Forty days and nights…

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How are you?

Are you well?

Do you, like we do, sometimes run out of words? Even in silence, we’re here – we’re doing fine. May we hope that you are, too?


*SIGH*

Wow, it was forty-one days, actually – and no, this is not how long it rained this Spring, but how long it had been since T had left the house/neighborhood/been in a car. The evidence of this was spate of endless cleaning, wherein the car was wiped down in the garage, and apparently the baseboards needed sanitizing. Once it was determined that the paint was coming off, it seemed expedient for one to leave the house, lest individual hairs also come under this extreme scrutiny. (This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last that some of us have removed paint. It is what it is, the house is CLEAN, all right?) (Send help.)

Still, there comes a time when even those of us being über-careful with germ avoidance must leave the house, and where better than to the neighborhood year-round Farmer’s Market? God bless those people who drove the three or four hours up from Santa Cruz, Fresno, Watsonville or environs to provide strawberries, blueberries, lettuce, and more. Just behind the Post Office – a mere four blocks from us – we found bakers and bee-keepers – and a woman with terrifyingly sized quail and goose eggs – fresh oranges, onions and greens of all kinds. We were out of the house for all of about twenty-five minutes, but it still just enlivened a gorgeous, sunny day. If you can, please support your local farmer’s market. The food they’re producing, especially if we can put some of it up and preserve it, will serve us in good stead come the end of the summer.


Back home, the weekend’s fun task was to muck out the fountain. Hrafen, Morrigan, and Bran have, somewhere, come across a large store of baguettes and stale white bread. We’re thinking that the big park across the street, which hosts a great many large Canada geese in the fall, has a dedicated few folk who think bread is good for gulls, and the crows, being considerate neighbors, bully the gulls, swoop in and steal it… and then, because it is stale, they dunk it in the fountain, and hold it there until it softens enough to eat. Granted, they also dunk in the odd lizard, vole, or other rodent, then proceed to tear out their entrails, but the bread, believe it or not, is the worst culprit for clogging up the fountain, because the crows have the attention span of toddlers and occasionally just abandon the bread and wander away, thus making our arrival at the fountain to turn it on for our enjoyment… disturbing. The peanut shells, odd almonds, and bits of ephemera (buttons?) aren’t so bad, it’s the decomposing, over which we’ll draw a veil… After a lot of work the bottom of the fountain is visible and the water is clear, and the crows are… nonplussed. We’re hoping they give carbs a break for a month or so.

As happens every year when the weather warms, our interest in cooked food wanes, and we simply want salad and fruit. Of course, these days our food choices are… definitely weirder than normal. We couldn’t find lettuce until we went to the farmer’s market – while other areas are unable to find rice or pasta, produce here has been wiped out pretty quickly. D’s had enough trouble getting dairy milk that he’s started experimenting – though T has very decided opinions on hemp milk, and is crossing that off of the family list of Adventurous Plantmilks To Try In Tea. Bleh. Since we’ve made our own soymilk in the past, we decided to just get a soymilk maker and just make it official. (Happily, it can make oatmilk as well, or nutmilks, or whatnot, if the proper ingredients can be found.) This is a less expensive and easier option for us. Now, if only we could somehow make our four strawberry plants and apricot tree go faster! (And before you ask, yes, we’re rooting the bottom of the lettuce that we finally did find, to plant in the garden. And celery too, which is growing nicely.)

We hope you have a tiny garden – ours, and our wee strawberries, continue to be a joy. The row-marker radishes are all standing tall, the melons and cukes are starting to think about reaching their nearest plant neighbor and strangling them (yard bullies: they’re kind of a theme), and the kale is a sturdy half inch high. The rest of our very slow flower order has arrived as well, and we are loving the newly growing dianthus (think carnations), and more California natives that look like scrubby wildflowers one sees at the beach, varieties of poppies, and other tough, ground-covering flowers that are good for low water gardens and don’t mind getting stepped on occasionally. And they will be stepped on – if it’s not the crows, it’s the other wildlife which has decided it needs to stay in our garden. We haven’t yet seen the skunk this year, but we suspect we’ll play host to even more raccoons and other night wanderers as they revel in our quieter world.


Some of you who don’t like to comment publicly on posts email and say that we sound happy and cheerful. We’re glad that comes through – the garden and the crows do make us happy, as well as spending time in the same space – but as with everyone, there are moments of struggle as well. It’s been difficult to figure out how to “do” death, when the normal gears cannot mesh and drag us through the familiar, with family, church, casseroles and caskets. It’s hard to figure out how much solitude is too much (watch for paint removal; that’s a clue), and how to reverse the inevitable slide into “meh” moods. Many of us are far too busy, and are finding that working from home means overwork, and not giving ourselves or our children enough breaks and away-from-screens time. This is undeniably tough – so, give yourself the gift of a break, a walk, a water fight, a puddle stomp. Give yourself the gift of downloading a birding app, and trying to identify the songs, and do something to lift up someone else. Cards and letters and painting rocks or drawing the day of the week on the driveway with chalk – whatever will bring a smile to a wider, equally glum and conflicted world. The heart you cheer may just be your own.

Be well. Remember what is yours and cannot be taken. Remember to open your hands and share (from an acceptable distance) what you can.

Remember you are loved.

…and a fat squirrel in an oak tree

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On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… comedy. In the form of volunteering to shop with our nephews.


Christmas this year… well, it happened, but after we put in the requisite time for programs and celebrations, we missed a lot of the spirit of it. Our last concert was the 17th, with lovely brass, bells, and organ, and then we dove into a round of lab visits, specimen samples, and recovery rooms. Swallowing a camera during an endoscopy is, apparently, not something you remember clearly when you wake up, but the photographs of the inside of one’s abdominal caverns is usefully interesting, if not truly illuminating. (“What’s it supposed to look like?!”) Himself has had a lot of trouble eating and keeping food where it’s meant to be, so we’ve been in kind of a quiet blind panic of medical visits. None of the signs of cancer have been found, though, thank you for your concern. We are taking it all very seriously, even if we haven’t been that forthcoming with it in person.

Anyway, by the time the actual holiday arrived, we were exhausted from stress and worry and work nonsense, and so took a day off. We were so grateful for people giving to us – a lovely church service where we didn’t have to do anything but sit and take it in, people sending cards and fun gifts, far too much See’s candy that we didn’t regift, but ATE… And it was Good.

As we recovered, we asked family what we could give them as gifts, and as usual, most of our family said a lot of “Meh,” which is what our family has always done, which is why we tend to get together seriously at Thanksgiving, and spend Christmas a.) avoiding each other, b.) taking long walks, c.) staying in bed, d.)watching movies and e.) arguing about Scrabble points. But, as a mother of growing boys, T’s sister asked for new church clothes for the boys, as protruding wrists and ankles are heralding the newest growth spurts, so T dutifully asked for sizes, and ran into the wall of, “well, that depends on…” and so D said, “Oh, I’ll just take them shopping. Just give me a list, and I’ll take them around and get them a few things.” He also said it’d probably take him an hour.

Theories are great things. But sometimes they don’t take into account, like, reality.

“I have a list, it’ll be quick,” does not take into account the temperaments of a dreamy eleven year old, and a zippy, bounce-around-the-store-because-I-already-tried-it-on-once nine-year old. Theories do not take into account conscientious adults trying to allow children to make decisions, because adults all too often make decisions for children for the sake of expediency (and having the decision made before one expires of old age). There is valuable entertainment to be had in watching expectation collide with reality sometimes. This was one of those times.

D. had already decided to make a whole day policy of not rushing the boys, because there was no true time limit for the shopping day, so he just… waited… while… they… made… up… their… minds. At Jamba Juice. At DSW. At Old Navy.

He regretted this choice. Frequently.

He also regretted that he hadn’t any understanding of shopping for children. The texts came thick and fast: Did you know kids’ jeans don’t have inseam measurements!? How does anyone know what size they wear?” and “I have located a pair of pants, found an empty changing room, tried on a pair of pants, texted you a picture of them, folded them, and returned them to the shelf and that child is still trying one the same shirt How does that one shirt take ten minutes?” and that sort of thing. Those left at home were doing a lot of snickering.

At any rate, the subsequent fashion show went swimmingly, as the boys modeled their new clothing, and the adults sat in various stages of exhaustion in the living room and provided the appropriate drumrolls and applause as the boys emerged from the den. And all went well until we heard older brother say to little brother, “Those aren’t going to fit. You can’t do up the button.”

From the front room, Himself yells, “WHAT!? I had you try on EVERYTHING! How can something not FIT!?”

Ominous silence.

Then, little brother, “Um… Mom…?”

Amid protests from older brother that she’s not “talent” and “only talent is allowed backstage,” T’s sister goes into the den, and lo and behold, a pair of pants doesn’t fit little brother. Which he tried on. And pulled his shirt down over because it wouldn’t button.

Cue myriad exclamations from the adults. “But, why would you do that? You were in a store. You could have just gotten the next size up.”

*Hazel brown eyes blink blank incomprehension*

T asks, “Do you know why you try on clothes at the store?”

Still with the Bambi eyes. “Um… no?”

All eyes turn to Mom, who sighs, and rolls her eyes. “That’s my boy,” she says.

Himself thrusts the receipt into his sister-in-law’s hands. “You’re on your own,” he says. “I don’t do returns.”

Himself says the boys were every bit as good as they could be, and that he’d take them shopping again in a heartbeat… He just needs at least a year’s recovery time. At least.

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On the eighth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me… wine. SO. MUCH. WINE.

Corporate America continues to reveal its clueless, tone-deaf self in terms of gifts; we have now four (4) bottles of wine D’s been given, plus two T’s eldest sister doesn’t know what to do with. Given the number of D’s Hindu and Muslim coworkers, it is truly astonishing that someone in HR still clings to the idea that Wine is great! Sure, it’s perfectly appropriate; EVERYONE will want this…” but that seems to be the case.

After awkwardly accepting yet another bottle of, what we’ve been assured is some Very Fine Vintage, we’ve been Googling What To Do With Wine pretty thoroughly. White wine lends itself more easily to cooking and to cleaning, but for whatever reason, all of our gifts this year are reds. However, Martha Stewart suggests reds for crock-pot roasts of meat or bean-and-bay leaf stews, or for red cabbage and apples, as well as for simmering a dried fruit compote, with dried cranberries or sour cherries. Once wine reduces, it’s apparently quite sweet. (The good news is that not only does the alcohol dissipate when heated, but the sulfites do, too – so allergy sufferers, rejoice.) We’ve also found recipes for red wine vinegar, chocolate cake, pancake syrup, lentils, jellies, gravies and sauces. D has produced an amazingly good olive rosemary bread with a fine crumb and a hint of garlic – and that all the liquid in the bread was red wine has so far made no discernible difference in flavor – but it might help it keep longer, who knows.

Additionally, wine apparently makes a good skin toner, or you can pour it into a hot bath to soften skin and clear up psoriasis, though we’ll believe that when we see it. It’s allegedly useful for cleaning produce and it makes an amazing fertilizer, apparently. While white wine is known to remove stains, red wine makes a great dye. Will you now please cue a little 90’s era comet blaze across your inner eye, emblazoned with the words, *The More You Know…. Thank you.


And so we conclude: It is not yet New Year’s; somehow, 2018 is still clinging like a viscous film to our brains. We’ll try again at Lunar New Year to see if we feel fresh and at all different in the Year of the Boar. Somehow, we have our doubts. For now, we’ll stick with merely wishing you a Happy Wednesday.

“Is it me, or does that look like a lung?” Adventures in Kombucha

Okay, FINE. We’re making kombucha. We’ve joined the hipsters, and the state of the world is dire indeed.

Honestly, we  know lacto-bacteria is good for health – we were happily okay with fermented lemonade and ginger beer, but truly, the kombucha people are way too into their “mothers” and whatnot. Honestly? That scoby thing looks like a LUNG or something, and we are not even kidding. But – let us back up a titch.

T’s lovely autoimmune disorder is morphing into something new and annoying – gastroparesis. What we believed to be a stomach ‘flu this summer was not, and we’ve learned that few things settle her stomach better than something lacto-fermented. She believes it’s probably a placebo effect because she knows it’s good for her, but it’s also light and crisp and generally only slightly fizzy, which is generally why most nauseous people prefer something carbonated. At an airport a few weeks ago, T felt so bad she was desperate enough to try kombucha, because a shop had one with ginger… Aaaaand… the rest is history. We went home and found a store-bought bottle of organic raw kombucha with a little bit of blobby stuff on the bottom, and pulled out our fermentation crock to make our own.

Da Scoby, She Is No Pretty

The blobby bit on the bottom is a scoby – which is a 
Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast. We put our unfiltered kombucha into our crock, fed it a cup of sweetened black tea, and left it alone for two weeks. The bacteria and yeast eat the sugar, just like it does in the yeast in bread, and creates more of itself, with a happy side-effect of mild carbonation. Kombucha is full of probiotics and things which our gut bacteria love which will make them love us. And, despite the lung-lookalike, with its rubbery slippery-ness and brown stringy bits, it isn’t actually that gross. Okay, no it is, but it doesn’t stink – it smells fresh and slightly sour – a little vinegary.  The weird bubbles and blobby bits are a good sign – (a bad sign, of course, would be anything black, moldy, or fuzzy green). It isn’t ever going to be …an attractive-looking process, but as we poked at the thing that looked very…organic and cellular, we reminded ourselves that it was For Our Health! For! Our! Health!

And we’d like it once before, right? Right.

We decanted our first bottle yesterday, made from a black pu’er tea (a fermented tea from the Yunnan province in China – aging and fermenting teas is also A Thing, and there are pu’er gambling rings in some places, because some people are highly motivated to get certain tea batches from certain years, like some people do with wines) and do you know what it tastes like? A much less sugary Mexican Senorial soda, sangria flavor. We have no idea how that happened – at all – but it’s really tasty… and organic-looking or not, it settles the stomach, and that’s good enough, for now.

August’s Bounty, Bittersweet

from E.B. White, CHARLOTTE’S WEB

The crickets sang in the grasses. They sang the song of summer’s ending, a sad monotonous song. “Summer is over and gone, over and gone, over and gone. Summer is dying, dying.” A little maple tree heard the cricket song and turned bright red with anxiety.

The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everybody that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year — the days when summer is changing into fall the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.

Everybody heard the song of the crickets. Avery and Fern Arable heard it as they walked the dusty road. They knew that school would soon begin again. The young geese heard it and knew that they would never be little goslings again. Charlotte heard it and knew that she hadn’t much time left. Mrs. Zuckerman, at work in the kitchen, heard the crickets, and a sadness came over her, too. “Another summer gone,” she sighed. Lurvy, at work building a crate for Wilbur, heard the song and knew it was time to dig potatoes.

“Summer is over and gone,” repeated the crickets. “How many nights till frost?” sang the crickets. “Good-bye, summer, good-bye, good-bye!”

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August already, and so much coming and going. We have now been in this little house for a whole year, whirling here on the winds of fires in the North Bay, and bracketed once again by smoky, hazy days which are beginning to be the mark of summer itself. Dust settles on every surface, egrets stalk up and down the slough, and housekeeping is a futile endeavor, chasing the dust bunnies from the daily wind storms and endless house refurbishments on the block. Summer in suburbia means that someone is always cutting tile, jackhammering driveways, trimming, mowing, blowing, digging. Through windows yawning wide to gather a cool breath to dispel the clinging humidity, we hear the electronic melodies of the neighborhood’s phones ring, and fumble after our own. Child voices raised in shrieking laughter and sobs echo through otherwise quiet corridors. Ah, summertime, and the living is… fraught. Everywhere is a focused intensity, as the community seems to teem with people trying to wring as much enjoyment as they can from these long, bright days… with the ironic result that everyone seems to be whirling along busily, faster and faster than before.

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The busy whirl makes it difficult to remember that myriad people suffer from melancholia in the month of August. It’s a month where it feels like everything is winding down, yet nothing has gotten done, and decisions have yet to be made. “The summer is over, and we are not yet saved!” Many moneyed friends are away on holiday, yet we who want to be outside are prevented from spending time in the outdoors, whether it’s because it’s too hot, too smoky, or we just don’t have the time – yet we feel the clock ticking down to colder, greyer weather. People are drowning in nostalgia for the simplicity of back-to-school when all they have before them is more work – and then the holiday insanity – and too many people feel pushed just now about affording school for themselves, for their kids, uniforms, etc. etc. Check in with yourself and with your friends this month – it’s never not a good time to sure we fragile humans are okay, but it can be an especially good time now. August hits some people worse than February. There truly is such a thing as “summertime blues.”

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T is still a bit miffed that her “summertime blues” have been more tinged with green. She has had two weeks of off-and-on stomach ‘flu which, to her mind, came out of nowhere. She was minding her own business, studying her Dutch (and conjugating zeggen, weten, gaan, drenken, spreken and hebben are enough to make one want to lie down with nausea anyway), when wham – in the middle of making breakfast, it was all over. In the season of white peaches and sunshine, who is stuck in the house throwing up??? The ignominy! It’s mainly the peaches she’s mad about, to be honest. She was marveling over beginning her morning with eating the perfect peach… and then… um. Well. Anyway, D has brought her more peaches to make up for the ones she “lost…” but she’s still holding a grudge against the universe. Ahem.

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In other news, while now we’ve been back in the States now for six years, and a single year in this house, next month also marks the unofficial anniversary of twenty-four years of the D&T show. (And yes, to all of those wondering – the show began when we were in the sixth grade. Obviously.) Unofficial, because it’s an anniversary no one celebrates but the two of us – and sometimes even we forget. The world sneers at those of us who forget to be romantics… but perhaps the truest test of a love is knowing whether or not fuss and roses are happily received. T, who believes firmly in the truth of Cut Flowers Are Dead, has twice now gotten rose bushes – which are perfectly acceptable, as well as orchids, and untold air plants and saintpaulia, which are much more suitable. Meanwhile, D received cut flowers at work once, and has yet to live down the horror. And somehow, the show goes on…

Last guests will be arriving this week – D’s childhood friend from her house in Georgia, and a few in and out trips by other family members who happen to be in town. There are birthdays to be celebrated, and fairs and festivals to attend. The Chamber group kicked off their free community choir this past weekend with games and songs and a picnic – which we missed thanks to germs – but soon we’ll be neck deep in holiday music and preparing for our first show December first. The wheels never stop turning, but in the summertime, one can pretend, for a little while, that they’re not going anywhere in particular… but deadlines are looming, endings are approaching, and so much is on the horizon…including the last of the fresh corn fritters, zucchini crab cakes, more cake, and grilled pizza. (All the things you can find excuses to make when you have company.)

So, friends. How is it with you?

Same Story, Different Day: A Sermonette

This is taken from Rabbi Ruttenberg’s Twitter feed. Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg is a writer and thinker T follows on Twitter.

We’ve seen this story before.
We seen this story before, when Pharaoh looked at the Israelite people and saw that they were “too numerous,” that they posed a demographic problem for his power, and decided that the solution was to oppress them.

We’ve seen this story before.

And, when even oppression didn’t work and he realized that the real way to terrorize a population was to go after their children. Yocheved hid the baby Moses from Pharoah’s army just as Jewish parents hid their children from the Gestapo, just as parents right now are hiding their children from ICE.

We’ve seen this story before.

We’ve seen this story before in this week’s Torah portion, when the Moabite king Balak saw the Israelites running fleeing persecution, saw them in the midbar–the wilderness, the liminal place–between danger and safety and he said, “they will lick us clean.” When he used dehumanizing language–they are so numerous that they “hide the earth from view” in order to justify what he was going to do next.

We’ve seen this story before.

So Balak goes to the seer, the prophet Balaam and demand that he curse the people. Balak doesn’t care what happens to them, he just wants them cursed, gone, no mater how they suffer. But after a series of surprising events, Balaam doesn’t curse the people Israel–he blesses them. And there’s this moment in the middle of all this blessing when he turns to face the wilderness, this limbo, this howling void between danger and safety.

He sees them camped in their tents. He probably sees families together, children and parents, maybe children playing, maybe groups of friends, maybe couples in love. He sees a people, vulnerable and frightened, yearning to breathe free. He sees them. The seeing and the blessing are intertwined. When he opens his eyes & heart to behold the Israelites’ beautiful, holy selves, created in the image of God, he is able to bless them. When we open our eyes to see the full humanity of others, we are able to bless them. And when we bless–when we give over of ourselves to others, when we offer something holy and true to another–we also expand our capacity to see them. When we look to see, we can bless. When we bless, we can better see.

This fight is going to be long.

We’ve seen this story before.

And we know that the Bible–regardless of what Jeff Sessions says–stands on the side of liberation. We know that the Bible stands on the side of the oppressed. We know that the Bible stands for safety and hope for all. And we know that the Bible demands that we take risks in the pursuit of justice.

This fight will demand a lot of different tactics.

The midwives–Shifrah & Puah–in Egypt engaged in strategic civil disobedience in order to protect oppressed human beings.

Pharaoh’s daughter leveraged her privilege & access in order to protect oppressed human beings.
God used God’s power and might in order to get the Israelites out of Egypt, in order to protect oppressed human beings.

And Balaam looked.

Balaam turned to see. He opened his eyes and his heart, accessed empathy, caring, concern in order to protect oppressed human beings.

We need to do all of these things.
The hour is upon us.
We need to be brave in our resistance.
We need to use all of our privilege and access.
We need to use all of our power and might.
And we need to open our eyes and hearts.

As we fight to create a world that is equitable and just, we must also create a world of caring and connection, of empathy and love. We must never forget to look, and to see.

We’ve seen the story of oppression before, but we’ve also seen the story of liberation before.

We’ve seen this story before.

And we know that we can create a world based on justice, and caring, and empathy, and liberation, and love.

Overcome evil with good… don’t let it drown you. You’ve seen this story before, and every time, good wins.

I Was Glad, and Other Inquiries

nb: This post references being part of a faith community, and may not appeal to everyone.


I was glad, when… the day was done, the shoes were off, the bra removed; an itchy mosquito bite was medicated. A sense of relief, a heaved sigh, a sense of rest. Indeed, I was glad. The famous 1902 English hymn by Hubert Parry reflects the words of Psalm 122, I was glad when they said unto me, let us go to the house of the Lord. Ironically, that’s the “glad” that is hardest to be, and perhaps, by personality, a glad that many of us introverts have never really been. When we were small, we were glad to see many of our friends, despite having seen them exactly twelve hours previously, at school. As teens, we were perhaps glad to be able to go for some retreat weekend or outing (again, not so much this introvert, unless there were places to disappear once we’d arrived). For adults, church is meant to be a gathering of like-minded individuals, but more and more, it is difficult to find, in this society, a group of people who is like-minded about …anything. (The color of the sky is still up for debate.) Where the word “Christian” once meant some basic Christ-ian beliefs, it is now being forcibly stretched to include politicians whose lip-service to even basic decency is dubious, and, far, far on the other end of the spectrum, survivalists whose fervent weapons stockpiling mingles politically influenced ethnocentricism with eschatology.

To be clear, this is not going to be a diatribe on “whatever happened to the good old days of old-time religion, X, Y, and Z” (seeing as the alleged “good” days always include on-the-books legal racism, common sexism and xenophobia which is still not behind us), nor is this about how we suddenly hate church or something or have outgrown God (that will never happen). It will not be taken from Ann Landers, or quoting insufferably smug church signs note that score cards are provided so people can tally the number of hypocrites in attendance. — whatever, we’re all hypocrites and annoying people, and our problem isn’t the faith community in that respect. That’s not the point. The point is the basic, real question: what did the old-school Psalmist have that we don’t? Why was he so glad to go into the house of the Lord – and why aren’t we?

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We all know that we’re hyper-shopppers in our society, and always read up on brands and research “content” in order to get the best for our buck, or for our attention-value. We realize you don’t treat church that way, it’s not a TV channel you change, it’s a community. But, especially for those of us who are introverted or independent, it’s often hard to relax into the rhythm of a community which values external focuses on service and discipleship. Service and proselytizing have their place – especially service – but the problem seems to be the proselytizing, especially. It creates communities focused on “y’all come join us!” and mostly ignore issues of practical application of meaning when the “y’all” has come and joined. It also ignores the struggles of identity for the “y’all,” seeing the singular individual and various diversities as less important than the whole identifiable denominational body, and for those who have been part of the “y’all” for years, and are struggling with identity, there seems to be no thought given at all.

The struggle, as they say, is real. The pollution of politics, for many, is largely responsible for feelings of uneasiness and disconnection. For some, it was problematic from-the-pulpit politics within the last election cycle; for others, little to no acknowledgement by religious groups, whose baseline ethos is meant to be love, of racial and ethic communities being hated, being hurt both systematically, legally, and physically, and the LGBTQ community being outright ignored, or silenced. We hear from so many friends in all denominations about being at a crossroads with their church attendance and with their faith. Everyone, from our Jehovah’s Witness to our Episcopal to our United Church of Christ friends are trying to find their feet in murky water. While in many ways that’s simply reflecting the time we live in, the reality is that it is really hard, and painful.

For ourselves, we’ve decided to start simply in answering our questions, and trying to turn our focus to what has made us glad – truly glad – to be part of our faith communities in the past. Sometimes we realize that we default to the thing which brings the least amount of annoyance… and that’s not really living. What makes us glad? For us, it’s always been music, and we’ve been exploring strategies for incorporating that more into our lives throughout the new year.

What is it for you? What gives you joy? What has made you glad? We wish you a rediscovery of that gladness as you launch into a new year.

De Colores


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We people watch a great deal, on the way to and from wherever we’re going in this city. It amazes us that there are almost 9 million people in this city alone – and it’s so densely populated that people are living cheerfully cheek-by-jowl. It’s … a lot sometimes, so we’re grateful for the little pauses where we can look around.

One of the things which intrigues are the barrio murals. There’s graffiti all over the city, but quite a lot of it isn’t mere tagging, but actual muralist artwork. There’s a strong muralist tradition here, of course, dating back to Diego Rivera, and the city seems to be pretty ambivalent about artists taking to the streets, as long as the work is good and it’s not invasive or on statuary or whatnot. Those rules are clearly adhered to – there’s ONLY tagging on walls along freeways – so, so dangerous, with the way people drive here! – along sidewalks and streets and on the side of buildings. Even temporary walls put up along construction corridors don’t escape the paint.

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A lot of the art is religious iconography – the Virgin de Guadalupe is everywhere – but there’s also Banksy style stuff, stuff with a more political bent, protest artwork, and more. If you can handle the dust in the air from all the sweepers (there are leagues of twig-broom wielding sweepers all over the city) there are a lot of interesting places to walk and see the public art.

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-D & T

…Otherwise, by Jane Kenyon

Wasa Stacks 2L and A Wedding 22Tanita and Ashley, in the wild

Otherwise

~ by Jane Kenyon

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.

Skyway Drive 373Skyway Drive 372Skyway Drive 375

This weekend, we celebrated a life, gathered with loud friends, argued about social movements, and played cards with a fancy deck. It might have been otherwise. We ate sweet, soft, summer fruit, wore disreputable pajamas, contemplated brushing our hair, and didn’t. We picked up and discarded books, made vegeburgers, watered the plants, ate cheap chocolate, and drank in the breeze. It might have been otherwise.

This morning, we woke up.

Grace and gratitude for simple gifts.

Citrus Season

Pleasant Hill 461

‘Tis the season for winter blahs, endless cups of tea, difficult awakenings, and increased indolence. January lies within that particular limbo of “nothing going on yet” and recovering from too much going on. We are grateful to be healthy and to have the wherewithal to be a little bored. Bored right now is good.

2016 seems to be moving at a shocking clip — it seems inconceivable that we’re getting tax forms already, and looking at bills for car registration and insurance and all the other cyclical things that come round again and again. By this time of month, people have stopped going on about resolutions and have gone back to fearmongering about politics — what if my candidate doesn’t win? — fearmongering about the weather — what if after this El Nino, there’s another La Nina cycle with NO MORE RAIN?? — and in general bickering, unpleasant, cantankerous realities of American society. Definitely time to turn off the …everything, and go outside.

Pleasant Hill 465

It’s odd how to think how much we’ve forgotten about a rainy season. We’ve been wakened by wind and rain more than once these past few weeks, have watched the previously dead square of yard tentatively take on a furred green aspect as tiny seeds of …something germinate. (Oh, please God, may it not be the ivy again. It took us WEEKS to dig that out. It’s probably ivy. *sigh*) Between the wooden slats of our deck, beneath the bird feeder, eight sunflowers stretch bravely toward the leaden sky. They’re all about four inches tall, but distinctive. If we could transplant them, we would. The dying pine trees — still standing, because the owner can’t decide on a company to come and remove them — seem like they’re shedding pine needles in thick carpets in order to provide hiding places for the tiny, darting birds which have multiplied by the hundreds. Even the hummingbirds – suspiciously hovering and glowering at all comers – have slowed their usual frantic circling to simply sit in the yard and watch this season unfold.

The Wees are selling oranges at their elementary school, and while our weekly farm box provides us with plenty of cabbage, root veg and citrus, we agreed to buy a bag. In the spirit of trying to use everything in the veg box that we can — we’re still making kimchi and pickling carrots and cauliflower — T. bodged a bunch of oranges in a pot the other afternoon and decided to make marmalade.

We’ve been in the marmalade frame of mind before. It didn’t go well. D. worked so hard to thinly slice oranges and lemons and carefully weigh out all the ingredients… and it never set. Worse, it bubbled over and made a mess, and we ended up tossing a lot of it after we scraped it off of the stovetop. This time, T. sliced the oranges by hand instead of with a mandolin, added some cloves, just because, put in a random amount of sugar, and … mainly forgot about it. This we call “serendipitous cooking.” As in, it’s serendipity that it didn’t scorch, boil over, otherwise implode, and it’s actually good. It worries T. when she manages things that D. hasn’t managed… mainly because she can’t figure out how it happened.

Marmalade 2

Marmalade aficionados suggest softening rinds with a long, liquid reducing boil, not overstirring the marmalade after it’s reached a boil, potting the jam when it’s warm, and not piping hot, and making sure the thinly sliced citrus fruits are not too thin. British marmalade is made with the peel separated from the fruit, but T. didn’t bother zesting the oranges, and ended up turning them off midway through the cooking process for an appointment. Putting them back up to boil afterward may have done good things for the pectin formation. Some marmalade makers add the sugar near the end of the procedure, to keep the end product clear and brighter in color. Others add brown sugar, to create a deeper flavor. Since we have a whole haul of frozen and sliced oranges in the freezer, we look forward to trying out a few of these ideas.

As it stands, this marmalade is quite good, reminiscent of the bittersweet and sticky Dundee marmalade we liked so well in Scotland. T promises next time to pot it in much smaller jars for sharing — until then, she encourages you to prep and freeze your own citrus glut; you never know what wonderful things marmalade can make better. D. likes it drizzled over pound cake or as a layer in a chocolate cake. Eventually, once we pull ourselves together to try angel food again, it will also go well with that…

Pleasant Hill 462

A hazy winter sun is emerging from behind a bank of gray-edged clouds. A piquant tanginess elevating winter’s earthy root offerings, the abundant orange is a little bit of sun to offset the tough darkness of what may turn out to be a pretty long winter. For that we can be nothing but grateful.