Mid-Summer Swinging

O will you lay with me
Beneath a shady tree,
On a ship we’ll set a sail
Row out to meet a whale,
Under the clear bright skies
We’ll swing and shut our eyes,
O will you come with me
Out to the apple tree.

summer days . . . rains washed out the patchwork shovel mending of the driveway, re-rutted and grooved them anew, similarly in the garden . . . the bales of straw we so cleverly laid out on pathways have kept the weeds down, however, they have also sprouted! What a chortle!

the beds are giving chard and peas,
hairy motherwort, nuzzling bees,
the ‘new’ garden flower
blooms magenta hour after hour,
ladybirds spotted inside the fold
sit dark red on yellow quietly bold

the old mulberry tree fallen over long ago has rejuvenated and sprouted shoots, with a bit of pruning and clearing of thorny thicket we climb around and upon the gnarled intertwined trunk . . . in crevices where bark has decayed there’s plants sprouting and down low from out of cracks, mushrooms climbing; what a tree, majestic is she!! . . . we enjoy fruit and shade at her side where she does abide with a bramble left behind her where rabbits reside . . .

this solstice we gathered and celebrated mulberry, hummingbird, hollyhocks, and daily lilies, simple pleasures with daylong arms and firefly nights.

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Odes to Nature

About a month ago I went to the opening of my first solo art show on Friday the 5th at The Blue Phoenix Cafe.  Downtown galleries open their doors till about 8:30 every first Friday of the month, celebrating the opening evening of new exhibits and the streets are busy with people getting together, chittering and chattering, around paintings, wine, cheese, fruit, and in the case of The Blue Phoenix, superb vegetarian fare like sushi, brown rice burgers, and hummus.

My show was a mixture of media: seven framed Giclee prints of creations made with leaves, berries, fungus, and other treasures that I find and look for on walkabouts here in the woods, and eight paintings in a mixture of watercolor, collage, and india ink. I called the show Odes to Nature & Other Wise and in spending the evening chatting with friends, family, acquaintances old and new I learned a little something that was at once obvious in retrospect yet also immediately surprising.

Specifically in conversation with a local acquaintance, he brought to my attention that my work reminded him of South Indian Folk Art, the eyes, the feeling, the expressions. And this was the pivotal point in turning my view, for while I know nothing about South Indian Folk Art, what immediately came to mind was this: when I first set out to discovering who they are, the seven earth ladies, initially my aunts came to the forefront as the heroines of the tales shown. From there the wives of Chandra, the Moon God: Bharani, Krittika, Rohini, Ardra, Anuradha, Revati, Chittra, Svati, and so on. I followed my instincts and kept going until haiku’s bespoke their personalities.

Now, this is where it got interesting, as I was ruminating on the South Indian Folk Art discussion, at first I thought perhaps he was picking up on the names and possible identities that had been swirling around in my head earlier but suddenly it came together:: an aha! a hand to the forehead moment! this realization:: I know South Indian Folk. How had I missed what was right under my nose? My maternal grandfather and many of his relatives migrated to Pakistan from South India, mainly Madras and Bangalore, during Partition, and the women of his family all are infused with this ‘look’ that I grew up around. In migrating, they carried over their South Indian style of dressing and talking and eating and doing things to Karachi: a mixed city of mostly migrants from places like Lucknow, Allahabad, Gujrat, Hyderabad, Delhi, Kashmir, and other flavors subcontinental.

The women wear kajal around their eyes, flowers in their hair, and are themselves living art. And they have woven their way into how I shaped this earthy series, which are odes to nature:: both of the earthly green kind and also the nature of the women who spun me round; giving me paint, pastel, dupattas, saris, and bangles to play with while they chatted, walking me home on scorching dusty streets from school when the cost of a rickshaw was too high yet turning the whole walk into such fun that it was how I wanted to go home instead of in a rickshaw, sharing gol gappas, jalebis, and faludas in the busy bazaars with sugar cane juice and falsaas, and then the conversations they’d have with the street folk, also folk art of their own kind, from hijras to one armed men on trolleys to displaced Afghan boys and girls selling marigold garlands, these women folk with heart have appeared in my art . . .

. . . as to South Indian or Not Indian or What’s Indian, does it matter? Maybe I’ll ask the hatter, in the meantime see whether you see the resemblance, which in the end is not localized to or about them in particular, but certainly a fusion of the women I’ve known. Women from many places, directions, times, walks of life, women from myth, fairy tale, legends, dreams; women come together infused, as revealed in community, with a mixed media South Indian Folksy flair.

I have prints available from this series at my Studio.

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Turning Over

Turning over to a new year as orbits intersect and give us vernal equinox, springing crocuses, daffodils, rainbows, and warm wormy soil to dig around in.

Winter was mild this year, dry, low on rain and snow although we received a driveway frozen at the last minute, winter winds blew in to say, We’re going to play one last time before leaving, leave you with a bit of ice, nice?  It came and it went,  both equally quickly, feels like winter is spent and here we are at the beginning, gathered around our Haft Seen Sofreh, ringing in Nowrooz with blessings for one another, blessings for all . . .

May we dream deeply, clearly, and well.  May we have each others backs.  May we accept one another as we are.  May we love and be loved, love lighting up our lives and shining from our eyes.

May we walk in light, with light.  May we attract and magnetize what is of benefit to us, walking steadily and firmly yet gently upon this beautiful planet, spreading seeds for what is forward to grow it abundant, rejuvenated, and fertile.

May we be focused and with purpose, giving our energy generously to what is attractive, blessed, and purpose full.  May we remember to rest and restore, give ourselves moments in between to digest and reflect.

May our endeavors in play and work thrive, flourish, and prosper.  May we learn from the lessons that come our way and deepen our study of what interests us, engaged and enabled to share with our fellows; learning how to learn where we are short.

May we be with intuition.  May we have allies and guides along the way, may the teachers we need come when we are ready, and may we go to where we are called when our teachings are needed.

May we be clear and illuminated, reflective, adjusted, enabled to live in harmony with one another and all our relations.

May we be free from bonds that are unhealthy and restrictive, empowered to cut away what we release constructively and compassionately.

May it be fun year with adventure and opportunities open for us to engage and be engaged with.  May we be provided for in all our needs, and may we be grateful for providence.

May we be with courage, encouraged.  May we be grounded and centered in our choices.  May we give voice to what must bespoken, stand up for ourselves, show up as we are when called, trusting that we are as Spirit created us, enough, and yet ever reaching when Spirit nudges us to become more.

May we have stamina, fortitude, and vigor for our workabouts.  May we come together to play, share stories, cook and enjoy nourishing meals, give thanks, celebrate.

Blessed Be this Nowrooz and the year ahead.

metamorphosis equalizes

~~blessed trails and a magical equinox to you this day as we turn toward buttery pies and darkening skies ahead::it’s a digging into the worm rich soil, a skeletal stalky garden with seedheads silhouetted bird food here, a hint of green in plantain, lettuce, kale, grasshopper basking in the sun while the busy ants make the most of the time left to them before it’s down under, one door closing to another opening:: a tunneling into hills, burrows and dens to spring out of::later when these butterflies wake up in mexico and the warming earth we’ll hoe into furrows, for now:: though summer’s at end, autumn, hinting golden gloriously tawny, is right on the curvaceous bend::we’re celebrating all the radiant cycles of life this red sky walking night, may your hearth fires burn bright!~~

sola luna

this is the eve of a full moon with both venus and jupiter in the heavens, so close yet so far away.  these days i walk with one or the other, some days all, of the children::outside.  we make elixers to sip on with petals and water set out to be kissed by the suns’ rays, the moons beatific beams. fairy potions stirred with selenite.  they ask questions about the flowers. we ask the flowers questions about themselves. the flowers ask us about ourselves.  they show us how to seek:: to look at insects found in betwixt and tween.  at a lone drop of dew sparkling rainbows.  at a silken web left in the grasses by something tiny, what is it? at a bee crawling into orbs as yet unopened.  some times our gaze is soft, sometimes in focus; heightened. if we have it, we share the camera.

blue chicory bitter root, bitter leaf, flush the gall from in so deep::we keep company with chicory today.  jasper on my back, aamee by my side, it’s me and my two boys in the midst of blue blue so blue, blue as the sky and aamee boy’s eyes, baby boy born blue, his 11th year around the sun is coming up in just 5 more days!  he points out it’s not all blue:: there are tints of mauve and yellow interspersed gracefully in the midst of our blue friend where he stands::lovely lovage, we love being in space with you too.  just being, breathing, awake to the sounds of bumblebees humblebees working the red clover by our feet, awake to bright yellow goldfinches flying over our heads, fleabane white and feathery tickling our senses, we are thank full for your abundance keeps the gnats away, and the scents:: sweet honey mead yes! we chat about mead, about odin and his quest for the mead guarded by the giant suttung’s daughter, gunold, about snakes and eagles and shapechanging, and how it was odin finally obtained the mead that he took with himself as an eloquent sharing.

we drink and drink deeply:: leaning in we see the multitudinous states and shapes the flowers are in, simultaneously~~ there are buds, seeds, flowers, spent petals~~all at various stages of growth and development and we three, we soak it in, soak it all in, until we hear a yowl from yonder where a hornet has stung little bird, anousheh.  when we find her she is in the embrace of her two sisters:: they are chewing plantain leaves and spitting them on the two spots where she was stung, she’s waiting for me to kiss it better and then, poof, the tears dry up and i’m amazed all over again at how in love i am and i’m filled with gratitude till tears overflow.  they kiss me all better and ask :: where to spit the plantain?

 

afterbirth::panjeeree

long before audumla licked the salt that shaped buri, before vasilisa walked the path to and from baba yaga’s hut, before sita burned herself on a blazing pyre, before isis went in search of osiris’s chopped up body, there was mummy jaan:: the good mother of my heart:: my mother’s mother who combed my hair with gentle yet firm hands, making loose braids of my curly locks while telling me stories that all began with “yekee bood, yekee na bood” and often made no sense:: farsi tales about opening doors and the breeze blowing in and solomon and elephants coming to play that would break their tusks in the arena along with mullah’s riding donkeys backwards through the bazaars:: i loved listening to her telling them before she’d tie off the end of my braid and pat my shoulder to indicate she was done. then i’d get to comb her hair and braid it.

she was a petite woman with bird like bones, yet her jaw was set and her hands were strong::rippled with knotty veins, big knuckles and a pebble for a wrist bone, where her bangles would jangle in sixes. her feet were the same in short heeled pointy open toed slippers that click clacked on the cement floors; toes bent toward each other and an enormous bone pushing her big toe at an odd 45 degree angle inward. all day she’d be in darted floral kameezes, shalwars to match with a solid chiffon dupatta, draped in a U on her slight chest, going over her shoulders where the ends would dangle down her back. we loved playing in her closet, my sister and i, where she had a rainbow of these dupattas in so many shades and tones of fuchsia, magenta, cerulean, cobalt, ultramarine, indigo, pthalo blue::blue, to fall awake into. she was generous with her clothes, giving us saris to dress up in while we’d watch as she’d put on her blouse and petticoat, do her hair up in a bun with U shaped pins and motias to sweeten the air, line her eyes with surmaa, freshen up her mouth, then tie her sari on in the evenings; ready for tea time in the garden where my grandfather waited for her, all ways his bride.

she was generous in the kitchen too, where she’d give us coconut water fresh from coconuts off the trees out back and the best part::: soft fleshy pulp from the empty nut, mmmm!! if you’ve found your way here, what i have for you is a recipe for simply put::making good milk to feed your baby. of course this assumes you breastfeed and if you don’t, there’s excellent writing woven into the web to convince you of its benefits, and if you aren’t looking to be convinced or aren’t a woman::: well it’s really tasty regardless and will warm you up in the winter as it’s a heaty treat! it’s what my mother and aunts ate, and my grandmother and great grandmother, and other mothers, aunts, and grandmothers and great grandmothers in a spiral of women long before i can remember the smells of coconut shreds toasting golden, pistachios roasting purplish green alongside creamy sesame seeds crackling and popping during those long afternoons that mummy jaan would be moving stuff in and out and around the stovetop on her black tavvaa, stirring and shaking, and she’d give me some of the nuts to eat while she did her work:::she was such a busy lady in that oh so big seeming kitchen, where you’d need to be with a big pan and wooden spoon in hand to make this postpartum breastmilk manna, that is at once nutritious, nourishing, and delicious!

it’s a nut and seed mixture that promotes lactation and healing for mothers postpartum, while being warming in more ways than one. there are variations on the ingredients that go into making it, along with exact recipes and specific proportions. the way i came to it was through childbirth and experimentation::this rendering being the one i like best and made most recently for my sister to enjoy after she had her baby boy. it is my summer soulstice sharing, which is when my beloved Grand Mother passed on a dozen years ago to be united with her groom. give it a try, play with it, the proportions can be adjusted to suit your taste buds; above all enjoy the making! it’s name is panjeeree, panj meaning five, it’s a stellar food for eating . . . .

For approximately 1 gallon, enough to eat for 6 weeks postpartum plus extra to share, you’ll need:

a large mortar and pestle or a grinder, like you use to grind coffee beans (but not the one you’ve ground coffee beans in)

a really wide large frying pan or wok

a small frying pan

a big mixing bowl

a cookie sheet or two

a wooden spoon

1 lb. cream of wheat (a.k.a sooji at indian groceries, i use bob’s red mill cream of wheat)

1 stick or 4 oz. butter (or ghee)

1 cup shelled pistachios

1 cup raw almonds

1 cup pumpkin seeds (or chaar maghaz if you go to an indian grocer for supplies)

1 cup shredded unsweetened dried coconut

1/4 cup white sesame seeds

1/8 cup white poppy seed (khus khus at indian groceries, it has to be white poppy seed and is optional)

1/8 cup gum arabic (optional, it’s available as gondh at indian grocery stores)

2 tsp. – 1 tbsp. green cardamom seeds crushed/powdered

1 – 2 cups sugar

Warm the oven to 300 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a cookie sheet and roast them until they’re fragrant, stirring and shaking to prevent scorching. Remove and cool. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet and the pumpkin seeds on another (these take less time) and roast them until slightly toasty, golden, and aromatic . . .. remember to shake and stir. Once they’re all cool, grind them up and keep aside.

Heat the small frying pan on medium-low heat till nice and Hot, then add the sesame seeds and stir. They’ll crackle and quickly turn to a golden color, remove and cool. If using the poppy seeds add them to the same pan and repeat the process, then add the gum arabic (if using) and shake or stir it around . . . it should pop and change from amber/gem like to popcornish and white, which is when it’s done. Remove and cool this too. Once cool, grind all these up by hand if that’s what you fancy or in the grinder. Set aside.

Now warm the large pan/wok on the stovetop, melt the butter/ghee in it till they’re hot and pour in the cream of wheat and stir stir stir fry it till golden brown and aromatic . . . . you might have to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan. Pay attention and stir, as it can scorch quicker than a blink! I like to add the sugar and cardamom to it just as it turns golden, stirring it all together then pouring into a very big mixing bowl where batches can be married if needed. Taste it so it’s sweet enough to your liking (it’s going to get less sweet when all the other ingredients get added, so it usually starts out seemingly too sweet . . . . same with the cardamom, I like mine strongly spiced, but you can use less for a milder hint or more if that’s how you like it). Once you’ve got this in a mixing bowl add all the other ingredients and mix them up real good.

Bottle or store in glass containers, making sure it’s cool, and keep in the fridge or a cool, dry place.

Now for the yummy part:: pour a mug of at least 8 oz. milk (or almond milk, soymilk, rice milk , etc.) into a small pot and add between 1 – 2 tbsp. of this mixture to the liquid. stir till warm, pour back into the mug, and enjoy . . . keep a spoon handy to stir and eat the bottom bits with!! i drank this once (ok sometimes twice) a day for 6 weeks after birth and then till it was gone; my kids have dranken it too and eaten a spoon here and there . . . . my sister says she sprinkles it on cooked couscous, drizzles on maple syrup and then pours milk over it when she doesn’t want it warm; sounds good indeed 🙂

bon appetit and a good solstice to you wherever you be.

eveningprim