Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Problem with Shoulds


This word can easily sour my mood.

Should's imply that a) you don't know what is best for you, and b) what you're doing isn't enough.

Recently my mom told me that I should get out of Paonia and go to grad school. It's hard to feel acknowledged for the work that I'm doing or valued in the ways that I am growing in the face of a should. It's challenging to feel accepted or seen for who I am.

Sometimes, we end up disappointing others. This is hard and painful, especially if you tend to seek the approval of others (me), but it is necessary. If we lived our lives by the values and standards of others, it would stop being fun. We experience aliveness when we make choices that are born from our desire to contribute to life. When we act out of fear, guilt, shame, duty, or obligation, life starts feeling uncomfortable and foreign.

The people who inspire me most have often shrugged off the should's and committed themselves to everyday courage. Courage is acting in spite of your fears, and though these acts are often overlooked or unseen, they are worth celebrating.

How have you practiced ordinary courage lately?

Early morning pee.

Just another person walking their goats down Main St. These miniature milking goats pass ordinances in many towns and cities.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Table Top Adventures

Whoever put Valentine's Day in the middle of February was preverse and twisted. And whoever left me my favorite bar of Green and Black Chocolate just put another nail in my coffin. Because February is when I spend all together too much time napping and sitting on my increasingly bubbly butt.

Anyone else out there feeling me?

If you can't relate to my indulgent ways, I'm providing you with a decadent yet simple recipe for inspiration.  This won't happen often. I'm prone to eating rice and beans. For every meal. For the rest of my life. Unless I have someone to impress. In which case, watch out Martha, I will put your cake-baking, domestic empire to shame!

But before I get to this recipe, I thought I'd tell you about one of my latest adventures. I'm getting ready to do my annual bulk purchase where I buy said rice and beans in 25 pound bags. Dev and I came up with a food challenge that we're beginning on the equinox. We won't be buying any food for three months, eating only what we already have or what we can trade with neighbors.

Anyone want to join us?

(or commit to sneaking me an occasional treat...)

Bananagrams bulk shopping list.

 Making use of soured goats' milk with super simple biscuits. In addition, a pint of our honey was consumed.

Lake City's Backcountry Ski Resort, 10,000 ft

I snapped a cable in my binding. At the top of the mountain. 

I will not play with skunks. I will not play with skunks, I will not play with skunks. I will not play with skunks.

Just joined Instagram.....we finally caved and got internet up at the homestead.

Ginger Chocolate Tart, from the Smitten Kitchen, 
via the ever lovely Ari Brocious

(Photo of tart appeared on February 13th)

8 ounces gingersnap cookies (about 32 cookies), coarsely broken
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) salted butter, melted
12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips=no chopping)
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1 large egg
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Candied Ginger and Softly whipped cream, for serving
For crust:
Preheat oven to 325°F. Finely grind gingersnap cookies in processor (yielding 1 1/2 to 1 2/3 cups).   Add melted butter and process until moistened. Press crumb mixture firmly onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter tart pan with removable bottom.  Place pan on rimmed baking sheet.
For filling:
Combine finely chopped bittersweet chocolate and heavy whipping cream in heavy medium saucepan. Whisk over low heat until chocolate is melted and smooth.   Remove saucepan from heat. Whisk egg yolks, egg, sugar, flour, ground black pepper, salt and cinnamon in medium bowl to blend. Very gradually whisk chocolate mixture into egg mixture until smooth and blended. Pour chocolate filling into crust.
Bake chocolate tart until filling puffs slightly at edges and center is softly set, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack. Cool tart in pan 20 minutes. Gently remove tart pan sides and cool tart completely.
Top tart with candied ginger.

Cut tart into thin wedges and serve with softly whipped cream or ice cream.
Do ahead: Chocolate tart can be made 1 day ahead. Cover tart and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.  It is still tasty when colder than room temperature, just a bit firmer. Some people *cough cough* might find they can’t wait for it to cool. Not to worry, it still tastes good.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

For All You Lovers Out There

Winding our way up the side of a mountain, my lungs work hard to steal oxygen from the thin air. Even though I'm hauling a pack filled with fleece, root vegetables and books, each step grows lighter as I unload the weighty stories I've carried with me for the better part of the year.

This is not the first time we've climbed this trail side by side, planned out meals beforehand, shared the car ride here and each others' heat when we settle into a nest of blankets for the night. We've hardly spoken in months, and given that we're hiking our way to three days in the remote woods to camp in a tightly-packed tipi with five of our friends, we put this time together to use.

I explain the troubling way I've been thinking about our relationship. If you really loved me then you would...what follows is an extensive list. But today, I surrender these thoughts.

Years ago, I surrendered my heart to you while barreling east across the blurred plains of Nebraska. My body followed greedily, submerged and intoxicated by the steadiness of your voice. Lying on the frozen, dark road in nowhere-Ohio, I pressed my body against yours, subliminally aware of our limited time together. Months later, we cry while sitting beneath a notable, lone cottonwood that stands in the middle of a pasture off Minnesota Creek.  The ground has thawed, irrigation water bubbles down the furrows of the field, and the leaves on the tree, freshly unfolded, wave excitedly in the breeze. My heart feels like it has come out of my chest, flipping wildly on the ground like a struggling fish searching for it's sea.  I impart my hope into your words. I catch meaning where there is none.

What I see today is that love has no meaning. It only is, and by letting it be as it is without needing or waiting or wanting it reveals itself with clarity. You listen to me with tenderness. We laugh at the madness of the mind and my capacity for manipulation. My stories set aside, I see you. I see the way in which I haven't seen you. I see the love that pours out of you.

A deep knowing settles inside of me like a tap root that reaches past my heart and down into my stomach. No matter what happens, if all the gnawing fears I once invented come to pass, the gift of letting go will continue to nourish me. Though holding on comes easily, it is in the conscious practice of releasing that I find ease and peace and freedom.

Photo: Autumn Eaton <3

My Valentine's date at the bus stop ready to shred it.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mexico, Chapter Two

I packed up my tent in the rain, writing down the e-mail addresses of new friends, and slid down the muddy trail to the road. A man with broad hands flipped my pack onto the roof of his his truck and cinched it down with some orange nylon cord. I stuffed myself into the back with 15 other unshowered passengers, slick from the rain.

At the airport in Villa Hermosa I argued in my pathetic Spanish with a security guard who would not let me pass through with two empty (and apparently very threatening) stainless steel water bottles. I brought them back to baggage check where I learned that checking an extra bag cost 60 US dollars-- nothing like a little frustration to kick my Spanish skills into high gear. 

My plane to Oaxaca was delayed five hours- it was New Years Eve and I had planned to spend it with  my soul-sister Rebecca, who was flying in from SF for 10 days of eating our way through the country. I met some guys from Denmark on the plane and we agreed to share a taxi to the center of the city. We had to walk a quarter mile in the dark to find this cab driver they had arranged to meet-up with to avoid paying the airport cab tax. I took a photo of the license plate before I got in the car. 

Five years ago, Rebecca and I we came up with this magical idea--The Devine Goddess Journey, which, in essence, is the delicious unravelling of our authentic wants, the delightful discovery of our ability to manifest, and the sorting through our bullshit to the core of what's really going on inside. No need to actually go anywhere for this journey, it's an internal party of sorts. 

So while we explored Oaxaca, tanned our butts on a nudie beach, and learned to make mole with a  little granny, the real excitement of this part of my adventure was in the honest moments with a best friend.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Paonia Hits the NY Times + My NIMBY Rant

Reading the Times aloud on Saturday mornings with hot tea in hand is hardly unusual, although the news rarely has anything to do with our lives here in our tiny, tucked away town. Until today. Today I squealed and screamed over every detail shared by the New York Times, as they covered the on-going ordeal over oil and gas leases issued on public lands immediately surrounding our homes. 

In December of 2011 roughly 30,000 acres of public lands were nominated for oil and gas development in the North-Fork Valley. Though the sale was deferred and some parcels were dropped, we're back at it again. The sale is now slated for Valentines Day.  

Organic produce floods this valley. Innumerable stars fill the dark sky. The undeveloped lanscape provides spectacular views and is home to Bald Eagles and elk. We drink water from our mountain, and if you leave for a bit you realize how good it tastes. Traffic is non-existant save for the occasional tractor on the highway. A system of trails where people run, hike, and bike weave around a small mountain just minutes from downtown. And, I haven't heard anyone complaining about the abundance of local wines. 

The parcels nominated for this sale will be governed on the basis of a Resource Management Plan that was written in the 80s. Don't even get me started here.....

And yet, I cringe to think myself some NIMBY'er. Conservation itself has always troubled me because it creates separation--we build National Parks to preserve our beautiful natural land marks, and yet this implies that humans are not a part of the natural landscape. We are separate.  

Development can exist..somewhere...but not here. We all rely on products and materials that are toxic to us. Perhaps we should live in the midsts of industry and development rather than cornering it off to dark and hidden places. We'd be way more likely to produce these things in a more environmentally friendly manner, or not produce crap at all, if the reality of these processes looked us square in the eye. It would be much harder to quietly poison our planet and ourselves. 

My friend Sara, an editor at High Country News recently wrote about NIMBYism.

If we continue to insist on living as we do now, maybe we need to see drill rigs from our kitchen windows  and hiking trails, even our school playgrounds. How else can we truly understand the costs of something we use unless we're confronted with them daily?  -Sara Gillman 

Paolo, another local writer, who like Sara published his thoughts on the whole NIMBY predicament, looks to our government for some accountability.

 NIMBY is the warning sign that tells us our system is broken. It tells us that some energy    companies choose to ignore their impacts, either because they believe the impacts are too  expensive to remedy, or because impacts are "externalities," unconnected to profits.  NIMBY tells us that our government bureaucrats haven't been paying attention to the public welfare.             --Paolo Bacigalupi

Public welfare encompasses so many things and it seems most prioritize the economy over the health of the environment and our fellow citizens. 

I'm really at a loss here. The issues run deep, and though I see the faulty reasoning, I can't think my way into a reasonable solution. Meanwhile, I look out my window and my heart aches with love for my home. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mexico, Chapter One

How quickly that churning feeling in my stomach can turn into boiling excitement, that angular brick in my throat can melt into honey, and the fear of not knowing transforms into effortless flow. Travelling reaffirms the goodness that comes with letting go, and while surrounded by all things foreign, I rediscover the partnership between acts of faith and grace.

I spent my first week in Mexico camping in the jungle near Palenque at a Gathering that drew people from around the world. We swam in the river, hiked, and sat around by camp fires exchanging our stories, our songs, and our cultures. 

I met a woman, Kristen, who homesteads with her family in the Yukon of Alaska. I've been particularly interested in this area since Eve Grace, a professor of political theory from my collegiate days, spilled tales of homesteading and killing bears as a child there. Kristen favors moose-hunting and gets her kids to school via dog-sled in the winter. 

An immediate sisterhood forms between women who share in the unique and often unintended consquences of an off-the-grid lifestyle. Immediate laughter ensues when realizing you both spend time out-smarting and celebrating the perdicaments of your life. Inevitable bonding occurs around things like,
-the frozen toilet seat in the outhouse
-the excitement of a sunny day-- the vacuum, the blender, and all things electric, can be used liberally
-the time needed to build a fire in order to heat water before taking a hot shower (and the way the pump always seems to break when your hair is all bubbles and suds)
-the various containers to pee into when trying to avoid exposing your bum to sub-zero conditions
-the way that winter is often the only time to travel because it's when plants and baby goats allow it

Being a woman, and wanting to feel like a woman while surrendering to this absolutely beautiful and sometimes all consuming lifestyle is a complicated matter. Meeting women from other parts of the world with shared experiences brings camaraderie to a part of my life that is somewhat isolating. And it reminded me of the friends I have at home. We pass our little homesteading secrets and catastrophes back and forth like treasures.