse and drain really well. Dry greens well in a kitchen towel and chop as needed. They’re going to wilt/shrink!

Place shrimp in a bowl with 2 Tbsp. olive oil and about a tsp. each of salt and pepper. Toss well to coat.

About 15 min. before you plan to serve, heat large, heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) dry over high heat. (A few drops of water should skitter around.)

Place Romaine halves, cut side down, into skillet, pressing down occasionally, to sear. When cut side is nicely browned, remove to serving plates, cut side up.

Reduce heat to medium high.

Add oiled and seasoned shrimp, with extra olive oil if pan gets dry, in 2 batches if needed to allow space to turn and sear, turning with tongs until shrimp are fragrant, pink on the outsides, and opaque through the center, about 3 – 5 minutes, depending on size. Resist overcooking!

Remove cooked shrimp to serving plates, over seared lettuce.

Add an extra Tbsp. of olive oil to same skillet, over medium heat. Add sliced onions and stir to begin to wilt.

Add anchovy fillets and stir to incorporate with onions.

Add asparagus, if using. Continue to stir fry, adding a bit more olive oil if needed.

Add chopped greens and herbs, continuing to toss.

Add lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes. Season with S & P to taste.

When the individual bits are all still intact but the greens have wilted, spoon over Romaine, shrimp (and rice, if serving).

Serve, perhaps with additional lemon wedges, if desired.

If you saved shrimp heads/peels, place in zipee bag and squeeze out air. Freeze, labeled, and dated. Watch here for stock recipe to follow.

Enjoy!

Each little bit helps!

This morning, Sarah and I went on an adventure. I had two quick errands to run and she loves to ride in the car. At 60 F. and overcast, it’s still cool enough for her to wait 10 minutes in a car with the windows down about four inches.

We ushered Phoebe and Luther out to the deck with a big bowl of water and a variety of rope toys. Sarah was delighted to go with me.

I went looking for provisions from my favorite butcher and a few more veg to pop into an already magnificent pot of soup. I found more!

All the spring flowering trees are in bloom!

The dogwoods are just getting started. The redbuds are stunning. There are some purple ones that look like wisteria but I’m not sure about that. Gorgeous, in any event. And brilliant, crimson Japanese maples which aren’t blooming but look like they are.

Our pinky-purple Loropetalum is dripping with blooms and, one by one, the azalea bushes are popping, too.

While Sarah was snuffling the breeze, I was on a sight-seeing tour for gardeners!

When we got home, I saw some early season bees, happily buzzing among the blooms I left on a few of the collard greens, and I actually felt tears in my eyes.

I have a history with bees.

I’m desperately allergic to stings. Bees, wasps, yellow jackets. You name it.

One day, years and years ago, I got stung on the knuckle of my ring finger in the parking lot of a grocery store. Within 20 minutes, my arm was swollen to my shoulder and I was having trouble breathing.

Enter my close relationship with Epi-pens!

Dave is allergic, too. I try to pretend not to know that he keeps his Epi-pen at home in the closet where the first aid stuff lives.

For a long time, I was pretty phobic about bees. Especially the buzzing. The usual anxiety symptoms. Avoiding anything with flowers. And then, one day, my phobia was gone.

It happened at a training session in Ericksonian Hypnosis. We were watching an ancient, scratchy video of Milton Erickson working with a client about her bee phobia. Somehow, I dropped into the trance experience of that moment and, when the video was over, my phobia was gone.

I’m still appropriately cautious. No floral or fruity perfume. Ditto, scented shampoos. No hairspray. I carry my Epi-pen, especially when eating outside.

Now, though, I can appreciate bees for the aerodynamically improbable, life-giving miracles that they are. I speak kindly to them in the garden. I plant things for their pleasure.

Sage and lamb’s ears are favorites with the local gang. Just about anything with purple flowers. And the funnel-shaped flowers. Check for recommendations in your area. Hummingbirds will like them, too. And butterflies.

It’s a chance to nurture our mother, the Earth. To feed the generations that follow us. To learn new things.

Like no GMO’s. No neonicotinoids. You really can grow a garden without chemical fertilizers and herbicides and insecticides!

And early indications are that feeding Phoebe small doses of very local honey is helping with her severe allergies. (And my sanity!)

Our garden starts with organic, heirloom seeds. And lots of compost. And barrels planted full of leafy green stuff,  right in the front yard, because that’s what I eat.

Or, if you don’t have the room, some potted herbs. This is one place where each little bit actually does help. Which is an encouraging thing to realize on a day when you’re juggling dogs and running errands or whatever it is you’re doing.

And then there’s the whole thing about the power within us to be healed of our fears and phobias. That’s pretty encouraging, too!

For the moment, though, time to dry-brine a perfect chicken for dinner. (Just click for the recipe!)

Christmas in a Southern Garden

The last of the leaves flutter like snow flakes to the ground.

Bright collard greens recall traditions born of need.

The evangelist, Charlie Brown, reminds us of Love in the midst of all the other things that are true.

And, in this moment, Peace reigns.

May the blessings of this season be yours,
Sue