Koshas

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I left the world with the aid of another world

A spoonful of light under her feet

lifted into the next layer,

Subtle humming, astral body

A design was erased

By virtue of a higher design

The outlines in charcoal blended and smudged

Until nothing was separate

Then rising higher, illuminated by sharp stiletto edges

A pen dipped in ink, lapis and gold leaf

Henceforth I travel toward Repose

This is the path of personal truth

Springing grass green beneath wide, firm feet,

Designated step after step toward divine purpose

Where time rests in the Eternity of Time

Isn’t this what we seek

The blue pearl, the velvet peace

The place we are born to?

I go now into Silence.*

*The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Jean-Yves Leloup, Inner Traditions, Rochester, Vermont, 2002, p. 17

The Pleasures of the Garden

Every morning for the past two weeks, I’ve inspected the places where we’ve planted.  And I’ve been wringing my hands, wondering “Was it too early for the flower seeds?  Did the frost do the bulbs in?  Did the birds eat the seeds?”

But today, at last, spikes from bulbs have emerged. 

Tiny first leaves from flower seeds appeared.  Zinnias!

The bushes are growing: forsythia, spirea, burning bush. 

The bleeding hearts are already blooming.

I dug a deep hole for the butterfly bush and struck water!  Was this an underground stream, or just the result of a day of pelting rain?  It didn’t seem wise to plant in several inches of water, so I filled in the hole and put the butterfly bush on the other side of the house.

The clematis finally appeared.  We put a cage around the lilac bush because someone was eating it. 

What a glorious spring we’re having!  Everything is so GREEN.  Next project: a fenced in vegetable garden.

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Deeper

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I’m in love with digging

The slice of the shovel blade

The crunch and rattle going down

I love how muscles lift and toss

Yellow-brown dirt, thick with clay

How the pile grows

Beside the hole

How the crisp wind swings branches

How white petals swirl

Land on my hat.

It’s deep enough, he says.

No, I say, and press the shovel hard

Wider and deeper

Fill the hole with rich dark soil chunks

From yellow bags

Break them soft and smooth

Set the lilac bush into the future.

Inhale, and plant hope.

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Bear on Deck!

Destruction greeted me on a recent morning.  As always, I paused to check on the birds feeding at our five stations on the living room deck.  The pole with hooks attached to the rail was gone.  One of the feeders lay smashed and empty on the deck.  The hanger with hook had been broken off.

Outside on the deck, I peered over the railing.  The pole lay where it had been pulled down.  Beside it were the other two feeders.  The new blue mesh feeder was intact, but the green metal hopper’s handle was snapped off.

I ran inside and called my husband to see the damage.  It was then we noticed the claw? tooth? gashes in the wooden rail.

When we went down to pick up the equipment, we found that the gutter was hanging down, apparently pulled off by our visitor while it climbed up to the deck.

It’s a peculiar feeling to have had a large marauder so close to us.  Only a glass door and a small lock separate the living room from the deck.  Those gashes in the railing are ominous.  Now that the bear knows of this food source, it could return.

We may repair the feeders, replace the pole and continue to set out feed for the birds, but we’ll be sure to bring in the feeding stations at night. 

 

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Anger Moved In

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Anger moved into my hip last Wednesday.

Tossed in a rough wool blanket

and set up a camp stove

to keep the pain simmering.

Then he invited Depression to stay over.

She brought her heavy self

wrapped in an oily fog

Curled up in a corner to weep.

Anger stretched out across my lower back

Sending tendrils of pain.

Every position took the shape of hurt.

This place is cozy, said Anger.

Let’s squat here for a while.

Depression blew her nose.

Good, she said, I’m too tired to get up.

What I’m Reading: An Onion in My Pocket by Deborah Madison

A friend sent this book to me, a surprise in the mail.  As I’m not a foodie or even a particularly enthusiastic cook, I wondered at the choice of reading material.  However, I discovered some interesting connections as I read.

Madison spent twenty years at the Zen Center in San Francisco.  I visited the Center in the early 1970s, because the sister of my then boyfriend was living there.  She took us to the bakery where she was working.  My memory is of Carol wearing a kerchief and apron and covered in flour.  I seem to remember having a meal at the Center as well, with the three bowls as Madison describes, eating in silence, and then being coached on how to wipe out my dishes.

Madison mentions the garden at U.C. Santa Cruz.  The renowned Alan Chadwick was resident head gardener there, and his theatrical voice could be heard directing students throughout the garden.  I worked in the garden during the summer of 1969 and had at least one lunch there with Alan Chadwick. 

“A Superb Horticulturalist of the 20th Century Alan Chadwick (1909-1980): English artist, Shakespearean actor, master horticulturalist, vitalist and visionary who revolutionized organic horticulture and inspired thousands of gardeners worldwide.” (chadwickarchive.org)

I have special memories of early mornings in the foggy garden, cutting carnations to be offered at a small stand for any members of the college community. 

Madison’s memoir offers a somewhat disjointed, but interesting tour through the development of vegetarian cooking and her experiences as a chef.

Amazon’s description follows:

ABOUT AN ONION IN MY POCKET

From the author of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone (“The Queen of Greens,” The Washington Post)—a warm, bracingly honest memoir that also gives us an insider’s look at the vegetarian movement.

Madison’s “insightful memoir” (The Wall Street Journal) is “a true delight to read as she uncovers her love for all real foods, peeling off layer by layer like an onion, recounting her own personal, culinary, and gardening experiences” (Lidia Bastianich).

Thanks to her beloved cookbooks and groundbreaking work as the chef at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, Deborah Madison, though not a vegetarian herself, has long been revered as this country’s leading authority on vegetables.

She profoundly changed the way generations of Americans think about cooking with vegetables, helping to transform “vegetarian” from a dirty word into a mainstream way of eating. But before she became a household name, Madison spent almost twenty years as an ordained Buddhist priest, coming of age in the midst of counterculture San Francisco. In this charmingly intimate and refreshingly frank memoir, she tells her story—and with it the story of the vegetarian movement—or the very first time.

From her childhood in Big Ag Northern California to working in the kitchen of the then-new Chez Panisse, and from the birth of food TV to the age of green markets everywhere, An Onion in My Pocket is as much the story of the evolution of American foodways as it is the memoir of the woman at the forefront. It is a deeply personal look at the rise of vegetable-forward cooking, and a manifesto for how to eat well.

All I Know About Pigs I Learned from Charlotte’s Web

My godson is raising pigs.  He’s made an enclosure for them—three pigs so far—in the field that belongs to his dad.  They are contained by two fences; the inner fence is electrified by a solar battery; the outside fence is steel. 

The pigs arrived in two dog crates.  They were about the size of a medium dog, pinkish, with some black smudges.  Two boys, one girl.  They won’t have names because they are going to be meat.

The pigs have a job to do.  It is all part of my godson’s plan.  The porkers will cultivate the hard-packed earth of the field.  They will fertilize it.  And then crops can be planted.   Right now, the soil is unworkable, even with a tractor tiller.

I didn’t know pigs were cultivators.  Now that we’ve been watching them for a couple of days, I’m amazed at the power of their snouts.  They easily turn over dense, rootbound chunks of earth with happy grunts and snorts.  Apparently, there are good things to eat in the dirt, for they come up chewing.  On roots? I don’t know.  I’ll have to investigate further…

My research says that pigs eat dirt and the grubs, worms and decayed matter they find in it.   The bacteria is good for their guts.

Meanwhile, the three piggies are doing an impressive job of plowing the field.  They have a tunnel-shaped shelter filled with clean straw, a large pan of dry, compressed pig food, and a tub of water. 

The carrots we tossed to them yesterday are still on the ground.  They don’t love raw carrots.  Wilbur of Charlotte’s Web rhapsodized about the ingredients of the slop bucket in his trough.  Potato peelings, crusts of bread.  I remember reading how the slop trickled down over Wilbur’s ears. 

Some foods are toxic to pigs.  The list includes leaves of cherry, apple, pear, plum and apricot trees, rhubarb leaves, avocado skin and pit, green potatoes, and tomato leaves and vine.  Nothing moldy, slimy, or rotten.

I’m looking forward to morning pig visits, to see how their digging is coming along.

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Travel

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How do you go there,

Hands gloved in latex,

Face masked

Dripping sanitizer?

I did not see you descend

But now I see you rising

Dare you breathe?

Dare you touch the seat?

Dare you drink from the plastic glass?

I have not been recognized,

But I myself have recognized

How do you ride

From plane to house?

Is the driver sick or safe?

Is the rented room clean?

All things which are composed

Shall be decomposed

On earth and in heaven.*

from The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, Jean-Yves Leloup

Ada Lovelace, Mathematician

Enchantress of Numbers by Jennifer Chiaverini is a very LONG book about a fascinating woman, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace.  I’m finally close to the conclusion, having experienced visceral reactions to Ada’s mother’s rigid parenting, her husband’s alignment with said mother Lady Byron, and the Victorian ideas about the weakness of the female body and brain.

I’ve been trying to remember where I encountered Ada before, because the main events of her life were vaguely familiar.  Perhaps it was actually a film? In any case, here’s a brief biography:

Ada Lovelace (born Augusta Ada Byron; December 10, 1815- November 27, 1852) was an English mathematician who has been called the first computer programmer for writing an algorithm, or a set of operating instructions, for the early computing machine built by Charles Babbage in 1821. As the daughter of the famed English Romantic poet Lord Byron, her life has been characterized as a constant inner-struggle between logic, emotion, poetry, and mathematics during periods of failing health, obsessive gambling, and bursts of boundless energy.

All citations from:   –https://www.thoughtco.com/ada-lovelace-biography-5113321

My overall impression of Ada from Chiaverini’s book is of a supremely intelligent woman entrapped by Victorian social mores.  It didn’t take me long to start cursing her mother for all the cruel restrictions she imposed on her one daughter.  Of course, later on we learn of the very large skeleton in the Byron family’s closet that may explain some of the mother’s behavior. 

Ada Lovelace’s childhood was far different from that of most aristocratic young women in the mid-1800s. Determined that her daughter not be influenced by her literary rockstar father’s promiscuous lifestyle and moody temperament, Lady Byron forbad Ada from reading poetry, allowing her instead to be tutored strictly in mathematics and science. Believing it would help her develop the self-control needed for deep analytic thought, Lady Byron would force young Ada to lie still for hours at a time.

For a woman of her time, though, Ada had more freedom than many others, being from a wealthy, aristocratic family and the daughter of the era’s most famous poet.  She was able to pursue her passion for mathematics and did produce an original invention.

In 1842, Babbage asked Lovelace to translate from French into English a scholarly article on his calculating machine written by Italian military engineer Luigi Menabrea. Ada not only translated the article, but she also supplemented it with an elaborate analytical section she simply titled “Notes,” comprised of Note A to Note G. Lovelace’s seven notes, now revered as a milestone in the history of computers, contained what many consider to have been the first computer program—a structured set of instructions to be carried out by a machine. In her Note G, Lovelace describes an algorithm that would instruct Babbage’s Analytical Engine to accurately compute Bernoulli numbers. Today it is considered to have been the first algorithm specifically created to be implemented on a computer, and the reason Lovelace is often called the first computer programmer. Since Babbage never completed his Analytical Engine, Lovelace’s program was never tested. However, her process for having a machine repeat a series of instructions, called “looping,” remains a staple of computer programming today.

I wouldn’t say Enchantress of Numbers was a fabulous read, but I did finish the book.  It is satisfying that Lovelace’s contribution to science is recognized.

Meanwhile

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another poem for my sister, who is doing better, blessed be God

Meanwhile the rain keeps raining

Though she can’t see me

And I can’t see her.

Meanwhile, as the squirrel leaps

Onto the wheel of peanuts,

The nurse says

She’s not going to crash anytime soon.

Meanwhile, though the snow is almost gone,

The wind is up

And the driveway is mud puddles,

The air around her is stale and antiseptic.

Meanwhile the cars whoosh

Along our road

The machines around her

Swish and tick and hum

Breathing for her.