Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Well you can ride, ride, ride

Wandering around in Camden. Here for two days helping my friend Carol.  Some photographs from the day:


Edna St. Vincent Millay achieved her literary debut bare yards from where I nest on a bleached duvet, in the Whitehall Inn music room.  We're here visiting our friend the chef, who works in the kitchen.  Tomorrow morning I am hoping for house-made hollandaise on his own English muffins.  Possibly the world's most perfect food.  In fact, the whole day has been like a food tour.

Eating is an agricultural act.
Big County
 There it is way up there in the tip--Cold River potatoes and 22 Vodka.  Home sweet home.


Delectable Hendrick's gin cocktails.  If I were a good food blogger, I'd know what restaurant we were at.  I just follow where I'm led and drink gin.

Best crab cakes of my life.  With iceberg wedge.
How do they get them so flaky, but crispy?  It's that conjunction of textures, plus being served piping hot.  Or maybe it's the crab.  I am yearning for lobster, but none so far.  I want to get one that's $3 a pound around here and find a pot and eat it in someone's backyard.  Despite having lived in Maine for eight years now, very off and on, I have yet to eat a Maine lobster.  I eat them in Mass, where K.'s family has the local hookup.  I am told, by Mainers, that Cape Cod lobsters have nothing on the babies up here.  They have to say that.

I finally get a picture of a moose!  Also:  I heart jugs.
At the local, where we finished the evening with piles of french fries, steak salad, and a haddock reuben.  I've never even heard of such a thing before, but it was exquisite.  The mild flavor of the swiss goes astonishingly well with haddock.  Again, if I were a good food blogger, I would actually have a camera that could take photographs in low light.

The walk back to the inn

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nobody knows, nobody sees

Writing tonight with only my left hand.  Even so, I want to type up this passage from Jane Eyre.  Typing left-handed with my right shoulder in a sling is fun.
I know poetry is not dead, nor genius lost; nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay:  they will both assert their existence, their presence, their liberty, and strength again one day.  Powerful angels, safe in heaven! they smile when sordid souls triumph, and feeble ones weep over their destruction.  Poetry destroyed?  Genius banished?  No!  No;  they not only live, but reign, and redeem.
So there all you doomsdayers about the current state of literature and publishing.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Come down from this cloud

I went to bed the other night with a slight twinge in my right shoulder blade, a common problem for me. I use it as a barometer, sometimes, of my activity level. If I start feeling pain in my shoulder from my old backpacking injury, it means I'm sitting in front of too many screens. Time to take a walk, time to get moving.

But the next morning I woke up with a jabbing pain behind my right shoulder blade, a constant throb that feels like it connects to both my spine and my neck, looping around my shoulder joint in the meantime. I've always been one of those people who (as much as I try not to) look down on those who let pain stop them. It's one of the reasons yoga has been so helpful to me, but even then, I think: they must not have been listening to their bodies enough. With some Protestant work ethic and some good Calvinist stick-to-it-iveness, they could snap out of it. No complaining. Work through the pain—push harder, soldier on.

Admittedly these are things I did not know I believed until I started experiencing constant stabbing pain for going on five days, pain that makes it impossible to sleep or to sit or to stand still. I'm on my second day of ice, but I worry increasingly that I won't make it to 2014 and Obamacare before I need to see the inside of an MRI machine.

I also begin to search for what I'm doing that is causing God to punish me, as I do whenever I experience suffering, another firmly held belief contradicted by my stated conscious beliefs. For someone who is supposed to believe in ultimate grace, I believe a whole hell of a lot in karma. What unknown sin have I committed? Is it because I have gained weight this year?

Because of course that's immediately where my mind goes, what I blame everything on. If only I was a svelte 00 nothing on my body would hurt. Babies have starved to death while I have padded fat molecules with egg rolls, ranch dressing, ice cream.

Or is it the sin of pride? For having the audacity to teach a new yoga class when I am a year out of practice? For braving the role of teacher when my own practice, thanks to angst and loneliness, has been dying on the vine?

Is it because of yoga itself, because I've deemed it an acceptable choice of exercise, disagreeing thereby with the orthodoxy of the Southern Baptist convention? Because I disagree that yoga is of Hindu descent and thus of the devil? Is it God's way of telling me that yoga is merely Satanism disguising itself as aerobics class?

Once upon a time a 26-year-old girl walked 3000 miles in two years, while carrying all she needed for life on her back. Her walk was a pilgrimage, a rebellion from the broad path, a way for her to discover her inner callings and gifts. She failed to defend herself against injury. She continues to fail to listen to her own body, the gift that yoga gives her that she continues to deny. She injured ligaments, sprained tendons, tore muscle fibers, built scar tissue—in her shoulder lives the memory of that journey.

Can I blame her? Is it punishment? Or is it merely consequence?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Talking about

K. made us BLTs for lunch today. His obsession with bacon annoys me, to the point where the smell or taste of bacon grease begins to turn my stomach, but he can still do wonders with the meat nuggets themselves. The sandwich was a slice of storebought Canadian greenhouse tomato, a sprinkling of bacon nuggets from breakfast, and piles and piles of lettuce I cut in the garden. Last night was Thai-style tom yum (shout out to my brother, who bought us the tom yum paste) with kohlrabi leaves and cilantro from the garden.

So, see, it's not a complete disaster. That's the thing. I'm constantly panicking about the state of some vegetable or another, when really the thing to do is just to eat it. Even if it's beginning to bolt. The sandwich was exquisite, maybe the platonic ideal of a BLT, something worth sacrificing swine for. Who knew a BLT was designed to be a salad on a bun, with a sprinkling of meat bits?

It's interesting to me how my expectations for myself and for the world moderate. I'm even becoming less of a purist about local food. Of course, the world would be better off if many more people would grow a much higher percentage of their own food. I'm proof that it's easy enough, and it wouldn't be bad to have some chickens scratching around for eggs and meat or a swine in the shed, either. But my tomatoes from Canada I will not give up and I refuse to feel guilty about.

There are all sorts of ways to build and design a more healthy society, but I think there's room for luxury, too. We're only human. We need things like melons in winter shipped from Mexico, like greenhouse-grown tomatoes for all months except this one, and then our tomatoes are still weeks away. The sooner begin to turn our minds around to how we can power this global village in a way that doesn't corrupt our atmosphere any more than it's already been corrupted the better.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

I remember the days

Empty beaver pond, dory lawn art, and garden--basil, peas, tomatoes, and turnip barely visible
Missing my grandparents as we head into August. I'm so glad K. had the opportunity to eat dinner at their house in their last year there, to see the breezeway and the garden, to taste my grandmother's food. I know I've written about it before, but August is when it comes back to me—the zucchini bread, the sliced tomatoes, the swiss chard. Especially because I cut my first swiss chard today.

Ridiculous, I know. We could have been eating it a month ago. A friend stopped by this afternoon, a fellow farmer who mainly farms his wood lot, selling what wood he culls in excess of what his family needs, after cutting it himself. Not clear cutting, as the neighbor is doing. I imagine doing the same, trekking out to chainsaw into hunks the trees that have fallen or will soon, dragging out the logs with my team of Belgians. But that'll have to wait until I figure out how to eat the vegetables in my garden.

I mention it, though, because he said what he learned from an old potato farmer: there's no such thing as 100 percent.

Isn't that great? How many times do we hear that on the news—at least I gave it 100 percent. But it's not true. None of us can give that much. None of us have that much to give. We all fail, all the time, we all fall short, we all stumble.

Especially in this business of getting things to grow. The two of us could eat chard every meal, three meals a day, until the frost, and the leaves would just grow back in time for us to make the cycle again. You doubt it, but it's true. Last year we cut them down to their nubbins before the first hard frost to blanch and freeze—frozen chard is a spectacular addition to spaghetti sauce during the winter—and a week later, after it warmed up a bit, the nubs were putting out new tender green leaves. So eating it all is an endless, impossible task.

My grandparents taught me not to waste—not money, not time, not food. But I'm realizing implicit in the enterprise of growing is sacrificing some of the harvest to the whims of fate, whether it's my own laziness or beetles or frost or rot. Moths and rust destroy here. It's a relief, though. When I give up doing justice to the massive quantities of vegetables out in the lawn right now, when I just accept that many of them will be lost, I can enjoy the five leaves of chard I snipped this morning and scrambled into my eggs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Come on girl

Inspiration for today:

Kelly McGonigal on the Neuroscience of Change

Some of this blows my mind.  Like the idea that compassion for yourself actually changes your brain chemistry, whereas self-criticism provokes addictive behaviors.

Some quotes:
...There was a recent set of studies that tracked people over time who had set specific goals. Some were trying to lose weight, some were trying to become better musicians, some were trying to finish an academic degree. So they followed these people over time, and they also tracked how self-critical they were. And there was a direct relationship between self-criticism and success over time. The people who were harder on themselves succeeded less—and not just by self-report. It’s not like they were saying, “Oh, I’m so hard on myself. I don’t feel like I did a good job.” It was objective outcomes, like pounds lost.
...There is abundant evidence from every type of challenge you can think about in the addiction literature with dealing with anxiety and depression that the harder you are on yourself for having the problem in the first place and for being unable to fix it immediately, the more likely you are to spiral back deeper into the problem. To turn back to a drink to kind of soothe your feelings for how guilty and ashamed you are about having to drink or to food when you’re feeling ashamed about overeating or being overweight.
...There are a lot of people who are swayed by evidence, sometimes just showing a picture of the brain—say, “This is what it looks like when you’re being self-critical and why it’s not helpful”—it’s not like we didn’t know it wasn’t helpful, but just to see it somehow can help us recognize that there isn’t something fundamentally broken with us, that all human beings have these experiences. I feel like that’s what the science adds for most people.
Maybe these are things that everyone else knows--Olympic athletes, for instance, who must have a firm belief in their own powers to accomplish what they do.  But not us depressives, who hulk in the Maine wilderness and chastise themselves for eating insufficient quantities of homegrown lettuce.  Maybe it's just the protestant work ethic that gets us all down, an inefficient ethic, as it turns out.  It's turned us into a nation of over-medicated over-fed addicts, always full of hatred for ourselves for our multiple failings.

I just keep thinking that this Buddhist, or perhaps scientific, understanding of self-compassion is what Jesus was talking about when he talked about grace.  It's grace He gives us.  Grace to forgive ourselves for our mistakes, grace that washes us as white as snow.  If only I could believe it.