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.

A Mushroomy Day

Today was a golden day.  The spend all day outside walking about golden honey warm sort of day where everything glows.  The sit by the creek and play with leaves, make fairy homes with twigs, hickory shells, acorns and moss kind of day that comes out of the blue sky as surprising as the unexpected chirrrr of Kingfisher flying over the pond in search of fish.  The kind of day that mushrooms and the next thing you know there’s mushrooms popping out everywhere, some edible, some really pretty in an intoxicating way best left to brownies and gnomes who know best what to do with them during their festivities gathered around in rings.  Today was a day where the trees didn’t speak much nor did the wind sing, but the earth was wreathed with smiles and cushiony places to sit and share in her graces.  Today was a golden day evoking wonder and gratitude.

 

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

amuse bouche

it’s nice to have a muse,or five or six or seven! it’s nice to be amused, to sometimes even be a muse; mine lift my spirits up when i’m ranty and bogged down, they tweak me so i tune back in, turn on, and flow again into haikus . . .this one was inspirated by a bird called rivera sun . . .

run the risk called trust
it’ll ignite the soul fire
the haystack rises

. . .

Grandfather: A Portrait

I did not know this man, his face is not that of the man I knew as my Grandfather, Agha Jan, yet they are one and the same.  I didn’t know him when he looked like he does in this picture, at nineteen or twenty.  What is he looking at with that expression?  I keep wondering, and I imagine that whatever it is, it is not pleasing him.  “Is that what I have to look forward to?”, I hear him thinking, “Surely there’s more to life than that?”, and the feeling is aloof, disgruntled, distant, contemplative.  Whatever he saw that gives him this expression, he chose a path that changed his face into that of the man I knew; a man who was at once grounded yet a seeker, a cultivator, and a dreamer.  A man who looked at the script and said, “No thanks, I’ll write my own part in my own story”.

I didn’t know him when he looked like this either.  It’s 1946, he must be in his early twenties, and there is a shift in his expression.  This is his changing face in a changing country.  India is breaking up into India and Pakistan.  What will he do?  He is from Madras, in South India.  The idea of a new country, a new ideology, adventure, and journeying; these all appeal to him.  So he is still contemplative, but not disgruntled or distant as before, with a new confidence that comes from having chosen something that gave him purpose, with more choices to come.

He left India for Pakistan and escorted trains across the borders with no carnage.  In a time when trains were crossing borders with living travelers and arriving with nothing but butchered bodies, it was considered quite a feat that the trains he escorted arrived with their passengers unharmed.  I wonder about how he accomplished that.  He never gave me answers, so sometimes I’d imagine him having conversations with people that resulted in solutions instead of death.  Somewhere there’s an article in an old, old Time magazine about it.  Perhaps he told them what he wouldn’t tell me, leaving me with questions, and answers to find for myself.

What he did tell me was that he met the most beautiful woman in the universe in Pakistan and married her.  The picture above is him on his wedding day.  What’s he looking at here?  Whatever this is, it’s putting a spring in his stride and he feels like he’s full of anticipation for what this choice will bring.

This is the face that emerged, the one he kept, the one that looked out into the world ahead and loved what it was seeing.  I didn’t know him then, but the face is the one I knew, the face of Agha Jan with my Granny, Mummy Jan.  I imagine that he was gleefully contemplating some mischief with that snow.

This man is the man who taught me not to just dream, but to dream so big that it would seem impossible.  Impossible, unrealistic, unattainable, just how high could I stretch it?  Is that all? Buss?  Okay then.  But if that wasn’t all and there was even the glimmer of more, no matter how silly or improbable, even if it could not be seen yet dreamed, then what’s to stop you, he would ask?  Sky high, no not good enough.  Star high, okay a little better.  Ah, yes, as vast and wide as the universe and beyond into places of infinity, yes!!  That’s it, shaabaash, he would say!  And then what Agha Jan, I would ask, and he’d twinkle his eyes at me and say, Now, now you wait and see one day you’ll fly.

Big, small, in between, I’d dream and dream and dream.  Some dreams came true, some dreams changed, some were long forgotten, and then one day I looked around at my life and had the funny realization that it had become something I had dreamed and forgotten so long ago, that the waiting had blurred and life had shifted yet the dream had been dreamed long ago and seeded itself!  What an awesome moment that was.  I remember being filled with wonder and thinking about Agha Jan and his wait and see’s, and understanding in that moment that sometimes you forget about the dream and the waiting and suddenly just see what there is to see, and that is how come you must always dream.

This Grand-Father of mine had been awarded a Japanese Emperor for bravery and honor befitting a samurai!  He had climbed Mount Everest and been to the moon, the stars, and beyond.  He had battled three headed monsters, swum to the depths of  the ocean, saved entire villages from ravaging hordes of bandits, and was friends with the gypsies with whom he danced.  He was my hero.  When he told me he had blue eyes and blond hair as a child, and I giggled while looking at his bald head and dark eyes, he’d ask, “What, do you think I am joking, mazzaak kar raha hoo?”  And I’d imagine him with blond curls and blue eyes, and he’d see me imagining and was pleased that I was pondering the possibility.

He told me very few things outright, but one of them was that “You can do anything you put yourself to, anything. It just takes a lot of hard work and imagining.”  From him I learned that the answers are not always important, but the questions are.  That often the questions don’t even have to be asked of anyone but yourself, that the answers are already inside, somewhere waiting to be found.

Some people found him a bit brusque, curt, even rude at times for he was forthright in his speech and aspect yet he was a fun man to be with, mischievous, alert, and light-hearted, while being intentional and precise.  He ate with zest, finger licking, lip smacking abandon, and gusto . . . all of it slow and savored.  Meals at his table were a long drawn out and lively affair.   I never saw him utter a prayer before or after a meal, but he approached his food with an attitude that made words unnecessary.  He would tease me and make me giggle and be silly.  And I would watch him tease grown ups and see them become silly and giggly too.  He was playful and full of hugs, cuddles, and bristly mustachioed kisses.  He could be loud and booming, but always loving and growing.

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His garden was very much like himself.  It started out as a scrub, sandy patch of nothing around the newly built house.  As I grew, it grew too.  Potted plants, coconuts, bananas, and what nots here and there, with the ever-challenging grass that didn’t want to grow, no matter how hard he tried.  But he imagined and worked hard and that garden of his grew and greened and changed and transformed until it was a lush, thriving, vibrant space with orchids and bamboo and yes, finally, green green grass.  How he loved to sit and sip tea in the garden with Mummy Jan and their guests in the evenings, the scent of motias filling the air.  It took over a decade but the dream happened, and the garden was him, and he was the garden, and from within his garden I grew, until one day I left his garden to go and explore the garden of dreams.

He showed me that you can invent and reinvent yourself until you are satisfied with who you are becoming, who you become.  And if you’re not then you can ask yourself questions, make choices, make changes, ask more questions, and choose until satisfaction and becoming and reinvention all slip away, suspended until further notice. He taught me to seek my own counsel and to see a choice through till it’s end, until the time comes to make a new one or change it.  Create, destroy, turn, move forward, march past, or dance, your choice, your terms, your will, your truth, your life:: art.  He was a man who owned himself and thus, was self-possessed.

I was told that he saved his breath on the day he died to wait for his final daughter to complete the circle around him, and only when she was present and he had seen the faces of all his beloved family, did he part ways and let go; he died as a samurai, with that sword of his by his hand.  I spent the summer he died with my sister.  I don’t remember the exact day or date or month hat he died, if anything it’s somewhat surprising to me to think of him as dead, for he feels like one of the Immortals to me, a living myth who left his story behind . . . . this is just a tiny glimpse into one of many.