Archive for November, 2009
Here’s a pic that my sweet husband, Tom, a professional photographer ( www.thomasschworer.com ) took from a walk along the Dungeness River just near the entrance to Olympic National Park here in Washington State. We’ve done a lot of hiking and river floating on the Olympic Peninsula. I’ll never forget the time that Tom fell overboard with his old Roleflex camera while bird watching. His camera was around his neck, and our friend Donna jumped in to try and save it! Ah, life! Love it!
My sweet husband and I are joining close friends for Thanksgiving dinner. We gather for drinks beforehand, helping in the kitchen, listening to John playing his dulcimer, kidding around as we set the table, pulling cornbread dressing out of the oven, and making phone calls to out of town family.
One of us says a short grace before we begin our feast. After enjoying the fabulous food that each of us has brought to the table, we move on to dessert. Nans will make one of her famous toasts that runs on so long we all start groaning. Ian, who is almost four, will decide to start his Jackson Pollack painting again because sweet potatoes make such good art supplies. Everything is not out of a romantic Norman Rockwell/Martha Stewart fantasy. A glass of red wine will spill on Wendy’s new winter white sweater. Somehow, several clumsy moments will intrude and interrupt a good story. But bascially we are all good-hearted, even inside our narcissims. And pecan pies and pumpkin pies abound! We eat dessert slowly, and, one by one, as we have for years, we begin to speak aloud what we are most grateful for. I learn so much about my friends, about what is really important to them, about what their needs are that have been filled. This kind of group dessert prayer is as rich to me as any of the foods on the table. The prayer is a kind of food itself, a nourishing of our souls, as we sit back, some of us closing our eyes to listen.
What am I thankful for this year? Whew. It will take some time to list, but let me give it a try.
I’m grateful for:
* Returning health.
* Being able to walk.
* Being able to stand in the kitchen long enough to make a veggie burger
* Breathing without help from an oxygen tank.
* Having my arm free from a PICC line than sent big-gun antibiotics into my body
* Being able to stand more and more lightly
* Seeing the leaves
* Summer dinners on the porch with friends, for the first time in a decade
* More laughter in the house
* Girlfriends who come across the country to visit
* Talking to my mother on the phone every day
* Having a new book come out
* Walking onto a stage without any help!
* Being able to read from CALLA LILY to an audience.
* For the first time, being strong enough to walk out into the pasture and hand-feed molasses oats to our old sheep, Mister Lonely.
* Dancing, oh, yes, dancing out of the blue by myself in the kitchen and in the sun room, with my husband, our bodies remembering steps we knew so well ten years ago, and are only now returning. All these things represent healing, my body and soul and the generous Universe loosening Lyme disease’s vicious grip.
I am grateful for this moment, this “holy now,” sitting at my desk in this small aerie upstairs, looking at the tall Douglas fir trees which ring the land we’ve been given to steward.
I am grateful to be able to step outside my pain, and remember the thousands and thousands of people suffering from the disease that took me down, and from which I am now rising. I think of all those who do not have food for Thanksgiving dinner, or, if they do, may be too ill to walk to the table. I think of babies and their mothers who cannot feed them or change their diapers or get them health care. I am grateful for the breath that breathes me, right now, moment by moment, the great Good, breathing in and out.
So We’ll sit around the fire afterward. And the day will not be perfect. My friends will not be golden. Nor will I. But we will be perfectly imperfect as we look at one another, and lean back into the warmth.
From one pilgrim to all of you,
P.S. A recipe to follow.
There’s nothing like the comfort of old family favorites on the table for Thanksgiving dinner, is there?. It’s just not Thanksgiving without Nanny’s Sweet Potato Fluff and my cousin Nancy’s pecan pie. But I’m always on the lookout for something interesting and new just to mix it up. Today’s “foodie” culture has resulted in an abundance of delicous ways to cook familiar foods in new creative ways.
It’s easy to spend hours on the internet searching out side dishes, desserts and fun appetizers for the Thanksgiving table, and I’m hoping y’all will share some of your favorites with us! Whether a family must-have or something new that you just discovered, it’s always fun to swap recipes with good friends. Here’s one of my newer concoctions:
Roasted Brussels Sprouts (from my garden!) with Balsamic Vinegar, Parmesan, and Pine Nuts
1 lb. brussels sprouts, trimmed and cut into quarters
2 T olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 T Parmesan cheese (preferably fresh grated)
1 T pine nuts (preferably toasted, could substitute other nuts of your choice)
Preheat oven to 450 F. Trim brussels sprouts, remove any discolored leaves, and cut into quarters (or halves if they are small.) Put sprouts in mixing bowl and toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Cover roasting pan with foil if desired, (this makes clean-up a lot easier!). Arrange sprouts in a single layer on roasting pan, and roast 20 minutes, turning occasionally, or until sprouts are slightly crisp and golden brown on the edges. (The scent is incredible.)
When sprouts are nearly done, toast pine nuts in a dry pan about 2-3 minutes, until barely starting to brown. (Be careful, they can go from lightly brown to overdone quite quickly.) Put cooked sprouts back into mixing bowl and toss with parmesan cheese. Arrange on serving plate and sprinkle with pine nuts. Serve hot.
We’ll be enjoying this dish this week as we express gratitude and thanks for the blessings in our lives—returning health, a warm home, and good friends and loving family—not to mention the company of a sweet spaniel. Even if you think you’re not a brussels sprouts lover, you may find that you really like this version, so I encourage you to give it a try. I can’t wait to see the tasty suggestions that you have to share!
Winter has dropped down upon us here on the island so quickly. I don’t think any of us were ready for it. But who can complain? We had such a gorgeous summer and autumn that the winds and rains of winter may be seen in their own beauty as well.
I contemplate beauty. I pray to be reminded of beauty each moment. My sweet husband’s art is so filled with beauty that I want to share it with you.
His fine art photography is shot through with grace, and I will be curious
to read of your responses after going to his site at http://thomasschworer.com/
Do you look for beauty? Where do you find it? Where does it find you?
How does it touch you?
Yesterday as I was at the market surveying the wide array of fresh vegetable possibilities for dinner with friends, I saw the cutest little baby girl. Her hair was wildly out of control, ringlets of golden-blonde in a halo around her sweet little face. And right in the midst of all that innocence was a wide-open, laughing smile. Now who can keep themselves from smiling big in return to such an adorable thing?
The mother of this little angel was so patient and kind to her daughter. She merrily chatted away with the little girl, telling her the names of the fruits and vegetables as she chose the best-of-the-best to take home to nurture the bodies of her family. What a joy to see the strong connection between maman and bebe! It was clear to me that this lucky little girl is very well-loved. I believe that the magic in that little girl’s smile was a clear reflection of love that her mother has for her. I felt blessed just being near them as we all carefully chose the best apples that Washington State has to offer.
That smile will be with me for days to come.
We hear a lot these days about the physical and emotional damage of stress, but not a whole lot about steps we can actually take to diminish the effects of stress. In fact, the reports on stress probably increase our stress! What’s a girl to do to shake it off?
I try to start every day with a cup of hot herbal tea and some quiet meditation time. Not the lotus-position kind of meditation, just me and little Mercy-dog cuddling on the window seat together, breathing in and out slowly and deeply while doing my best to empty my mind of negative thoughts. I count my blessings as I do this deep breathing. I think about the gifts that I have been given. I name the people that I love and those that love me. As I sit and sip my tea and rub Mercy’s warm belly the way she likes best, I just try to let go of all of the stuff that tries to eat away at my peace of mind.
It’s a good way to start the day, and I can definitely tell the difference in my frame of mind when I don’t give myself the time I need to de-stress. How do you practice relaxation? Maybe what works for you will work for me too!