Hawk Presence

The cool, rainy weather of autumn brings with it a feeling of wistfulness, and oddly enough, at the same time, peace. Turning inside to discover who I am at this moment is always a good experience during this season. Perhaps it is because it is near my birth-time that I find this season so ripe for surrender. Every year, I ask myself, what is coming next in my life? How can I be open and present to receiving it?

American society takes us towards a celebration of Thanksgiving, which in my experience is often empty or contrived. Why would I celebrate the annihilation of our native peoples and the natural beauty of this wild land? It is, however,  a lovely excuse to gather with those we love to enjoy a festive meal. When a request is made at the holiday table for everyone to say what we give thanks for it doesn’t feel very genuine. If there is a genuine response, I end up in tears (not a good way to start a large meal). Instead, I prefer to go into my Self and find my gratitude quietly on my own where I can look closely at the cycle of my life, the deaths and births, with complete honesty and surrender.

The natural cycles of life are quite apparent during this season. Just the other day, I had the honor of witnessing such a cycle in my own yard. A squirrel somehow got hurt (it seemed like it had fallen from a power line nearby) and pulled itself to lay hidden under a bush near the house. Over a period of two days, witnessed by my family and the cats, it slowly died. I was concerned about how to dispose of it when a large hawk appeared in the yard next to the pond. It had seen the dead squirrel and pulled it away from the house.

This gorgeous Red Shouldered Hawk sat patiently for half an hour over the squirrel, honoring the catch, as it peered left and right, forward and back. The colors of the hawk blended into perfect camouflage with the foliage of the yard. Eventually, I stopped watching for a few minutes and when I returned, the hawk was gone.

 

 

 

 

 

Two hours later, as I was sitting down for lunch, the hawk landed on the fence. After looking around calmly for threats, it jumped down off the fence. Much to my surprise, the hawk had moved the squirrel behind the birdbath near the fence and gone for its mate, who I  now saw circling overhead. The hawk grabbed the squirrel in its feet and flew away, presumably for a family feeding.

The gift of the Red Shouldered Hawk is fitting for this contemplative time of year. The hawk is a messenger; one who gives us spiritual insight and the ability to fly above to see the larger picture of our lives. Hawk has clear, far vision and acute observation. This visual clarity can manifest in strong intuitive or clairvoyant abilities. Also a symbol of leadership, Hawk thrives by hunting in groups surrounded by allies and a lifelong mate. Hawk’s presence indicates the need for awareness and timing so that swift action can be taken when the time is right.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My gratitude this year is for the Hawk Presence in our world. A beloved guide that will lead me to the truth within my Self.


Meandering in the Garden

As the hot and hotter days of summer slid into fall, I pondered the beautiful array of life that I have witnessed in the garden from June to September. In the heat of the summer, when meandering around to see what was happening, I came upon the Passion Fruit vine that hosts the Fritillary butterfly. The caterpillars were quite abundant this year. As I leaned forward to take a closer look, I could actually see them eating the leaves on the plant. It appeared that they were forming a staircase as they climbed here and there all over the plant. The size that they grew to this year was larger than I’ve ever seen.

Caterpillar Closeup

Caterpillar Staircase

Caterpillar Trio

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s quite amazing to me to see how big the caterpillars grew and yet, the fruit on the trees was smaller than ever this year. Even the grapes, pears, plums and peaches which grew abundantly, didn’t grow to their usual size. There was still enough to harvest and enjoy both fresh and dried.

Grape Cascade

Grape Abundance

Dried Raisins

Raisins and Grapes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Koi Pond

The pond continues to create its own marvelous world. Dragonflies in the summer months, today a few hummingbirds and throughout the year, the koi are swimming around happily enjoying their private abode.

Flowering Peppermint

Bees Drinking from the Stream

Other benefits of the water feature in the garden was the provision for the bees. They have been very active this year, collecting pollen from the flowering peppermint that volunteered on the island in the pond and sipping from the stream.

 

 

Jerusalem Artichoke Flowers

 

Though many of the bright colors of summer have faded, each fall we can rely on the Jerusalem Artichoke to bring a final splash of yellow to the garden! Set against the gorgeous blue of the clear skies, my heart is lifted with the sight each year. It’s always a treat to meander in the garden and see what fascinating displays nature has to offer!


Life Is All Around Us

As we feel the reverberating effects of the solar eclipse, it is valuable to reflect on the condition of our internal world and what we bring into the external world. It is so easy to get caught up in the swirling energy of hate and destruction that is so visible these days. Instead, I invite you to step into a conscious relationship with all of the life that is around us.

Life is expressed in a wide variety of ways and is easiest to feel outdoors in a natural environment. Have you ever noticed that you feel joyful and alive when you step into a national park or open space? There are well designed gardens that elicit that feeling too. Even some of the most manicured gardens are so full of life source energy that the air is simply buzzing!

 

 

 

We get stuck inside for so much of each day when working in office environments or even stay-at-home parents who are running around on errands, cooking and cleaning. So, how do we connect in a meaningful way to this life that surrounds us? One way is to simply spend more time outdoors.  I like to stand outside next to a tree and meditate. Or sit with a favorite bush. This can be done in your own yard or if you don’t have an appealing yard, go to a local park.

A lovely Standing Meditation that I frequently use in my Tai Chi Gong class goes like this:

Stand with the feet parallel and underneath the hips with knees slightly bent (soft) and the weight on the thighs.  Close your eyes. Find the tan t’ien (a spot two – three fingers width below the navel). Feel the breath moving in and out of this location. Look for a sensation of movement and collection of energy in the tan t’ien.

Gradually, move your attention down the legs, allowing the chi (energy) to flow with your attention. When you get to the feet, imagine roots extending into the earth. Sense the earth’s response to this conscious, intentional connection. Next, draw your awareness back up through the legs and tan t’ien. As you move upward into the torso, imagine the collected chi following and filling your torso side to side and top to bottom.

As your mind leads you to the neck and head, feel the rhythm of the earth filling you completely. Open the spot on the top of your head and allow this connection to spread up to the sky above. Take a deep breath and feel in all parts of your body your new union with the earth.

When you are filled with the earthly chi, allow yourself to shift your attention to the heavenly chi that is above you. Consciously begin to draw that energy earthward by opening up the crown of the head and receive the blessings from above. The heavenly chi will sink down through the body, filling the torso and blending with the earthly chi, as it makes it’s way down to the tan t’ien, filling the pelvis and spilling down the legs to the feet.

As you stand in this perfectly balanced space, held by the heavens and the earth, open your senses and see what you perceive. The heightening of our senses in this meditation allows us to be completely immersed in the life that is all around us. If you want, you can gently open your eyes and see what life becomes visible while in this relaxed state.

Would you like to learn more about how to live in sync with nature? Become part of the community of people that are delving into this experience through the Seasons program. A new program starts in October, 2017.


Sweet Summer Fun

Every year the garden gives me an abundance of fruits that I love to play around with – looking for new ways to enjoy them and share them with others. One of the ways that I found to share the “fruits of our labor” throughout the year is to make liqueurs. They are easy and fun to make and some of them even have a medicinal value. The best part is sharing them in the winter as holiday gifts! They are always appreciated and when there are a variety of flavors people look forward to trying a different one each year.

Sometimes I keep the flavors simple and use only one item in each liqueur. Other times, I find it’s fun to experiment and have mixed flavors. Even if you make the flavors individually, they can be mixed when served.

Lemon Liqueur

Liqueur Recipe

Base –

1 ¼ c. sugar

1 c. water

1 ½ c. vodka

 

  1. Boil sugar and water until clear, stirring frequently to avoid burning.

2.  Put your chosen fruit, herb or vegetable in a jar. Pour the cooled sugar syrup into the jar. Add the vodka. Close  tightly and let sit for a month in a cool, dark place. Strain the plant matter out of the liquid and store for serving. Enjoy!

Flavor recipes:

Kaffir Lime – 10 – 12 medium kaffir lime leaves – spring

Mixed Mint – ½ c. each chopped mint leaves, especially good with spearmint and peppermint – spring

Lemon – 2 medium lemons, chopped (no seeds) – any time you have it

Mulberry – 2 c. fresh mulberries – summer

Ginger – ⅛ c. grated ginger + juice – fall

Almond – 2 c. roasted almonds, chopped in half – fall

Fennel – ½ c. seeds – fall or in summer you can use the flower heads or immature seed heads; not a fruit; used medicinally to calm cranky tummy after overeating or a rich meal

Mulberry Liqueur

Fennel Liqueur

You can be creative with this. I have used other fruits, too, like Cherry, Pear, Fig, Prickly Pear. Sometimes, I like to mash the fruit and warm it a little before putting it in the jar (like with figs).

 

 

 

 

 

The other way I indulge in a sweet summer is with homemade ice cream. I have found that the creamiest ice creams are made with the liqueurs. Just a little bit of alcohol helps to keep it from freezing solid so it’s easy to scoop and delectable on the tongue. If you’re concerned about the alcohol it’s mild and can’t be tasted or felt through the flavors. Here’s my basic Mulberry Ice Cream recipe. In the photos, I used buttermilk instead of goat milk and added some chocolate chopped in small pieces.

Mulberry Chip freshly churned

Mulberry Ice Cream – ½ gallon

2c. whipping cream

1 ½ c. goat milk

4 eggs

¾ c. maple syrup

1 Tbsp. Mexican vanilla

2 cups mulberry liqueur

Fresh mulberries

Mulberry Chocolate Chip and Mint Chocolate Chip

Mulberry Chip

Mocha, Roasted barley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Cook mulberry liqueur into a concentrated syrup. The two cups will make about ¾ c. of mulberry syrup.
  2. Whisk eggs, maple syrup, vanilla and milk thoroughly.
  3. Add cooled mulberry syrup. Mix well.
  4. Freeze in ice cream machine. If using smaller machine, do half a batch at a time.
  5. Let sit overnight in freezer.
  6. Serve topped with fresh mulberries.

Have fun! You can special order my ice creams ($7 a pint) during the summer months. Take a look at the products page to see what flavor you want.


Weeding for Purpose and Clarity

Love in a Mist, Poppies

When weeding in the garden, it is important to be clear about what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of. Some of the undesirable plants are readily recognizable, some are lower and hidden underneath, and yet others are beneficial for a period of time and then I want them out of the garden.

While bending close over a garden bed, I only have a limited view of the plants I am weeding between. Every few minutes it is important for me to step back, stand upright and take a larger view of the area – scanning to find the plants that I want to pull next.

Sometimes, I need to be close to see the plants as they are hidden underneath others. Then, when I identify the right plant, I often have to reach underneath the plant I am keeping to sweep away and unroot the ones that have entwined themselves into the beneficial plants.

Spring Angel

This reaching underneath to what is hidden is a beautiful metaphor for our personal processes for human growth in the quest to realize our hidden potential. Sometimes we don’t know why we are pulling out a particular plant, it is just a feeling that the plant doesn’t belong there. Or perhaps, we are unsure as to why we are pulling weeds on a particular day instead of planting something new. Follow the urge to weed and clarity will reveal itself during the process, or a short time later. My personal process is often that I need to clear out the old plants before I can see clearly what I want in that area of the yard. So, I look, listen and feel what is calling to be placed to bring more life into the garden.

 

Calendula field

Mustard and Calendula

Native sweet peas, calendula, chard, borage

There are some sections that no matter what I plant, I am unable to get them to grow effectively. So, I let it go and lo and behold! something volunteers there and is vibrantly happy, looks beautiful and is easy to care for. These three photos to the left show the incredible beauty of plants that have volunteered and create an amazing showcase for us each spring! Their locations vary as they jump from spot to spot to find their happy place each year.

 

Our internal lives reflect this dance with nature so beautifully. For a period of time, a particular belief system will serve me, perhaps to help me through a difficult time or it fits the development of my personality at a certain age. Eventually, though, that same mindset will hold me back, keep me from growing to my full potential.

Springtime work

As I weed out the parts of myself that no longer fit my current circumstances, I find that I have a new place in the world. I am able to embrace more parts of myself, I grow, change, mature. Just as the protective covering of the budding flower will drop away as the fruit begins to grow, parts of me that served as a protective covering will peel away when I feel safe and solid inside myself.

So, as you move through life, it is valuable to take a close look and then, step back and look at yourself from a distance. Life unfolds in chapters. Sections that don’t feel related, are. The earlier chapters set the scene for later in life. When living consciously, I can nurture my own growth like I nurture the life of a plant in my garden. Remember, weeds are often beneficial plants that have a purpose for a period of time. When their purpose is done, pull them out carefully, leaving the surrounding plants to gain the full nourishment of the soil.


Food Sharing Bonds

In this excessively busy disconnected world that we live in it is easy to forget to eat, eat alone and on the run or eat a quick meal of ingredients prepped by someone else. This disregard for the source of our meals and the way in which they are prepared has created a huge gap in the social and familial networks of our society. Not to mention the lack of connection to the sources and quality of the foods we consume.

I have been aware of the importance of sharing food with others since my college days when we would start with three of us (roommates) making plans for a meal and before you knew it, we had invited thirty friends to stop by for a pot luck. It was a natural event that happened spontaneously through one random phone call that led to one person and then another being invited, who then in turn brought a friend.We always prepared homemade meals for these pot lucks and often the ingredients were picked fresh from our garden. It was natural to share food and the joys and sorrows of our lives during our time together.

Brunch friends

This experience is one Ofer and I looked for when buying a house in a suburban neighborhood. We’ve found, though, that this was a tradition that didn’t easily follow in the environment of the busy Bay Area. Once children are born and with both parents working or divorced parents trading the kids back and forth, neighborhood kids attending different schools, there isn’t time left for a shared, home-cooked meal, much less gathering with families in the neighborhood. Food is the first activity that gets compromised. Everything else, track team, dance lessons, banking, birthday parties or whatever, comes before the time it takes to prepare and enjoy a quality meal.

Since we were unable to create a neighborhood experience, we kept a commitment to our immediate family to have meals together every day. That meant (since we work at home) that we have eaten meals at least once a day as a family and often two or three times a day for almost thirty years. What are the benefits we received from that practice? So many it’s amazing! Meal time is the natural time for family members to talk about their day, what’s happened or going to happen and how we feel about our lives. It creates an opportunity to speak about topics of concern or interest, in a relaxed way as we enjoy the nutritious, fresh food on the plate.

Golden peas

Burger – Yummy!

Eggplant

Teriyaki and veg

 

 

 

 

 

 

The preparation is equally important. We all cook and have welcomed our son, Yo’el, in the kitchen from a very young age. I can remember him being three years old and standing on a stepping stool at the counter, learning how to cut with a sharp knife. When he was nine and taking cooking classes through the recreation department, it was way below his skill level. They didn’t trust him to be able to use a sharp knife, event though he had been practicing for years, so it was a disappointment. Cooking is a life skill that is best developed in the young. What more valuable tool to have in life other than the ability to feed yourself well?

Serving soup

Learning to make sushi

Main dish

Food preparation is an intimate experience of creativity. It begins with the idea of eating a meal. What are we in the mood for? Can we find something that will satisfy all of us? We discuss possibilities, sometimes starting with one ingredient and expanding from there or perhaps a style of cooking (cold, hot, soup, pasta, fish, vegetables, Thai, Mexican, American, etc.). We might wander around the garden and see what is available during

 

Homemade ice cream and fruit crunch

the current season to supplement our meal. Then, we might pull out some recipes or create our own through our knowledge of flavors. We taste, smell, look, stir, chop, bake, broil and boil. Is there a drink you’d like to have with that? If so, what would be tasty alongside the meal we’re planning? Dessert? This can be a fun process that spans over many years, coming back to favorites and developing new recipes as we go along.

 

Rain and Megan

Sharing a meal

Friendship and community are bonds that get created naturally through an interest in preparing and sharing meals. We’ve recently met a young couple, Rain and Megan, and within a week of knowing each other have already developed a surprising bond among us through our enthusiastic discussions about food and gardening. Sharing a taste of something that we made, or discussing the process of making a food, discovering new ways to prepare something familiar or considering what to grow in the garden for eating later have given us a foundation of relationship that will only deepen over time. Gradually, the conversation will naturally become more personal as we learn to know and trust each other through the world of food sharing.

Invite your friends and family!

If this resonates with you, reach out to a neighbor, family member or friend and see if they would like to develop a weekly tradition with you to share a meal. It’s best if you can have the time to actually plan and prepare it together. If that’s too much at first, simply start with each of you providing a dish. No store bought, pre-made dishes allowed. If you have three or four people, then the entire meal is provided! Click here for recipes to get your creativity flowing.


Chaotic Spring

The spring is bursting forth and the energy of the Chinese New Year of the Rooster is also taking hold! The first blush of spring is often exciting and exhilarating for me. I love to wander around the garden and see the little leaves coming up through the ground. The first blooms of the year are always special to me – narcissus, snowdrops and other bulbs begin quite early in California.

As the yard gets filled with life, especially after a wet winter like this year’s, the greenery grows quickly. Before I know it the entire garden is covered with all kinds of grasses, native sweet peas, edibles like mallow and mustard and the pussy willow shows its soft gifts. Flowers begin to reveal themselves shortly after. Peach and pear tree blossoms, freesias, daffodils, tulips, and sweet peas all start their beautiful performance.

When I get too caught up in the energy of spring, I feel overwhelmed and life is chaotic. There is so much growth and potential during spring that it can be hard to know what to embrace and what to save for later. I already have grasses going to seed so I won’t manage (again this year) to pull them before they spread their seeds. Consider what life would be like if we welcomed the seeds and saw them as an expression of abundance. Every year, I practice looking at my enthusiastic garden as a sign of success. It’s effervescence is titillating as I absorb the energy it is putting out into me and my surroundings. Part of my practice is to spend time in the garden without seeing it as work. Instead, I consciously absorb all of the GREEN – a color that fills me with hope and then, I breathe deeply…

Sweet Peas with Marigold

Lavendar Sweet Peas

Mustard

Daffodils

Mallow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The idea of getting rid of all these happy plants before they can reproduce is an influence of our “control and dominate life” culture. The feeling of overwhelm comes from the need to control every aspect of our lives. When I let go and listen inside to what section to take care of first, I am at peace and enjoy the process of putting my hands in the soil and gently lifting out the plants I don’t want (also known as weeding).

I asked an herbalist about the huge amount of Cleavers that I have growing in my garden every year. Her perspective is that the herbs grow more when we need them and less when we don’t. So, I guess, the herbs are telling me I need to cleanse more – a tough request for a foodie like me! I use the Cleavers in my spring teas along with a variety of other herbs that nourish me.  The flavors of these plants is satisfying. I can feel myself steeping in the life enhancing properties that they carry.

Spring Greens Chips

Here’s a favorite recipe that you can enjoy to take advantage of the lovely wild greens.

Spring Greens Chips

30 leaves of mustard greens and mallow leaves

You can use other greens for this recipe (kale, chard, broccoli). If the center ribs are thick, be sure to remove them first.

 

 

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. Basil vinegar

2 Tbsp. nutritional yeast

1 Tbsp. oregano

Unbaked greens

1 tsp. marjoram

½ tsp. cayenne

1 tsp. seasalt or to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 300ᵒ.
  2. If necessary, gently rinse the leaves and spin dry. Pour oil and vinegar in a large bowl. Whisk thoroughly to mix.
  3. Add the leaves and mix gently with your hands or a spatula until leaves are coated.
  4. Add the spices and repeat mixing.
  5. On a large baking sheet, lay a layer of parchment paper.
  6. Lay leaves individually onto the paper as flat as possible. A little overlap is okay, but keep it to a minimum.
  7. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven.
  8. When cool enough to touch, store chips in a paper towel lined large plastic container so they can lay flat.
  9. Repeat steps 7, 8 and 9 until leaves are finished baking.

Colors of Winter

The gray days of winter bring a feeling of melancholy for some and of inner solitude for others. As a photographer and an observer of nature, I find that the gray provides an excellent background as colors pop out from the landscape. In pondering this idea recently, I found myself discovering that this is a lovely metaphor for life. Many of us go through life with the intention of having only “sunny days”. We are searching endlessly for ways to make our lives “happy”.

 

Yet, the richest lives are experienced through the contrast of “rainy days” and “sunshine”. Without the darker hours in our lives, the brighter ones would become pale and ordinary, overexposed. Think about what it is like during drought conditions. What started out as a glorious celebration of warmth turns into the starkness of excess. The excess heat, dries everything out resulting in lack. Everything contracts and holds onto even the smallest bit of moisture.

When the winter rains finally arrive, there is a sigh of relief. The dry, packed soil expands to receive the rains when they arrive. At first, the soil drinks the rain in greedily, absorbing the water into its grains. As the downpour continues, though, the ground becomes full, and ultimately, overflows.

When we experience the deepest letting go, it can be like a flood that overtakes us. At first it feels overwhelming and frightening. To fully surrender we need to open and expand, so the old patterns are washed away and gradually calm returns. Then, we can put together the pieces that are left into a new way of being.

Surrender is a valuable place to be inside oneself. This mindset comes in our darkest moments, when the skies are so densely covered we are unable to see any light. In those moments, letting go of expectation and control, true surrender allows through the rays of hope and sunshine.

When we step from the “dark into the light” the glow of such brightness can blind us making it hard to see what is next. This is the second element of surrender that many don’t recognize. The first step is to let go of the current place. The second is to step forward without knowing that there is stable footing. Each of these steps requires courage and the willingness to be in the unknown.

 

Nature gives us inspiration for these moments. When our eyes open we can see the brightness of the contrasting colors of fall leaves against the misty, gray winter sky. The rushing flow of the water surging between the banks is empowering to behold. We are beings of contrast, a part of the natural world; all aspects to be fully embraced in honor of our true nature.

 


Yuletide (b)Log

 

The year is coming to a close and it has been a year filled with surprises – joy, sorrow and uncertainty. As we move forward into the coming year remember that the fire is bringing us warmth in the cold days ahead, cooking food for our enjoyment and nourishment, bringing light into our surroundings.

 

 

 

The fire will burn away old fears and limitations, stimulating the new growth that is hiding under the ashes. So, toss into the flames all of your worries and doubts. Take a few minutes to fully release the old, watch as it burns away, feel the release inside of you as you meditate on the flickering flames of inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, step into the New Year filled with hope and joy for the transformation that awaits you!


Garden Gratitude

Standing still in the garden, eyes closed, I feel the light tickle of the autumn sun on my face. crape myrtle carpet

The warmth of the sun’s gentle rays are caressing my chest. Suddenly, there is a breeze and I hear the leaves rustling, falling from the nearby trees. I feel the cool air gliding across my face.  The sun disappears behind a passing cloud and for an undefined moment. The wind feels chillier and I am filled with a feeling of potential, awaiting the unknown.

 

fall front leavesWhat will happen next? I can smell the scent of rain in the air around me. A gust of wind blows through completely eliminating the light of the sun as it brings a bank of clouds above me. I am in the dark. I can feel the fullness of the clouds and wonder will I soon be standing in a downpour? Then, a small pitter, patter as the raindrops begin to fall lightly. They are so gentle that I am as yet uncertain as to their actual presence. Was that another leaf falling or is it beginning to rain?

 

The drops slowly increase in size and speed, still falling gently. I continue to stand silently, trusting the raindrops to wash away my fears.  I go to a place inside myself that is safe and lovingly held by Mother Nature. As my trust deepens, there is a gradual decrease in the sensation of water falling on and around me. In time, I can begin to perceive a hint of sunshine glowing through the clouds.

 

Hope LS024I am filled with hope as another breeze urges the clouds to move to another place; to share the wealth of their rain with someone else. The sun bursts out and once again I am embraced by the sun’s rays.  The sunshine warms the top of my head, spilling over onto my shoulders and back.  I open up to receive these blessings of nature. I am contented and peaceful.

I open my eyes. Thank you Garden. I am grateful for all you give me.