I have lived here on Kauai for almost 27 years. It is a stunning and serene place to call home. This island has embraced me and my family. Here we have grown up together. This land we tend is beyond beautiful and the abundance of food and flowers it provides for our bodies and souls is epic. But, there is something about my roots on the East Coast of the mainland that still hums in my heart. This time of year I yearn for that swing into spring heralded by the bulbs bursting from their winter sleep. For the smell of new growth and damp earth as the light slowly returns. Sure, we have seasons here in the Hawaiian Islands –subtle nuances that one becomes aware of over the years. But, deep inside I am a New England girl even still. Tropical fruits do not sing to me as berries still warm from the sun do. Gardenias, while their heady fragrance means spring on Kauai and I pick them by the armloads and love them, tulips make me even headier and happier. I guess you can take the girl out of New England, but not New England out of the girl!
The other morning in a yoga class I had an epiphany. It was one of those magical moments when the thought came through in a serene, simple and solid fashion. Right there on my mat in the quiet meditative time at the end of class, I realized that in my life and in my yoga practice I am striving for the same three things–balance, strength and flexibility. I know. It seems rather simplistic, but there it was for me to ponder—-the practice of yoga requires balance, strength and flexibility, as does a harmonious and healthy life.
The balance poses in yoga are often very elusive, some days more than others. While I might be stable and steady on Monday in tree pose, come Thursday perhaps life has thrown that polished poise off. My steadiness may have been compromised by events that I did not anticipate, that I find difficult to integrate. So, I call on my breath and rein in my scattered thoughts to focus on just that simple act of balance.
Balance and that same steadiness in my life is just as vital to me. Finding the right mix of quiet time and social time. Attempting the appropriate blend of physical stillness and movement. Combining the finest freshest organic foods in my diet, while allowing for that occasional divine decadent dessert. Searching for times of calm to balance the often over-stimulation this wired world offers. Knowing when to speak and when to be silent. These times all call for balance. I attempt to respond.
Being strong in yoga comes with time and practice. Many times on the mat I call on my strength to achieve or maintain a pose. My physical strength, yes, but also the strength of spirit. So, too at times in my life I have had to reach deep to call upon that inner strength to meet situations that have required all I could give and then some. My mother used to say that God never would give me something I could not handle. True so far. But, that inner strength has taken me years to cultivate and be capable of consistently drawing upon. It is often the intangible in my life that supports my strength. The love of my family and friends. The time I take in nature. It is also the habits I nurture in my life that foster that potency. The rhythm of my daily habits–sleeping well, eating well, exercising. All so needed to foster that strength when it must be mustered.
And who has not noticed that being flexible in body and mind is an attribute worth cultivating? In the thirty-plus years of my treasured yoga practice, I have found my body gradually more flexible, markedly so when I commit to a regular schedule of classes. And that flexibility is a boost to my comfort in sustained poses.
So, too, my life is enhanced by a flexible attitude. The desire to control is part of my psyche. I came to realize, once I had children, that attempts to control them were futile. So, I cultivated a path of choosing to have some influence on them instead and relinquished my desire for control. Being adaptable when situations evolve in a direction not originally planned makes me less prone to angst. A supple body and spirit make my aging process more graceful and the days more enjoyable.
I cherish my yoga practice, as much for what it creates in my life as for what it brings to my overall health. This realization just confirmed that once again.
It is New Years Eve – again. And randomly you will be asked “What is your New Years Resolution?” Ugh. How hugely annoying I find that question. Ask anyone in March what their resolution was and most will have forgotten or given it up. We are suckers for setting ourselves up to fail.
“I’m on a diet.” And you see that person a week later with apple crisp smothered in vanilla ice cream and a sheepish grin on their face. Their response? “It was too hard.” “I’m going to yoga every day for the rest of my life.” Later that month the excuses abound. “Classes too expensive.” “Too much work, not enough time.” “I will never ever yell at my children again. Ever.” Until they bug the crap out of you for a little thing on a day that has simply been way too much or they come home after curfew without answering their cell phone for an hour and you’ve been worried sick.
Why don’t we resolve every day to just try. Just have the intention to eat healthier, exercise more, be more compassionate and communicative. Just try. Just that day. Just that hour. Just that moment. Attempt to find the balance more. And forgive ourselves when we don’t.
I know what I’m going to do in 2014. Breathe more. And more deeply. Starting the next time this week someone asks me what my resolution is.
I have often heard the saying that we need to give our children roots and wings. I found providing the roots instinctual. It was in my nature to nurture. It was my pleasure to offer rhythm and to create ritual. It was a breeze for me to make our house a home and shelter–physically, emotionally and spiritually. All these efforts came intuitively to me as I relished the wild wonder and real responsibility of being a mama. I feel certain that all three of my adult children are solidly rooted in themselves, their family, their communities and in the world. And I don’t mind taking some credit for that.
Now the wings part. This is a bit more challenging. Oh, not for them—for me! While I find the quiet that descends on my home when my adult children are off adventuring and living awesome lives elsewhere full of its own kind of richness, I miss them. It is a delight to me that I not only love my children, but I enjoy them. They surely have their wings, having spent numerous months backpacking the world, living and working in far flung places. It is me who recognizes the conundrum this time in my life offers, as well as the opportunity to hone my own skills as the proud and loving mother of grown children for whom I have provided those roots and wings. The mama who can no longer fix it all for them. The woman who has her own interests and talents to take time to further now. All that said, it remains a good news-bad news scenario in my book.
While the garden is in the thick of summer doldrums, the arugula seems to be super excited about the heat! So, try this recipe with the abundance of this spicy green –
2 cups arugula leaves – stems removed
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan
6 cloves garlic peeled
1/3 teaspoon salt
Combine arugula, garlic, salt and walnuts in food processor until smooth. In a steady stream, add olive oil. Then stir in parmesan by hand. Serve over roasted potatoes or pasta.
It seems that I am consistently striving for balance in all areas of my life. Recently I’ve been aware of the need for moisture balance—when it rains we are always wanting the sunshine, when it is sunny for too long we crave the rain. The ultimate quest is for a bit of both, the balance—just right for our psyche and for our gardens. In my yoga practice, the balance poses remind me of that ever-present need for being poised, stable and steady in my daily life.
I search for this balance in my busy daily doing—the breathing out and the breathing in. Last night I picked up a book that I have not opened in years. It is a classic, as relevant today as when it was first written in 1955. A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh is a gem of a little book. It was her words I took with me into sleep last night . . .
“The problem is. . .more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel. . .There is no easy answer, no completely answer . . .and perhaps a first step is in simplification of life . . .But how? Total retirement is not possible. I cannot shed my responsibilities. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life.”
So, with a deep full breath, I take this notion of balance into a new day and will work with it each and every day, I suppose. May you find your own center amidst your own version of chaos!
I’ve been thinking about how full my days are now. And how tired I get at the end of them. Then I remember. I remember days when we were building this house, planting this land. I had two children and then another while in the thick of it all. I worked all day from sun up to well after the sun went down. Working the land, getting gardens and businesses started, cooking healthy meal after meal, tending to my babies. And still had some juice left over for my then-husband. Imagine. Can’t imagine now. I was no youngster (although now it surely seems like it to me!) I was in my mid-30’s into my mid-40’s. But, energy I had in copious amounts. Now a day with barely half that amount of output and I am plain old pooped! I am, indeed, 63 – I am well aware. But, still I marvel at the young woman and all she did. And almost always with a smile on her face. And surely with love and intention. Well, blessings on that gal and blessings on the old gal she has become! What a life.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. And as much as I abhor these manufactured holidays and the hullabaloo surrounding them, I admit to relishing the time my children always put aside for me on this day. Tomorrow I will go to the beach with my sons. My daughter is traveling on the mainland, but I rest contentedly in the notion that she will be thinking of me. My sons and I will spend simple time together at one of our favorite places with a picnic, away from the busyness that is our lovely lives. Did they think of this afternoon delight on their own? Nope. I told them what I wanted to do and they are happy to join me. And, I’m remembering that the times when one or all of my children have not been with me on this day, I have not waited by the phone for their call, nor expected a card in the mail. I called them or wrote them a love note. After all, they made me a mama! And I want them to know I am honored to have their trust in me and to hold this place in their lives. A place I hold sacred. A place which has catapulted me to grow and stretch in ways I never could have imagined. A place that has utilized my head, hands and heart each and every day. So, Happy Mother’s Day to Sky Jesse, Nell Summer and Bay Parrish. And thank you.
― Donna Ball, At Home on Ladybug Farm
There is a book which has impressed and inspired me by Cecile Andrews entitled “The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life.” Her perspective on living a more soulful and simple life is refreshing and thought provoking. After a trip yesterday to Lihue doing way too many errands, which included a stop at the dreaded Walmart, I returned to our beloved north shore with items which were not on my list and without some that were. I also returned with a renewed promise to myself to avoid these stores as much as possible and then reread the chapter in “Circle of Simplicity” about reducing our raging consumerism. Here is the part I wanted to share with you.
The Alternative Shopping List – Becoming a Caring Consumer
1. Do I really need this? Is there anything I can use instead? Here is where the joys of ingenuity come in. It’s fun to find substitutes.
2. How will this item affect the quality of my life? Will it help me engage in life more fully, like sheet music or gardening supplies or a swimsuit? Or will it just make me more passive–like another TV?
3. Is the cost of the item worth the amount of time it takes to earn the money? For instance, how many hours do you have to work to buy an espresso? Is it worth it? You might say yes, but at least you have thought about it.
4. Could you buy it used? Rent it? Borrow it? Share the purchase with someone else?
5. Where should you buy it? Consider these possibilities — a small locally owned business that keeps your money circulating in the community — a business you value, one that adds life to the community — a business that contributes to the community — a business that treats its employees well
6. How will this purchase affect the environment? Is it biodegradable? — can it be recycled or repaired? — will it use resources to maintain? — is it over packaged? — how far did you drive to buy it? — where is it made? — how much energy was used to import it?
The industrialized fourth of the world uses fifteen times more paper, ten times as much steel and twelve times more fuel as the rest of the world. American houses are twice as big as they were 50 years ago. We have more shopping centers than high schools. We drink more soft drinks than tap water.
Now there is some food for thought! Keep that in mind when you next go shopping, while you are anesthetized by the interior mood of the store you are in, the artificial lights, the neon colors, the overwhelming scents, the white noise– all screaming buy buy buy!
In this same vein, I just watched a documentary called “No Impact Man.” A young man and his wife and toddler launched themselves into a year-long experiment into living in New York City and attempting to have no impact on the environment. They went to lengths way outside my comfort zone, but it gave me pause. Featured prominently in the documentary is this family’s focus on their food and their dedication to shopping at farmer’s markets and buying their food locally. That is something we at North Country Farms can surely get behind and a purchase that totally meets Cecile Andrews alternative shopping list criteria!
While I was never aware of it, apparently, according to my children, there is something I say quite often—“What is wrong with people??!” This handy little phrase can be used in any number of settings. In traffic when someone won’t let me in. When I see the bizarre array of things that people in front of me in line at the supermarket are buying and calling food. When I watch visitors go out into surf that has all my ocean radar up. When I read an article about politics and the inane decisions being made in the name of progress. See! It is a versatile little ditty. Most recently I used it when I saw that very few people were buying the simply beautiful ulu (breadfruit) that we had harvested and put out for sale last Tuesday. In response, my sage son, Sky, thought that our sweet customers were unfamiliar with how to prepare ulu, unclear on the sheer deliciousness of this global goodness. He thought that perhaps people will not eat breadfruit “until they have to.” Well, I don’t believe doomsday is here—yet. But, I do truly know that we have to grow and eat more local food. Start with adding a breadfruit from here on the farm to your weekly dining experience. I guarantee you will not be disappointed!
Basic preparation: Peel and wash the breadfruit. Remove the core and cut into large pieces. Place into a pot of lightly salted boiling water and cook for 30 to 60 minutes or until tender (as you would cook a potato).Drain and cool. You can substitute breadfruit in any recipe that calls for potato. Mashed is divine—with garlic and herbs, even more heavenly!
Sautéed or wok stir-fried: Dice and sauté in a little oil with: – 1 sliced onion – 1 minced clove of garlic – a dash of soy sauce
Stuffed Baked Breadfruit: Peel and blanch the whole breadfruits in boiling salted water for a few minutes. Remove the stem and core. Remove some of the flesh and dice it and place in a bowl. Sauté 8 oz. ground beef or turkey in a knob of butter. (I bet tempeh or tofu would be great, too!) Add to the diced breadfruit. Then add: – 1 cup diced tomato – 1 small onion, finely chopped – 2 tbsp. butter – salt and pepper combine the ingredients and fill the cavities of the breadfruit. Bake in a moderate oven for 45-55 minutes. Drizzle with melted butter and serve.