Tuesday, December 21, 2010

on the moon and the sun

Last night was pretty magnificent. Actually, magnificent doesn't even begin to describe it. A full moon total lunar eclipse on winter solstice. Pretty spectacular! The last time all of these things coincided was in 1638, and the next time will be in 2094. Thus, it is literally a once in a lifetime (or once in every several lifetimes) experience.

We went to bed a little early, and set our alarms to catch the beginning. When we first got outside, we were shocked to find cloudy skies. For the entire time I've lived in Tucson, I can literally count on both hands the number of times I've looked at the night sky to find significant cloud cover. Well, of course. Just early I had boasted that since we live in Tucson, we won't have to worry about clouds obstructing our view. Ha! Luckily, though, the clouds were thin, and somewhat scanty. It was easy enough to spot the moon in all her splendor, and follow the progression of earth's shadow across her face.

This is the moon at moonrise, around 5 p.m.

We drove to this random cul-de-sac in the neighborhood behind us, up in the foothills. Luckily, there are no streetlights up this way, but all the Christmas lights on the houses definitely contributed some un-needed light. It was cool to see other groups of people awake and gazing at the night sky. We watched the eclipse until totality, and then lingered a bit, and then gave in to the lure of sleep, as unfortunately we are still working this week.

And here she is just a few minutes before total eclipse. With a magical reddish glow.

Watching this phenomenon in the night sky rendered me contemplative. For one, I knew that friends of mine all over the country were watching the very same thing as I was. And I thought of them, and imagined where they would be standing or sitting, and whether or not there were clouds, and how cold it was. In this way, we were together. In the same way, I imagined all the people, throughout the history of humanity, who have gazed in wonder at the night sky. What did they think? What was their frame of reference? What stories did they tell? Who was the first human to notice such an event? What did they all feel? And I like to imagine that all of us feel much the same way- small and full of wonder. The perspective this brings contributes to a sense of unity amongst us- humans here on this planet. It can be easy to forget, amongst the wars and senate bills and agribusinesses and superstars, that we are all just humans, sharing this same experience- a life on Earth. Even the people we put above us or below us, the people who are never amongst us- they, too must gaze at the sky from time to time. And I'd like to think that we all share that feeling- that little spark of something. The spark that leads to curiosity and questions and gratitude and perhaps a little fear.

This contemplative mood brought me straight into winter solstice today. The shortest day and longest night. The time when the earth's axial tilt is farthest from the sun. This occurrence, this day, has such a rich history. Virtually all of the holidays that are celebrated in this time of year rise from this event. The darkness. The longest night. The sun rises again in the morning, the rebirth of light. This is why we see festivals of light this time of year. Humans have gathered around fires, drank hot beverages, and shared food and love with friends and family since ancient times. There are even stories that tell of the Egyptians bringing green sprigs into their homes during winter, to remind them of spring's return. The tree, the wreath, even Santa Claus are all rooted in deeper traditions which celebrate light's return and the intensity of dark. Do some research- read about the different traditions that radiate from the solstice. They are rich and full and beautiful. And do your own meditations. Now is the time to find the gifts that darkness has to offer. This is the rule of the moon, linked with intuition and creativity. Perhaps it is time to embrace those things. Now is the time give closure to those things no longer needed in your life, and to welcome the rebirth of light.

I wish you all a very blessed solstice. May it be rich and full and filled with love and contemplation.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

on free tea

My favorite company, ever, is hosting a giveaway. Of tea!! Tea is an amazing way to relax, rejuvenate, heal, and spend time with other people. Check it out!!!

Mountain Rose Herbs Blog Giveaway

Friday, December 10, 2010

on gratitude, winter, and ceremony

Although the holiday decor is beginning to overwhelm the simple beauty of the desert, the days are still hitting 80 degrees around here. The season of holidays & family doesn't feel quite the same when it's not cold, and family is too far away. We've still been managing to suck it all in, though.

Feelings of gratitude filled Thanksgiving with the meaning it should always have. Not only am I grateful for amazing friends and family, but also for the beauty that nature inspires me with, for the most incredible man as my husband and love, for what the past has taught me, for what the future holds, and mostly for this very moment. To be alive and healthy and to hear birds singing and feel a breeze on my toes as I type this.

We celebrated our gratitude with good food and good friends. Our first vegan Thanksgiving was the most delicious one yet.

We've also been trying to create our own traditions. Once we have a family of our own, we want the special things to share with each other. It's hard because we don't want all those traditions that promote materialism, selfishness, waste, and other tenants of the "American dream." So we're re-designing things. For example, on the equinox I wrote down all the things that I wanted to invite into my life and all those that I wanted to let go of. This is in an effort to recognize the balance represented by equinox.

So, for solstice, we decided to create a yule wreath. This idea was inspired by another blogger. Since we have no fir trees or evergreens close by, we collected foliage from native flora: palo verdes, mesquite trees, yucca stems, and desert sage.

We created a wreath, and Chip carved candle holders out of wood. We have four candles around the edges (one for each element: earth, air, fire, water), and one in the middle which we will light on solstice. This is to honor the light that is in each element, and the darkness as well. And when the final candle is lit, it will be the candle that burns through the longest night, welcoming the sun back to her throne come morning. I think it is important to recognize the balance in life and earth, and to embrace the elements that make up our life. These are things I want to share with my children. This season is more than plastic toys and cookies and cakes. It's also bigger than specific religious ideas suggest. People have been celebrating and honoring the balance of light and dark since before recorded history. We hope to keep this consciousness alive. It's really great to be able to create your own traditions- so that they hold real meaning for you and yours.

Hopefully, this is just one step on the path to leading a fuller, more conscious, more meaningful life. One that focuses on the present moment and our relationship to the world around us and inside us. :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

on celebrating the dead

Every year in Tucson, just after Halloween, thousands of people come together to celebrate the dead. Drawing mainly on traditions from the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), we gather wearing masks, face paint, and costumes, and bearing lanterns, flowers, candles, altars, and signs which honor those who have passed, and we walk through the streets. Tradition has it that the veil between the living world and the spirit world lifts during this time, so that the spirits are free to roam the living world. By wearing masks or face paint that hide our living form, we invite the spirits to come amongst us, as no one will be able to tell who is living or who is dead. We wait for our ancestors and loved ones who have passed on- as they will surely visit us. We set a place for them at table, and leave a special bread (pan de muertos, or bread of the dead) on the altar, and the spirits are thought to consume the essence of it. If we were to eat it the next day, it would have no nutritional value because the spirits would have taken that. Some families have feasts in the cemetery, to honor other family members buried there.

At the Tucson All Soul's Procession, the creative community puts some major effort into this celebration. There are performers of all sorts, vocalists, musicians, stilt walkers, fire dancers, aerial dancers, artists, and more. The parade of souls comes to an end, and a performance ensues, which honors and celebrates those who have passed. A large paper urn has led the procession here, and within this urn are thousands of papers with messages, thoughts, and prayers written by Tusconans. The urn is lifted by crane, and lit on fire in front of everyone. Thus, our words are sent up and out into the universe. Such a symbolic community prayer is so powerful.

I really love this celebration. I think that our American culture does a really lousy job of dealing with death. Death is the one thing we can be certain of. And we avoid it, run from it, and do not talk of it. Funerals here are somber and grief filled things that most dread. Why? When in so many other cultures, death is celebrated. I'm not saying that grief shouldn't exist- grief is there and necessary and good and hard and human. Rather, we should embrace that grief instead of hiding from it. We should celebrate the lives of those who have passed, and whose impressions remain. Life is a beautiful thing, and to have lived it at all is quite phenomenal. We are thankful for those who have made these impressions on us, that we had the chance to know them at all during their time here. We celebrate and honor the love they showed, the things they did, the people they touched, the passions they shared. These things are beautiful. And regardless of your beliefs about life after death, the people who have passed are never completely gone. They live on in our hearts and our memories. And we miss them. And this celebration honors that. That we miss them, and that a part of them is with us always.

I have learned much during my time in Tucson, and when we move away this spring, one of the things I will take with me is this celebration. Wherever we are, I will honor the dead in this way- with celebration and offering.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

on the passing of one who lived well, fully, and with vigor

I found out yesterday that one of my history teachers from high school was killed in a car accident in Greece. Mrs. Sarah Bayrd was fortunate enough to die doing what she loved, and with a friend no less.

I was shocked by the news, as one always is when death knocks so close to home. But, it is good to always be reminded of the fragility of life, as you never know when he will come knocking for you.

So I remember her. She was the most unique teacher I've ever had (or known for that matter). Vibrant doesn't even begin to cut it. Her energy engulfed the entire school, it seemed. I can't remember her without a smile on her face, and a little sparkle (of mischief, perhaps) in her eyes. I was never very enthralled by history in general, and I certainly fell asleep trying to read history textbooks (too bad I only discovered historical fiction novels later on), but I remember her class. I remember that she brought history out of the text and into your face. We were always engaged in projects, and the class was always interesting. The things I remember the most, and which I feel helped to shape the person I am today, are her "muckraker" lessons. This is when she challenged us to do as Upton Sinclair did in "The Jungle," and dig up the muck. In this context, I remember the famous lecture on how hot dogs are made (what they are made of, to be more precise). Same for canned meat. Meat packing plants. And then finding out about genetically modified foods. And to this day, I have a fear of hotel/motel rooms because of her lecture on all the cleaning practices/ bacteria lurking in them.

I feel like this sort of digging and questioning has helped me to be a more conscious consumer, and a much healthier person overall. Thank you, Mrs. Bayrd.

What blows me away is how many lives she has touched. Within a day of the news of her death, almost 2,000 people had already posted memories, anecdotes, and messages of love and admiration on a facebook page created for her. She affected so many lives in such positive ways- inspiring, teaching, loving, laughing, and spreading her passion for history, for travel, for teaching and learning, and for life in general. What a beautiful legacy to leave behind.

Sarah Bayrd, your passions live on in all who knew you, and may your spirit always find adventure.

Monday, October 18, 2010

on reflections

Autumn always puts me in a certain mood. It's a sweet sort of melancholy that rolls in with the cool evening air, like reckless joy sets daily with the sun, earlier and earlier. I love the way it makes me feel. To me, it's a time of reflection. This is true of all autumns. Autumn is the quiet time before winter, before death. Spring is rebirth. Summer is the prime of life. Every season has its purpose. So they say once you reach a certain age, that you are in the autumn of your life. It must feel like this: a remembrance, a reflection, a sharp awareness of the present leaves that fall one by one off cooling trees. So I savor this time each year. You never know if this will be your final autumn. It's important to take the time to be in this sort of moment- this very unique sort of space, where something is inevitably over, and it's still hard to see the place where that feeling might return. Yet, knowing that summer (and all the feelings of being in it) is finished, is what begins autumn. And when you think of your life now, it is harder to see endless possibilities, it is harder to think that the road is in front of you and the wind is at your back. Now, rather, it seems as if the roads get dark earlier and earlier, the wind at your back is too cold. It's hard to see where you are going. And that is okay. Now, it is time to be quietly with yourself. To think about your life and yourself: where you are and where you have been. Some people say to put the past away, but I think it is good to hold it lovingly in your lap for a part of a season, just to remember what brought you here and made you this person. Who shaped your thoughts? Who taught you love? Whose words fill up your veins? Which places showed you sacred? Which songs embraced you? And so I reflect...

Gavin turned three last week. Three! Time marches on. It is hard to believe that it was almost three years ago that I met his crying face. That he would stop screaming if I sang to him, but only certain songs. I saw him eat his first foods, roll over, sit up, take his first steps, wear his first underwear, say his first words, hit me the first time, kiss me the first time, and grow into such an amazing little boy- so full of energy and a wonderful sense of adventure and curiosity. I can't believe he's three.

And Isabella, who will be 2 in February. Two!? I watched her grow in utero, talked to her via Emily's belly, brought Gavin to the hospital so we could meet her the day she was born. She and I have been through a lot together. She had a rough start, and our bond grew from that, I think. She is full of love, a gentle child when she feels it, but a fire cracker too. She knows what she wants, that girl. And she will find a way to get it. She is a problem solver. And she loves to laugh. When I think of Isabella, I think of giggles and silly faces. She taught me patience and perseverance, and about the depths and trials of love for a child.

And James, in second grade already! Growing up, find his passions, having adventures of his own. Learning to be a big brother. I remember my first day with him, too. A three year old who did not take kindly to rules. My, how much fun we had, and it only took a couple of days. James taught me what adventure really means, and how to see the world in a completely different way. What a wonderful boy he is, full of love for life, and a joy of learning, and so full of light.

To have these experience, and to not yet be a mom blows my mind. I am so lucky. I am so ready for children of my own.

I reflect on family. On the family I want to be for and with my children and Chip. I think of strength, unconditional love, support, encouragement, stability, endurance, gentleness, respect, admiration, and joy. I think it will be quite incredible to meet the people that my children will be, and to share with them a life, for so long, and through so much. The human journey blows my mind.

I reflect on myself. I have changed so much (and am ever changing). Each progression I feel moves me closer to finding my true self. The person I am at the core (and always have been). I keep discovering things, and embracing things, and I love it. Life is so full of beauty.

So many people have come into my world and taught me things, or shown me things, or helped me to selve. I am so grateful for each and every experience. I would not change one thing. I am who I am because of these things. People lost, and people found.

And all the places that have brought me here. Nashville (oh, Nashville), Amiens, Massachusetts, Ogden (oh, Utah), Tucson (and her desert), and most of all the road. Much of myself I encountered on the road, somewhere between here and there, and sometime between night and day. But not just the places I have lived, also the places I have visited. Everything leaves its impression, you know.

I think its appropriate that Halloween and Thanksgiving are part of autumn. Halloween is for remembering those who have continued on, behind the veil. So I think of them. I think of Chip Adkisson, of how he taught me about music and he taught me about poetry (and his self written epitaph taught me about bravery), and his death taught my fifth grade self about the depths of sadness and about reality. I think about Grandaddy Roy and the songs he would teach me, and about his harmonica, and his fiddle. He passed his bluegrass soul on to me, and I think he had wandering blood in him, too. His death came early in the morning, amidst a haze of confusion, and I was younger, and I think more sad for everyone else's sadness than for my own (because perhaps I saw death as not so final). I think about Aunt Louise and I think of her smile and her love, and though I didn't know her as well as I could have, I miss her sometimes. Her death is surrounded by injustices in so many ways, so I think about that too. Are we at all entitled to justice? I think about others as well. I think about Chip's father, and his brother, whom I never met. I love them both. I wish I could have known them. Mostly I think about Grandaddy. His death was sudden- too sudden. But I had just seen him two days before- and had thought- my grandparents may not be around too much longer. And I had asked him to tell me his jokes, and I had hugged him, and told him how much I loved him. And his death pushed me over certain edges. His death forced me into parts of myself that I had been unwilling to acknowledge. His death tore the bonds of family, and pushed many people to extremes. His death... what can I say. I miss you Grandaddy. You taught me so much about life- about horrors and war and fear and courage. You taught me to laugh- always to laugh. And to question things. And I found a poem you kept in your drawer. And it brought me happiness.

Death is a good teacher. Our culture avoids death- avoids thinking about it, talking about it, acknowledging that it will happen to us. But it will. We will all die. And that's okay. All those people are still with me- they are me, because they have shaped me. And there are people who are not dead, yet they are not alive. And those people I have mourned as well. I have mourned the loss of their love. Mourned their rejection of love and life. And that has shaped me, too.

And I think about my own death. Am I afraid? I'm afraid of pain more than death I think. But I will deny that I will die someday. Of course I hope that I have time to have a family, and accomplish things. But everyday I try to remind myself that you never know.

And from death comes life. That is spring. It is all part of this cycle. We all go through it every year, every day. What else has died for you? Passions, projects? Ideas? Relationships? Fears? And what will be born of these deaths? That is a question, perhaps better contemplated in the mood of spring. For now, let's appreciate all the things that have brought us here. The things that have ended, yet do not have ends (because they are in us). The dark evenings are cool and quiet. A warm cup of tea and your thoughts are good company. This is autumn. We prepare for death. We reflect. We fill ourselves with the loves and hopes and joys and losses of life, and we wait. Because we know that spring will come.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

on autumnal equinox

Today is autumnal equinox (at least where I live, though it's technically tomorrow if you're going with universal time), and the equinox is all about balance. We welcome the harvest time, the bounty of the earth, the fruits of the trees and at the same time we recognize the time of cold and dark, the barren time that is approaching. We put away our harvests to help us through the winter. We chop the wood that will warm us and light our dark evenings. We give thanks for both.

This is a great time to meditate on the balance in your own life. Write down all the things that you have begun, that are fruitful, and all the things that you intend to begin (be it a state of mind or a physical project). Think about how each of these things will bring positivity and creativity into your life. Then, write down all the things you've left unfinished. Think about why. If they no longer add anything to your life, then it is time to say goodbye. If perhaps they would add to your life, then bring about the intention to pick them back up. Also think about all those things and emotions that you wish to get out of your life. You can burn the list of negative things as a symbolic way to embrace that particular energy.

Remember the importance of balance. The human body is constantly striving to create a state of balance (homeostasis). Down to our cells, we are striving for balance. All of our life processes happen in order to maintain balance. Bring this natural state to your conscious mind, and to all aspects of your life.

Now is a great time to change some things in your life. Just open yourself up to that.

I also really enjoy celebrating the bounty of this time of year. Our farmer's have had some winter squash at market, and lots of delicious apples. These things along with certain spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger put me in the autumn mindset. Here in the desert, it's a lot different from the turning leaves of the east, but I can still sense the change. The birds are migrating south. The rains are coming to an end. The 100 degree days are still around, but the evenings are getting cooler and cooler. Plus, there's something in the air. I can almost smell it.

I'd like to leave you with a couple of recipes to celebrate the harvest:

Harvest Soup

2 apples, cored and cubed
2 sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cubed
1 butternut squash peeled, seeded, and cubed
1/2 onion, peeled and cubed
optional: carrots, acorn squash, pumpkin
2-3 cups vegetable stock

Put everything in a crock pot or stock pot. For a slow cooker, cook on high about 4 hours. For a stock pot, bring to boil, and then reduce to simmer until veggies are tender. Once the veggies are all tender, scoop out half of the soup and puree it in a blender or food processor. Add it back to the pot, and mix everything up. At this point I usually add a little extra nutmeg, and it's nice to garnish it with walnut pieces. Try adding cinnamon or cloves for a little adventure. (recipe adapted from one found in How It All Vegan)

Harvest Barley Pilaf, Baked Acorn Squash, and Shitake Sweet Potato Salad

Harvest Barley Pilaf
2 cups pearl barley, cooked
1 cup lentils, cooked
1/2 squash (you choose), chopped
1 sweet potato , chopped
1 carrot, chopped
vegetable stock

Add everything together in a large saucepan, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until veggies are tender and vegetable stock is evaporated. Yum!

Baked Acorn Squash
Acorn squash
olive oil
maple syrup

Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds. Lay it scooped side down in a baking dish and bake for 45 minutes on 350. Turn it over and drizzle olive oil, maple syrup, and sprinkle cinnamon over the squash. Bake for another 25 minutes. Enjoy!

Shitake Sweet Potato Salad
sweet potatoes
shitake mushrooms
red wine vinegar

Cut potatoes into slivers and bake for about 30 minutes or until tender. Sautee the shitakes and garlic until just done. Mix together the red wine vinegar and mustard for the dressing. Put everything with the spinach, toss, and enjoy!

These recipes were all adapted from varying recipes I've found in books and on the web.

Hope you have a happy harvest. Enjoy it. Wishing you the bounty of the earth and much love and balance.

Monday, August 30, 2010

celebrating dance

This past weekend my dance troupe Saguaro Bellydance performed a little number at San Diego's Celebrate Dance Festival out in Balboa Park. It was remarkable because we were joined by five of Christa's lovely students, and they certainly made the show. As many of you may know, we did a wild west themed set, dancing to several of Ennio Morricone's tracks from spaghetti westerns, along with some newer electronic stuff. It was the perfect fusion, and other than the CD player at the event being unable to read our CD, which worked fine in other players, it all went rather smoothly. Luckily we had all but one track on Christa's ipod, and so only had to give up performing the one. We had a super engaging audience, and I really had a blast up there. Christa and I choreographed all the songs for the set, and I designed the costumes and made many of them, and I have to give mad props to the girls for making parts of their costumes and for their creative style. I thought everyone looked really great, and it was so fun for us to have 5 more dancers up with us, as we are so used to it being just the two of us. Here are some pics from the show.

I got to see a couple of other dance groups perform as well, and they were all beautiful and amazing dancers. I loved being part of an event whose purpose is to celebrate my greatest passion in life. It's such a wonderful thing to share, and there are so many beautiful dancers and styles out there to see.

a visit from family

Two weekends ago, my mom and my aunt came out to Tucson to visit. It was so wonderful to have them here, as we most certainly rocked the desert.

They arrived Wednesday night with bags full of jewelry and fabric for me from my grandmother. She gave me some amazing jewelry pieces, that I have already worn in performance!

The following day we all made our way down to Tombstone- the old west town famous for the gunfight at the OK Corral. Sure it's a bit touristy these days, with souvenirs and actors, but it's really rather interesting to imagine what life must have been like on the real frontier. It's easy to glorify the wild west thanks to all the spaghetti westerns and cowboy stereotypes that exist, but in reality it must have been one hell of a hard life. I have so much admiration for all the people who endured it, because they made it possible for me to be here now, learning what I am from the desert. So anyway, I love visiting Tombstone.

We wandered the dirt streets and little shops, and even did one of those old time photos, which was really fun and really cheap, it being the 100 degree off season. Heading into Big Nose Kate's Saloon for a bit of libation is really like going back in time, as the decorations are all old west appropriate (and possibly partly authentic), and the waitresses all dress as saloon girls. The atmosphere was pretty laid back, and there were tons of tourists inside. There was even an old cowboy who interrupted our snack to bring us all over the bar taking funny pictures.

Later that night, I served them one of the many vegan gourmet dinners that I would make over their visit. They didn't seem to mind too much. :)

We spent the next day in antique/ thrift/ and second-hand stores (of which there are many) all over town. It was really fun. I haven't been shopping other than for food in who knows how long, and to have some lovely ladies to do it with was quite a treat, as all of my female friends in Tucson have young children, making the shopping experience quite a bit different. We found some amazing little treasures, had lunch at Lovin' Spoonfuls (the yummy vegan restaurant here), and ended the spree by a visit to the boot store, where they both found some lovely cowgirl boots to complete the desert experience. That night we watched some very talented fire dancers performing on 4th, and had a grand ol' time.

Saturday I took them to my favorite farmers' market, so we could stock up on fresh local veggies. There has been a couple selling herbs and spices the last several times I've been there, and I've been so excited about this. They have a killer curry, and most everything else I need on short notice, because when I order from Mountain Rose, it takes about a week to arrive (which is well worth it for bulk, but have immediate access is nice for a few things).

Mom and Janet helped me all day preparing for Satomi's goodbye party which was that evening. I made a soba noodle dish and a green tea agar agar dessert, which didn't turn out as I hoped. It was a bittersweet evening, because I hate saying goodbye to dear friends, but I was glad that the monsoon sort of sanctified the whole experience with a downpour, thunder, and lightning. All the kids had an absolute riot playing in the mud, and I think the adults were pretty jealous watching them.

After the party, we headed to the Surly Wench for a show by Black Cherry Burlesque. It was highly entertaining and at some parts extremely amusing.

The next morning we woke up early to go greet the desert morning at Sabino. You really have to be in the middle of it in order to experience the true abundance of the desert. A perfect thing to do before catching a flight home. Ah, more goodbyes. It will be really nice to live close enough to family to be able to see them more often.

It was so awesome having them here. Now, I'm trying to convince my dad to come out and visit. He would love it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

on the beach and around the house

This past weekend, we headed out for a bit of ocean breeze. San Diego was wonderful as always, albeit a bit too cold for my taste. This weekend was dress rehearsal for Saguaro's big performance at Celebrate Dance at the end of this month. The girls looked fabulous in their costumes, designed and sewn by yours truly.

Our afternoon at the beach involved one too many jackets, but I sincerely appreciated the chance to dig my toes into the sand and listen to the waves. Saturday evening we partook of some absolutely mouthwatering *vegan* Ethiopian food. Oh yum. I now hope to learn how to cook these things, because I really loved them.

A weekend of dance, good food, oceans, and sleeping in a tent can never be bad. Especially if it's all with the love of your life and your best friend. Definitely a good weekend.

Sometimes, though, it's the little things at home that can make me as happy as a grand adventure. Perhaps I need to give more credit to these things. Perhaps they are worthy of a post every now and then.

Today, I am awaiting the arrival of my mom and my aunt for a greatly desired visit to the desert. In preparation, I'm cooking up some collard greens, pinto beans, and butter"milk" cornbread. I buy dry beans in bulk and cook them over hours- which is a nice way to enjoy an afternoon. You can't leave because the beans are on, so you have to take a deep breath, relax, and read a book, or sip a cup of tea, or sing to the plants. I usually cook the beans in vegetable stock, which we make when we have enough vegetable scraps or veggies that are on their way out. Recently I've started to add herbs to the stock. Things like echinacea and burdock root that are happy to simmer for an hour or two, releasing their medicinal properties along with the veggies and more conventional cooking herbs (sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, fennel). I feel like this is a great way to get some extra "medicine." Not to mention a yummy stock. So now my pintos are beyond nutritional.

On a different note, I've been getting away from commercial body care products for a while now, but I've had lots of trouble finding a shampoo alternative. I've tried about 10 different homemade herbal shampoos, but they all involve a little bit of castille soap which is oily, and thus does not work on my oily hair. So I had been using Trader Joe's Tea Tree shampoo about once a week just to cut the grease. But the other day, I researched some alternative and found a great trick: Tea!! The tannins in tea will act as a grease cutter when sprayed onto your hair/ scalp. I spray it on, let it sit for a bit, and then rinse my hair out with water. Voila! My hair looks freshly washed. I'm super excited about this find. And, in my opinion, the best place to buy your tea (organic, fair trade, etc) is Mountain Rose Herbs. So, make yourself a pot of tea, drink a few cups, and spray the rest in your hair before a nice relaxing shower.

Now, it's time for lunch. I'm going to attempt a Japanese dish called Inari. My friend so kindly gave me her recipe, and went with me to the Asian market to find all the right ingredients. It is absolutely delicious, so I'll let you know if it works out.

Until then, Itadakimasu!

Monday, July 12, 2010

on another grand adventure!

Today is my first day back home after 10 days of incredible adventure. I love that post-trip haze that clouds everything as you try to unpack and readjust to being home again. You are different than the you who left for the trip- and all that you've learned, felt, and experienced is hovering around your thoughts. Impressions of all your adventures are trying to integrate themselves into the you of your daily life, and it can take a while. I love this feeling. You are assured an existence outside the daily grind, and you can look at old things with new eyes. Ah, yes.

So let me tell you all about it. Chip and I have officially named this particular trip (which we also are counting as our offical honeymoon) VIVA- vicious intense vacation adventure. And of course, viva being spanish for live, we were incredibly overjoyed to spend these days living completely on our own terms. Too many people just tell themselves they'll do things later, when they have the money, or when they retire, and unfortunately never end up doing them at all. So we vow to always do things now, regardless of the excuses we can come up with. And this particular trip really felt good in the extremity of the now it encompassed.

Friday we hit the road, car loaded down with 3 tents, 2 cookers, sleeping bags, mats, a cooler full of food, more dehydrated food than we knew what to do with, sunscreen, bugspray, firewood, and so much other gear that Thel could barely accelerate. Destination numero uno: GC, Arroyo Grande, The Pit, none other than The Grand Canyon National Park. It being the infamous fourth of July weekend, and this trip decision arising a mere 2 weeks prior, we were incredible lucky to have been able to obtain campsite reservations for this and Saturday nights.

The park was full. We arrived around 9 p.m., (luckily driving through dusk, as we saw some elk on the way in) and thus had a blast trying to find the campground sans map and then pitch our tent in the dark. We got a good fire going and cracked open a couple of Blue Moons and all was well.

The next morning we arose to the caw-caw-caw's and nevermore's of dozens of Common Ravens who so beautifully graced the campground in hopes of a scrap or two. Though I thought I was keeping a clean camp, one of these mischievous fellows actually pecked a hole in a plastic bag full of black sugar to steal a lump from me.

After a delicious breakfast of smoked (although not intentionally) taters, we hiked out to the Rim Trail from the campground and then westward along the rim. We were privy to the comings and goings of a great many cute critters, and of course the grand and breathtaking views all along the trail. It was Chip's first time there and I was so glad to finally get to show it to him. We wandered around the rim and in and out of the visitor centers reading the history and checking out the field guides. We saw so many awesome birds:

White throated swift

Pygmy Nuthatch

White breasted Nuthatch

Broad tailed hummingbird

Violet green swallow

Common Raven

Juniper Titmouse

Western Scrub Jay

Western bluebird

Mountain Chickadee

Golden crowned kinglet

After hiking about 4 miles along the rime, we took advantage of the free shuttlebus to ride up to the westernmost overlook. There and at Desert View are some pretty good glimpses of the Colorado. How amazing to think that this is what cut the canyon over so many years!

We headed back to camp for some grub (awesome grilled peppers, zucchini, taters, and boca burgers) and then took off back to the rim to catch the sunset. Always my favorite view of the canyon- the colors get so intense and the feeling is incredibly surreal. Post sundown, it was back to camp again for a fire and an early turn-in.

Early Sunday morning we were up, fed, and packed for a long day of driving. Destination numero dos: Ogden, UT (where I lived for 4 months in 2007). My favorite drive in the country is through Northern AZ and Southern UT, Highway 89 snakes its way through some of the most breathtaking views and interesting little towns. We headed up I15 once we hit it, and landed in North Ogden around 6 p.m. The plan was to see my friend who lives there, and crash at her place for the night, but for reasons I'm still not entirely sure of, we never were able to meet up with her. After waiting around NO until 7:30, we decided we'd be better off to get back on the road and get closer to Yellowstone, as opposed to having a 5 hour drive the next morning. So, we made it to Idaho Falls, got a room, showered (as we hadn't for 2 days and knew it'd be our last chance again for 5), and crashed. I was exhausted from driving about 12 hours that day, and nervous because I knew the real adventure would start the next day.

Monday was THE day. Our reservations for 5 days in the Yellowstone backcountry started that day. We had to pick up our permit by 10 a.m. So up early and on the road, we drove a little ways through Idaho, into Montana, and finally Wyoming... through some very beautiful parts of the Targhee National Forest. And, a good omen, we saw an Osprey fly overhead as we were on the way. Upon finally arriving in Yellowstone (I had been dreaming of this moment for a couple of years), we had a little bit of trouble finding the backcountry office, as everyone we asked pointed us someplace that was not it. A lack of a map, 30 + miles, and one super unfriendly park employee later, we found the office with 13 minutes to spare (they give up your reservation if you don't make it on time- or fail to call- so we could have called if the need had arisen). Now I was getting super pumped. My only other backcountry adventures were much shorter (at most 2 nights) and in Tennessee (just a little different than Wyoming grizzly country). The rangers were super nice and after a cheesy orientation, we walked out with well wishes and permits in hand. Oh yeah!!

Seventeen more miles to the Delacey Creek Trailhead and here we go. We had so much stuff to pack out- food for 5 days- all dehydrated- water filter- warm clothes (the forecast said the lows would be around 35 F), etc. After about an hour of trying to get everything into our packs and our other stuff put in the car, we were off. Neither one of us could lift our own packs, much less walk with them on. They were ridiculously heavy (owing much to toting too much water at first- I guess we're too used to hiking in the desert sans water source- and the fact that Chip's sleeping back and backpack [which I was using] weigh about 30 pounds apiece on their own). So, yes, we need better gear, but we couldn't exactly afford all the lightweight stuff and still afford to go on this trip- so you cope. The first couple miles were painful as we adjusted to carrying that much weight, and the lack of sleep and proper meals prior to leaving. I think the knowledge that we had a 9 mile hike to complete that day didn't help much either. 9 miles might sound like nothing to some of you serious trekkers who do 15 miles per day, but let me make our case- neither of us had packed out in years, we were at 8500 ft, our packs were crap, and we were carrying too much water. At least in spite of all this, I was able to appreciate the beauty of the whole thing. And what beauty there was!! Yellowstone is really something else, and the Shoshone Lake area is breathtaking. 3 miles from the trailhead lies Shoshone Lake, the largest backcountry lake in North America. It was super windy as we approached, and we noticed the mosquitoes were out, but it wasn't too bad at that point. We stopped for lunch (bean dip, zucchini chips, and homemade chapati), and then kept on. And on. So it felt. The trail hugs the lakeshore for most of the trek, then cuts inland for a couple miles before leading to campsite number 1: 8R3. Official time: 5.5 hours.

Seeing the sign was oh so sweet relief. We were worn out. The site is a good ways off the trail, through the woods, and to the lakeshore. There was a gorgeous view from the main area, and we pitched our tent much farther away uphill in the woods. The lodgepole pines are really gorgeous- so thin and tall. It's a young forest, as they tend to catch fire pretty often, and there are tons and tons of down trees. The cones only open when exposed to a heat source, so they rely on wildfires to reproduce.

It was really cold that first evening, as the wind was relentless. It was difficult to pump water from the wavy lake, but we did and dinner was a success. We made good use of the bear poles, and followed the Leave No Trace philosophy the entire trip.

I was entirely convinced that we would have a bear encounter, and I had read so much and researched so thoroughly everything about black bears and grizzly bears and what to do if you encountered one and how to be safe and make noise while hiking, and we even had bear mace... So, not to ruin the end, but I was just a little disappointed that we did not see one bear on our entire trip. We saw bear tracks (grizzly and black) and bear scat, but no bear. It's probably for the better.

We sat around the campsite composing haikus:

the forest stands tall

as crashing wave by wave

the wild fills my veins


the price of alone

is cold and hard

but the beauty is worth more

Then it was time for bed- sundown is around 10 p.m., and we headed into our tent a little after. The first night was cozy. Listening to the song of the lodgepoles is pretty magical as well- the make this kind of moaning sound all the time because the ones that have fallen have landed on others and they are slowly sliding down and readjusting themselves.

Day 2 we slept super late (exhausted from the previous day). It had rained for about an hour in the early a.m., but we and all our belongings were dry and fine by mid day. As we were filtering water later that day, a Park Ranger came by to check our permit and reprimand us for having our food bag down while we were pumping water. Oops! First time we had actually left our bag down when we were not eating-- and certainly the last. That afternoon we went on a little 2 mile hike, and were able to appreciate more of the forest sans heavy packs. It is so incredible to be in that sort of immensity and know that so few other people are within miles and miles of you. We even saw a Golden Eagle. By the time we got back to camp, the mosquitoes had officially turned extreme. The wind had died down (no waves on the lake), and they were everywhere. We had to don our mosquito head nets at all times, and while eating, we had to pace back and forth quickly to try and stay one step ahead of the mosquitoes which were trying to devour our exposed faces. We were in the tent earlier than the previous night in an attempt to gain bug-free relaxation. That night we absolutely froze- the temp must have been much lower- it was hard to sleep for much of the night.

Day 3, we were up early to hang our bags and tent out to dry- some crazy condensation had soaked everything inside the tent. And the bugs were equally bad if not worse. Imagine having to relieve yourself in the woods which are FULL of mosquitoes. Bites, ahem, everywhere. Not pleasant. But, we hit the trail early, and they're not so bad when you're on the move. It was about 3 miles to 8R5. An easy trek, as we were now accustomed to our packs, etc. This site is very popular (so we were informed), and it's obvious why- it has an incredible lake view, and it's 1 mile from the geyser basin. So after pitching tent, eating, and raising our packs, we set off to explore. This is probably my favorite part of this area. It is something unlike anything you can imagine- or see many other places for that matter. It's a basin in the back country full of thermal features. As you approach it, you see steam rising from random places, and water gushing and bubbling and mud boiling and popping- and it's SO hot and smelly. Yet there are wildflowers growing along it, and a river running through, and a grassy marsh and lodgepoles surrounding it. It's crazy beautiful. You can see steaming features from the road, or hike around them from parking lots, but it was something else to be hiking around this area completely alone. It was absolutely magical. We went through the Basin loop, and then continued back through the hills and meadows to complete the entire 5 mile loop from North Shoshone Trail to Shoshone Lake Trail. We saw an otter sunning herself on a rock- a wild otter! I'd never seen one except in a zoo. She was beautiful! We also saw a Blue Heron, tons of Least Chipmunks, and some American White Pelicans. We also had to cross several creeks and streams, some rather precariously. Back at camp, it was an all out mosquito war, although we were able to eat dinner (though whether or not successfully so is still in question) and watch the sunset over the lake (so beautiful).

Day 4 we awoke to wet bags and tent again, and hung them up on the line. It took us about 3 hours to eat and get packed up (including pumping more water, etc). Today's hike was about twice the previous day's, to campsite 0A3, away from the lake, and following the Firehole River. The hike had us cross several creeks again (the most memorable being the one we had to cross about .1 miles after crossing the first, drying our feet, putting our shoes and socks back on, getting our gear straight, etc.). Today took us through more forest, much marsh land, up some hills, through some meadows, and through some pretty muddy swamp, even alongside several thermal features. Our campsite was super close to the trail, with not a lot of places for pitching a tent. It was marked by a bison skull. The mosquitoes here were even worse than anything before, and it was pretty intense. It was only this day that I had realized they had been biting me through my clothes, and I was now wearing about 4 layers, and it was HOT, and there was no shade and no place to get away from the swarms and swarms of bugs. It was beautiful, the meadow along the snaking river, with hotspots and wildflowers and marsh all around, but my patience with the bugs was really starting to wear out. We had pitched our tent on an area we thought was where most people pitched their tents (at the other sites, you could find the bare dirt tent-sized flat area about 200 yards from the bear pole and food areas). This site didn't have much possibility for pitching a tent that far from the bear pole (you'd either be in the muddy marsh, on the river bank, or in the thermal area), but we found what looked like the site people had been using. While erecting the tent, I heard an intense bubbling noise. Chip and I thought a feature must be nearby, and went searching. We couldn't hear the noise anymore, so thought it must have stopped (they do that). Later we were putting some stuff in the tent and I heard it again. Chip said, “I bet it's underneath our tent,” and I said, “There's no way we could have pitched our tent on top of a thermal feature.” Even later, when I heard it by our tent a third time, I started to think Chip could have been right. I lifted up the tent to find, yes, a steamy stink, and a soaking wet ground. We had pitched our tent over a thermal feature! Granted, you couldn't see anything but a flat area of dirt, but it must have been a boiling pit not too far below the surface. Crazy! So, of course, we moved our tent into the meadow, and as we were readjusting, I caught a glimpse of something moving across the marsh. It was alone gray wolf. So freaking beautiful and majestic and perfect. He just looked at us and continued on his way. He was about 40 feet away. I tried to grab a camera and get a shot, but he was heading away from us, and I only got a couple of blurry lumps. I felt incredibly privileged to have had the honor of being able to witness a wolf in the backcountry of Yellowstone (where they were completely eliminated just decades ago). Later that night (as we had not yet been able to stay awake until the stars came out), we were able to get a glimpse of the absolute immensity of the Yellowstone night sky. Talk about feeling small. Talk about beauty of infinite proportions. Talk about... not having words. Oh my. You need to hike into the Yellowstone wilderness and look at the stars (among other things).

Day 5 was bittersweet. I didn't want our adventure here to be over, yet I really really really wanted the mosquito situation to be over. At this point I had so many bites, in spite of nets, layers, and bug spray. My entire forehead was covered with bites, not to mention my hands, my arms, my waist, etc. Luckily 3 Mule Deer came to wish us happy trails, a young buck and 2 females. They are so beautiful, especially in the wild, drinking from the river in the meadow in the early hours of the morning. The hike out was much shorter (or easier) than expected, and we skirted around the Lone Star Geyser at the exact perfect time. We, along with another really lovely older couple, were able to see it errupt!! Something which happens once every three hours, so what are the odds! It was really phenomenal to watch the whole process, there are phases to its eruption, including the quiet steam phase, the water bubbling phase, etc. It gets 30 to 40 feet high. 3 miles from here is the Lone Star Trailhead, where we were scheduled to exit. This route was determined in a phone conversation with the backcountry office a couple weeks before the trip. The original route I wanted to take was impossible as the campsites were all reserved back in April, so he worked something out for me, and assured me that it'd be really easy to hitchhike the 6 miles back to the car upon exiting this trail. Luckily he was right. I've never really hitchhiked in my life, not with my thumb out for perfect strangers, so it was really fun. It only took us about 50 minutes to catch a ride in the back of a pick-up truck!! And we were back at the car. Oh it felt crazy to be back to “civilization” (if that's what you can call life inside YNP). We were stinky and filthy dirty and covered in bites, but we hit the road. We drove through some more of Yellowstone and down into Grand Teton NP.

The Tetons are gorgeous, huge, and snow covered. There are many lakes along the way and we saw ducks and swans as well. We stopped at several areas to catch the beauty, and even watched a huge storm roll in and over the park. We got poured upon near Jenny Lake, with hopes of stopping at a picnic area to grill some grub (yes, we were really tired of dehydrated meals) going up with the thunderheads. We had even considered grabbing a campsite in the Tetons for that night, but the rain, and the absolute stink of us convinced us that a motel room was the better choice. We lingered in the Tetons for the better part of the afternoon, drove through the Elk Refuge (where we saw no elk, but many swan). Then it was down through Idaho along 89 again. We passed through some cool looking towns and some really gorgeous landscape. We saw so much wildlife too, some sandhill cranes taking flight, several different hawks, and many other birds. We stopped in the Caribou National Forest (finally) for our dinner. We grilled out some corn on the cob, sweet peppers, and soy dogs, and it was the best meal... it felt good to be eating food that was not mushy and cooked with white gas. Full and content, we were back on the road and ended up driving all the way to Logan UT for a motel room, as all the motels in the city an hour and a half north of there, where we wanted to stop, were booked for the Cowboy Poetry Convention. You can rest assured that we left there heavy hearted because both of us would have liked nothing more than to attend a Cowboy Poetry Convention. How cool!

Anyway, the shower in Logan was the best shower EVER. The tub was black with filth by the time we were finished, and I felt like a million bucks with clean clothes, clean skin, clean fingernails, etc. We were starving by this point (again), and after a 15 minute conversation with Wok to Go, which consisted of repeating “No meat and No eggs” about 1000 times, we had ordered... something edible, we hoped... for dinner. We didn't know what we'd get or when we'd get it, but it turns out that an hour later we got some delicious veggies and rice which we devoured happily. Followed by a deep sleep.

Saturday was another day of driving. Destination: Bryce Canyon. The drive was pretty pleasant, and we arrived at Bryce mid-afternoon. A huge storm system followed us there, making the colors of the canyon that much more distinct. We checked on campsites, with some reluctance considering the clouds, and the fact that the only ones left were right on top of other people (yes, the backcountry spoiled us). Decided to wait on the sleeping arrangements, found a lovely place to cook out our lunch complete with Raven song, and then set off to see the canyon.

By the time we got to the top of the canyon, the rain had started, and a rainbow had formed overhead. So beautiful and shortly followed by an intense hail storm. It was pretty crazy. We were able to see the rest of the canyon and refill our water jugs before making a break for it (definitely no camping in that). We wound up that night in Mt. Carmel Junction, UT. And though it's a dry county, it's one of the cooler little places I've stopped. It's home to a kickass roadside cafe, started by a lady back in the day, complete with a sign that says “Ho-made pies” and a line of beers from a Moab brewery that have names such as “Polygamy Porter,” “Chasing Tail Amber Ale,” and “Evolution Amber.” Haha, welcome to Utah's antithesis. The cafe even had BOCA BURGERS to our utter delight. Dinner consisted of a Boca Burger with the toppings and some greasy diner fries. Oh yeah. And I even ordered a glass of the Outlaw Red wine. Yum! Our little cabin room was complete with Moose d├ęcor. The people were super nice and I discovered these amazing little books of quips and quotes written by an older Utah lady that had me cracking up. Great stay.

Sunday our destination was, sniff, home. I didn't want the trip to end, but we made Sunday count. On our way down through Page, via 89 again, we stopped for the short hike to Horseshoe Bend. Worth every step. Later we stopped at a Navajo arts and crafts store, and I got some awesome Navajo made earrings. Once we got south of Flagstaff, I was getting tired of driving. We kept on and on, and finally made it home. It felt crazy to see the desert again after so much scenery, and the heat was really intense. But, the desert is just as magical as all the other places I've seen, and I'm definitely lucky to live here. And while I wish I were still on vacation, it is good to be home. Chip and I had an absolute riot, and we hope to do it all again soon.

I'll leave you with a quip from Dorothy Gaylean (the one and the same who wrote the books I found in Mt. Carmel):

“The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.” - R.L. Evens

So don't wait!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

on time that marches on

Life seems incredibly persistent in its ever forward progression. Particularly so when one cannot find the time to stop and see that (though, thankfully, I now have that time). These past several months have been difficult, invigorating, eye-opening, productive, and beautiful (always that).

February brought a lovely little jaunt back to the hometown, where I actually had a couple hours to say hi to friends, and to be with family. Turns out they are all very interested in my journey into a vegan life, and they really enjoyed the food I had a chance to share with them.

(Vegan Chocolate Cake. I made it for some friends and family. See, vegan is delicious!)

(Meanwhile, back in Tucson, the wildflowers were going crazy thanks to the amazingly wet rainy season we had all winter. This is a shot from Picacho Peak State Park.)

Come March, it was off to the east coast for a week, my home away from home, for a much needed and thoroughly enjoyed vacation. Some of my favorite people in the world live in Western Mass, and now in Boston, so our time was divided between the two. I got to show Chip all my old haunts, and introduce him to my other loved ones.

(My favorite view of the Connecticut River, from atop Mt. Sugarloaf. We walked up. It was lovely.)

I finally got to meet James' sister Min, and introduce the whole family to Charles, and him to them. They went out of their way to cook us a delicious vegan Indian feast. James is so tall now, and still just as incredible, and we had a grand old time reminiscing about our days as knights who fought dragons and tricked evil wizards into letting us pass through treacherous lands unharmed.

I spent lots of good quality time with dear friends, and with Ashley, we even got to fly ourselves through Salem, witches that we are. We fell prey to a touristy wax museum, and found the most incredibly precariously arranged bookstore that must exist.

All in all, it was a soul filling, much needed week, and of course it reminded me of the beauty that is Western Mass in the spring.

April showers... well actually, here in Tucson the showers were ending.... But April in general brought a visit from Mr. Donner, which was also much needed, as he lives too far away. This visit consisted in large part of staying up way too late and waking up way too early to cavort around the Sonoran. Luckily, the wildflowers were still in bloom, and the snowmelt was still supplying the falls with adequate water for being beautiful. Thus, a hike out to Seven Falls and a day of swimming, getting too sunburned to get the tattoos we had designed, and then hiking back. We did manage to fit in a show at the Planetarium and a telescope viewing. I'd say it was a success-- as the desert did divulge certain of her secrets to certain pleading souls. (She tends to do that on asking).

(On the trail out to the falls)

May flowers. Don't happen here. By May, it hits 100 and the wildflowers are already gone. We brought in Beltane on the beach, however. Pelican Beach. San Diego. Much dancing, sun, and amazing food.

Later in May brought my brother's wedding, and a lovely trip back out to Nashville. The weather was gorgeous (oh how I miss the humidity). I can't believe my little brother is all grown up, but more importantly, I am so glad he is happy.

Here we are in June. Lindsay came out for a week. It was a lovely visit. We explored every corner of the desert, including her mountains. We went on a bird walk with Audubon guides- so perfect. We even trekked all the way to Seven falls, only to find that they were none. All dried up. We spent the weekend camping at Roper Lake, and even caught some fire performers at Sky Bar. I wish she lived closer. I loved having her here.

Now here we are about to head back out to SD for a weekend, and next month to finally make it to Yellowstone: the trip I've been dreaming of for two years. We will be backpacking around Shoshone Lake, and enjoying the company of mosquitoes and grizzly bears in the process. I seriously am more excited about this than anything else at the moment.

On the flipside of all the physical evidence of life's onward march, is the emotional and personal journey which lingers behind it. Over the course of these past months, I've decided to go back to school for Natural Health. I've been overwhelmed for a while with work and future prospects, and have been trying to figure out where I'm supposed to be going. I finally feel certain- I want to be a healer. I want to interact with others on a positive level. I want to help others find health- whole body health- using their own bodies as medicine. So I will be starting a program in the next few months that focuses on holistic nutrition, herbalism, and natural health. I'm really excited about this new leg of life's adventure, but it also meant saying goodbye to other things I love. Goodbyes are always bitter sweet. And every new beginning comes with some other beginning's end.

It must be in the stars... many of my friends and family are welcoming their own new beginnings now. Heading down new paths of mindfulness, whole body healing, and embracing a manner of living which heals the earth and upholds her sacred bounty. I hope that all of you who read this will consider embracing some change that has been lingering on your own horizon- a leap of faith in order to take life in a more positive and uplifting direction.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

on being a conscious being

Well, it has been (yet again) months since my last post. An irregular internet connection and a beyond hectic schedule are good excuses, but only I am to blame.

While I have certainly continued to have many adventures in the physical world- all wonderful, exciting, and revitalizing, and which include road trips to vineyards in Sonoita, to Lake Havasu City (both with much hiking and revelry) and a last minute flight to embrace a billion new members of my family- my most incredible and blogworthy adventures have been those occurring in my mind/heart/soul.

A couple years ago (actually almost exactly when I met Charles), I turned from being an "occasional" meat-eater, to being a vegetarian/ opportunitarian (meaning if meat was all the food that was offered, I would accept it over not eating). This transition was really easy for me, because I didn't eat meat very often anyway. The only thing I missed was bacon, but after a couple months, I never thought about it anymore.

I still ate dairy and eggs, though. This past summer, though, I was have some major skin/complexion issues, and when over-the-counter meds only exacerbated the problems, I was pretty upset. So I started reading up on alternative cures. This led me to start paying attention to what I was putting into my body. I've always been supportive of natural healing techniques like energy work and spirit journeys, meditation, physical things like dance, etc.

But I think I was oblivious to 65% of what these things really mean. Or at least I chose to ignore the underlying implications because, let's admit it, eating and living healthy seems expensive- especially if you have to choose between the ramen noodles or organic produce. And for a college student, and even post-graduation as I wandered around the country, I was on a very fixed income. Long story short, I ate the cheapest stuff because it's all I could afford (so I thought). I spent my money on going out to the dance clubs, dance lessons, and road trips. Food was low priority.

So my research this summer was a wake-up call. We had already been buying all of our produce at the farmer's market, and it was organic. It was also the cheapest way to buy produce. So that was already great. But as for the dairy and eggs- eggs I had always bought "cage-free" but as it turns out that means absolutely nothing. Same goes for "farm fresh" and "free-range." These claims do not have to be certified or backed by fact, and the chickens laying these eggs more than likely lead miserable lives. And as far as dairy goes- milk, butter, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese- I knew it was being pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, but I wasn't aware of the effects these things could have on my body. I came across a lot of research suggesting that these things could easily cause skin irritations and breakouts when regularly consumed.

So I switched to all organic diary and organic eggs (which actually are certified and the most humane way to buy eggs). Life went on.

Then, just last week, I was talking to a friend who told me that her mom just began a vegan diet because of health issues. I had tried veganism for about 3 days, and then given up. But that conversation re-sparked my interest. So I logged on to my library account and reserved a copy of almost every book about veganism in the system. If you don't know- being vegan means that you choose not to consume any animal-based products- meat, eggs, milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, gelatin, honey, etc.

I've already read 2 of them, and I'm using all the cookbooks daily. I really feel like I have been cheated out of information my whole life. I urge you to research for yourself what's really behind the ideals and diets of vegans. There is no reason in the world why everyone could not support a vegan lifestyle- and be happier, healthier, and more full of life and love than ever. Not only does this way of life have UNBELIEVABLE health benefits (i.e. the complete reversal of heart disease) but it also supports compassion for all living beings (and being alive ourselves, it only makes sense). I won't go into the horrid cruelty that occurs just so you can have cow's milk on your cereal in the morning, or eggs in your cake, but you should look into it. You really do get back what you put out there. Plus, 100% of the vitamins, minerals, nutrients, proteins, and carbs that your body needs are available from plants.

Also, it's 100% affordable, even more so than the average meat-eaters diet.

I don't want to sound preachy, because I will love you no matter what you eat (or don't eat for that matter), but I am so excited by what I am learning that I just want everyone to share it with me. I urge you to pick up a book from the library- or even surf the web.

I've completely cleaned out my shelves and fridge of everything containing animal-based products, and I've been creating some delicious cuisine every day- fig-anise almond cookies, chocolate raspberry cookies, mushroom barley stew, biscuits, rye bread, potato casserole, raw veggie burritos, asian pepper tofu over quinoa, zucchini bread, cranberry muffins, and the list goes on. You'd be surprised how little you have to give up. And how great you'll feel. (Recipes to be posted soon to my other blog).

It can't hurt to read about it... :) And if you come visit me, I'll make you some delicious eats. I promise.

Now here are some books I've been reading:

Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating
by Erik Marcus

Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet
by Brenda Davis and Besanto Melina

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vegan Living

And this great cookbook:

How it All Vegan
By Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer

Yeah, so don't just take my word for it. Read up. Talk to people. Think outside the box for a minute.

I really feel good about this decision, and I think it will help me make other big decisions that need to be made in my life soon- like when and where to move (yes, move)? And what do I want to be when I grow up? I still don't know that one. But now I have a solid healthy foundation that will give me more drive and energy for the rest of life. And now I'll get off my soapbox. I love you all and hope you are doing well.