Tuesday, September 27, 2011

More Mindfulness

Yesterday I focused on my breath. Got a anatomy book out and located my lungs.

Then I forgot my focus, as usual. But once or twice caught it and was surprised as an old dog might be by the successful catch of a squirrel. Got it by the tail, Master! Look, here it is, my breath, hanging upside down in my teeth! Master! Look! Woof!

Woof! was the sound of my breath leaving my body. Gone. On to the next doggish task.

Gnawing on things. Licking. Barking at things.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do You Know Where Your Lungs Are?

I didn't. And was breathing into the wrong place. Dummy.

They begin a bit above your collarbone, and are small. They end at your bra-closure if you wear a bra. If you don't wear a bra, they end where, if you did wear one, you would hook and eye it.

They don't hang way down on either side of your torso like Dali clocks, like I thought they did.

Turns out there ain't no lung in your belly. So all that talk about "belly breathing?" in yoga and meditation. It's a metaphor. It's so confusing. Turns out I've been breathing in to and out of -- my small intestine. Dummy.

No wonder I breathe little puffs, and sometimes not at all.

Better to choose yet another metaphor and breathe, into your armpits. There might actually be lung there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Joy of Cooking recipes, Or, A Life

"Galantine of Fowl," taken from The Joy of Cooking, the 2006 edition, defines the rush of early love: "it is an extravagant production that begins with the boning process."

Ten years into marriage I can say that our boning process is short.

Married life is more often like "Crispy Roast Duck:"

"pull out the pieces of fat from the openings of the body and neck cavities, then place duck down on a V-rack and prick the skin all over in 20 to 30 places." But why limit the merciless pricking?

Add children. From "About Rolled, Molded and Shaped Cookies."

"Shaping cookies is such fun that children should be encouraged to learn to make them for themselves." I very much agree. Let them make bread too, and raise themselves, with their own yeast, I say.

Over time, with age, you become "A Preserve." "If pulp in the bag is still flavorful and does not contain seeds or tough bits of peel. Then simmer down to fruit-butter thickness, adding a few sweet spices, if desired."

But do not go so gentle in that good night of "Jellies and Preserves", a few tough bits are good, for texture, and chew.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Obstacle and The Path

"The obstacle is the path." - Zen proverb

Let that sink in and make your brain sizzle and hurt.

Hurt in a good way, in the way that Zen proverbs are supposed to make your brain burn, and your mind confused, so that you bypass your consciousness, so that you "live the layers, not in the litter," as poet Stanley Kunitz wrote.

That line, he said, came to him in a dream.

The obstacle is the path and the dream becomes the line.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A List of The Common Adjectives Describing Chocolate

The mouthfeel is lush, like a mid-century nude.
The texture is a Renaissance fox-brown velvet worn by a countess who also that evening at the opera seria was wearing Venetian gold and her lover.

The color is rich.

The flavor of chocolate is intense, chocolatey, sometimes even green with high notes of Spice Road, and base notes of forbidden temples crawling with lianas and big-leafed, heart-shaped addictive plants in the tropics.

Friday, September 16, 2011


I wrote in a legal notebook for the first time in awhile and later picked it up. What are those cuniforms and pictographs, I wondered, what is that -- is that English? It could be Aramaic.

I didn't have to read what I'd written, and I wouldn't have been able to. I was simply writing as a hand/brain/pen exercise, as one might try to draw a basket of paper bags, as I was instructed to do once in an art class, and failed to.

Oh, I thought, so that's my handwriting. I write like I'm a big shot pharmacist in a hurry to have an affair, and a drink.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Basket of Figs

My mother is is philosophical about figs, looks at a basket of them and sighs.

It's fall, she says, with the weltschmerz available to those who are German. It's really, truly fall. Gone is spring, she says, taking a bite. At least these, in their perfect ripeness, at lease these, right before their ultimate decay, they're perfect. I had a melancholic childhood, obviously.

However, there were figs, and plenty of them: big fat California ones that when the juice ran down your chin hinted of another way of life, a hedonistic, embodied Mediterranean way, where for fun people talked loud, and danced, and at weddings they shot fireworks into the air, and didn't read Goethe.

A big fig tree grew by the farmhouse and my mother would be thrilled as only the German can be thrilled to forage in its branches. I was instructed to hold the colander, and I loved it's various heavinesses as my mother worked. First, a puppy in my arms, then it would be so full of purple figs, it'd feel like Newfoundland.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Zen Master Goes Back-To-School Shopping

When the back to school shopper shops, the furrow is smooth, as when the plough driver drives the plough, and the oxen pull. It is not hard to understand!

When breathing, breathe!

When finding three ring binders and ball point pens, just find them. Go to isle 7 and find them!

Here is a koan. Customer Service, how does one translate this? Mu, in Japanese, or Wu, in Chinese. Or, in English, nothingness.

Have a goal and simultaneously have no goal, like the good archer, or, the harried mother in the sutra of The All-White Sneakers, With A No-mark Sole.

Like a river that stays within it's banks, this is our way, joriki, the power of concentration on kelly green polo shirts that are suitable for uniforms.

How the swans land on the lake is how you want to approach the checkout line.

But that comes with practice.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Left Over

My husband accuses me of putting whatever into a pot and adding what's on hand and calling it dinner. But that's my magic, I remind him.

In a half-lemon, I see a challenge, in a wilting bunch of beets. Quinoa. Perhaps one could make a gallette? A potage? Top the thing with feta and call it Greek-style. I've found sunchokes, clamoring in the crisper for something to do, some larger purpose.

Occasionally the melange is sublime, like great art, and like great art, unrepeatable. No one asked Van Gogh to paint another starry night or sunflowers, likewise no one has ever asked for a repeat of Potato In Phyllo. However, as Churchill said about life, but could have said about cooking for a family with young children: "success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm."

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Alone At Last

I smell the wet earth smell of #2 pencils and know apples are ripening. On the squat, perfectly round pumpkins, the farmers are setting their price.

For the first time in two months, the sounds of my own breathing, and the endless dryer, are the only sounds in the house. Shiva be praised! Ho! Four directions! No one is demanding my attention. The sheets are folded and in the closet, not purple-crayoned and bunched up down the hallway, a course for the river of running, shouting kids.

No one is hooting things I don't understand like, "She touched my penguin!" so I don't have to know what it all means. All I have to make is my own lunch, and write. Godamnit.

I consider this. I wanted this. Just me and the dryer and in the orchard, the apples, with the kids back at school; aloneness, but it is like the door a dog is always on the wrong side of.