A couple of years ago, I took a photograph of a beach sunset. The photo was lovely but it did not catch the luminosity and vibrancy that I witnessed that evening. I finished this painting last night– actually a triptych of panels since I did not have an appropriate sized canvas– that teased out the truth of my experience of that evening.
Last year I bought myself a decent camera because I had this idea that I would be able to get back into photography. That did not come to pass because one thing after another came up to get in the way.
The shelter-in-place mandate by my county has been extended to the middle of May and my workplace will not allow us back until the end of May. So I have plenty of time on my hands. Instead of just standing by and waiting for the all-clear, I thought I would put my camera to use.
Since I cannot go anywhere, I will need to be satisfied with what I can shoot around my home and in my neighborhood. This morning I figured out how do use my long range lens. I sat on my patio for a while waiting for the hummingbirds to feed on my nasturtiums as well as house finches and Black Phoebes to splash in the birdbath. However, a murder of crows roosting in a Jacaranda tree on the property next door was creating havoc by terrorizing the mourning doves, cavorting mid-air with each other and hollering back-and-forth at full-volume. They managed to scare off all small birds in neighborhood, so all I managed were some shots of my flowers and bees. It’s gonna take a while to get that proverbial money shot.
That’s OK. It seems like I’m in this for the long-haul.
It is day 17 of my new normal. Fortunately, I have work to do at home during the week, but the evenings and weekends are a little long. I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, gardening, and wasting way too much time on YouTube. However, I did find a video of Jamie Oliver making the easiest soda bread ever made. So this morning for something to do I made it, and I am fairly pleased with the result. ( A link to the video is below). I call it “soup can soda bread” because you use an empty soup can as the measuring cup for the flour and liquid.
Mix together a soup can of all purpose flour, a can of whole wheat flour, and a can of milk. Buttermilk is better, but I didn’t have it. Instead I mixed some milk with some yogurt. Add a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of honey, and 2 teaspoons of baking soda. I added a few sprinkles of rolled oats for some texture.
When the dough is mixed, plop it out onto a floured board and just give it a few kneads to shape it into a ball. Sprinkle the bottom of the baking pan with a little flour, put the loaf into it, sprinkle more oats on top, and score an X into it.
Put the pan into a preheated 400 F (200 C) degree oven. The recipe calls for it to bake for 20 minutes, but mine was a little underdone in the center. So the next time I do this, I will bake it for 25 minutes, and then test the center with a knife. Every oven is a little bit different. Other than that, I am very pleased with the result:
The whole process took about 35 minutes, including clean up.
So that’s what I’ve done so far this morning. What are all of you doing to get through your lockdown or social isolation? Stay well, everyone.
Like hundreds of millions of people all over the world, I am trying to practice some social distancing during the pandemic. In order to “isolate” for several weeks, I ventured out to do some shopping for essentials to have on hand. At 6 o-my-sweet-Moses-in-the-morning in the darkness and in a pouring rainstorm, I went to one of the local warehouse stores hoping to avoid a crowd and possible exposure to the virus. That idea didn’t work too well. When I arrived there were already about 50 or 60 people waiting to get into the store along with me. I knew the crowds would only get worse so I took the plunge and got in line.
Seriously, I wasn’t there to hoard. I simply wanted to get some pantry staples. For example, I thought I would get a few rolls of paper towels. However, all the store had were huge packs of 24 rolls. I don’t need that many rolls of paper towels and to have purchased them would have been hoarding. So I left them for somebody else. I’ll use old fashioned fabric towels and wash them. It’s better for the environment anyway.
A lot of shelves were empty, but in spite of what I have seen on the news — people fighting over toilet paper and other insane behaviors– everyone I engaged was polite and in some cases even jovial in the attempt to take the edge off the tension. I quickly worked through my list: a few canned items, hand sanitizer, cartons of shelf-safe nut milk, oatmeal, and chocolate. (I can’t face a global crisis without chocolate). Then I checked out and high-tailed it home.
I had originally planned to fill my day with garden work, but since the rain has made that impossible, I had to find something else to occupy the day. I’ve made an inventory of my pantry (I’m good on food and toiletries for several weeks), I fooled around on social media, and now I am writing. This evening I plan to read. I cannot– CANNOT– watch one more minute of the news. It is not that the news about the pandemic frightens me. More to the point, it unsettles me. I am anxious. Not so much about my getting sick, but about things like what this is doing to the stock market, and the global economy, how does this affect my doing my job next week, and how do I keep myself sane when I am spending so much time alone. By the way, Alexa is not very good at holding sustained conversations.
Yesterday, a friend of mine had a digital copy sent to me of a well-known book on Zen meditation. So tomorrow, Sunday, since my diocese has cancelled worship services, I may sit and try to meditate instead. I have the next few weeks to worry about the state of things. Tomorrow, though, I will take a few minutes and try to find some calm in this storm.
Stay well everyone.
ljg (c) 2020
I was astonished to realize that I have written nearly 100 poems. I write poetry from time-to-time and for challenges like NaPoWrimo, but I guess it adds up over the years. Even though I identify myself as a poet on my “About” page, I still have a hard time embracing it. Poetry seems to be cool and hip only within a relatively small community of like-minded word nerds, such as myself. I have had friends read my poems and snicker. Or sometimes they say things like, “It doesn’t rhyme.” They don’t stop to look at internal rhymes, alliterations, assonances, meter, metaphors, evocative themes and all the other characteristics of poetry.
Most people I know don’t read or even like poetry. It is not mainstream anymore, not since before the radio and television age when poem-casting, along with story-telling and singing, were how our ancestors amused themselves around a fire in the evening.
Maybe I am not a poet and don’t know it.
Maybe, though, I have a different definition of poetry. For me, poetry is not merely a form of entertainment or a literary art form to be mastered. For me, poetry is crafting an economy of words intended to convey subtle, evocative, expressive ideas in unique, brief, and innovative ways. I write poems to hone my word-smithing abilities. Poetry is a writing exercise for me. Poetry is not a noun; it is a verb. It is about the process, not the product.
I know I’ve harped on this idea in past posts, but I will say it again: I don’t mind if I am not a good poet. Like any true nerd, I don’t care what people think as long as I am doing what I enjoy.
If you are at all interested in reading some of my poems, here is a link to all 30 poems from last year’s NaPoWrimo challenge: https://misspelicansperch.wordpress.com/2019/04/
I have always been a bit of a lazy, undisciplined wretch when it comes to a morning spiritual/wellness practice. Oh, I do just fine with the functions of the day job. In fact, I get criticized for being a bit too rigid in my routines and processes. But when it comes to doing those things that strengthen and motivate my interior life, well, not so much. I’ve tried but usually backslide in a few days after “re-committing myself to my practice.”
But then I decided to collaborate with some technology I have on hand and it has made all the difference.
To make a long story short, I created a “routine” on one of those digital personal assistants. (I don’t want to name names because she wakes up every time I say her name and won’t shut up.) Anyway. I programmed “she-who-must-not-be-named” to run a routine that I activate when I wake that gives me the date, time, weather, news brief, and then an in-bed yoga routine where the last asana gets me out of bed and on my feet. From there I can manage a few sun salutations. When I end with the savasana, I tell HER to play some appropriate music and set a timer for 10 minutes. I know then that I can meditate and pray without falling back to sleep on the floor.
After this, I set another timer for doing devotional reading and journaling. When that timer goes off, I proceed with getting ready for the day job, preparing breakfast, and packing lunch. Finally, I set one more timer to tell me when to leave for work. This usually is enough time for me to eat, watch the news, and maybe even work in my sketch book.
So far, so good. But it’s only been one day. So we’ll see.
The ancient sages and devotees managed their spiritual practices by watching the movement of the sun and being accountable to each other in the communities where they lived. I guess I am a little like that too — except my abbess is some AI chick in a little round container.
There is an expression that suggests when a person is being “lead down the garden path” that she is being deceived. I do not know who first postulated this idea, but I do know there was once a wizard who said, “all who wander are not lost”. I would rather wander down the garden path with Gandalf anytime.
Winter rains, cool nights
Green grass, red bark, orange boughs—
A compost pile looms
I sometimes feel overwhelmed at the enormity of what we must do to save this planet. As fires rage and oceans rise, as lands become barren and the path we walk along the edge of extinction crumbles away before us, I still feel hope. I am one simple woman. What can I do? I will take my one small corner of green that I am blessed to steward and plant flowers. Sounds silly and naive? Tell that to mourning doves who graze in my garden and the hummingbirds who hover about, and the bees who come looking for my lavender and rosemary. And when I plant milkweed and borage this spring, I hope the butterflies will come. That is what I am doing. Even if all I had was an apartment balcony, I would put out a pot of flowers to feed a passing pollinator. Before I start though, I need to show a little humility and perhaps, to use an old fashioned term, a little repentance for my part in damaging the planet. Then I will put on my gardening gloves and get to work– sowing one tiny seed at a time.
It just seemed appropriate that our drum circle fell upon the day of the winter solstice. I can imagine those ancient celebrations had much the same flavor.
It is amazing that the sublime deliciousness of a chocolate chip cookie is comprised of nothing more than some ordinary ingredients from the pantry cabinet. I really think it is magic.