Ten years ago—I can’t believe it’s been that long—I was big into photo manipulation and the creation of what I called “Digital Constructions”. I made a deck of cards depicting a series of animal archetypes. This card, the Raven, was a manipulation of a photo of a raven I took in a park Unfortunately, I cannot find the original photograph.
Today is supposed to be a major holiday where I live. But there is no excitement for me today. It is going to be just like any other Saturday. I will work in my garden, do my laundry and get rid of some recyclables. I may even vacuum. It will be more of a day of quiet circumspection than a day for watching fireworks and eating barbecue.
Last week my dryer broke down. Right now I am not inclined to get it fixed. There are several reasons for this, but basically I just don’t want to deal with it. It just seems so irrelevant in the middle of all the global chaos. Instead, I bought a clothesline and some old-fashioned wooden clothespins and this morning I hung my wet laundry out to dry in a discreet place in my yard.
I noticed right away that this is a slow process. It is not just throwing the clothes in a metal box and pressing a button. I had to take my time and hang things properly. It was pleasant standing out in the warm summer sun. I was transported me back to my childhood before we had a dryer in the house and watched my mother tend to this task. (I am sure my mother would not have seen this chore in the same way as I do now which is why I suspect we eventually got a dryer. And ask me my feelings about this again in January when I can’t hang my clothes out because of the freezing rain.).
But today in my yard near my sunflowers and ripening tomatoes, in the midst of a global pandemic, financial crisis, and social unrest, I am reflecting on the state of the world and finding a few minutes of serenity. Or at least I will try.
Music is a big part of my worship experience, and since we cannot go to a physical church these days to do that– and when we return, there still will be no singing so to keep the Virus from spreading– I have been trying to make my own music. I fell in love with the steel tongue drum when a drummer-buddy of mine let me play his. I finally got one and now I can sink into live music once more. Here is a little demo:
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.
I did not create this. But since it is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent in the Christian Church Calendar, which starts of period of spiritual introspection, I thought sharing these “Lenten fast” ideas a rather cool way to kick start the season. This comes from St. Dennis Catholic Church. I hope they don’t mind me sharing it. I will try to do as many as practically possible.
It is St. Briget’s Day and though it is not astronomically the first day of Spring, it seems like many folks are putting behind them the dark, cold days of winter and turning towards lighter and warmer days. Pagans celebrate this day with a feast called Imbolc, honoring the goddess Briget while some Christians have folded this celebration into their belief system by commemorating an Irish nun, also named Briget, as a saint. On Sunday, the church also will commemorate Jesus’ presentation at the temple. Historically, many of the devoted have brought their candles to church on this day for a blessing (Candlemas), a symbolic linking to the belief that Jesus is the Light of the World.
Let’s not forget that tomorrow many in North America will observe Groundhog Day, a weather-forecasting tradition brought to the new world by German immigrants. If a groundhog sees his shadow on this day, then there will be six-more weeks of inclement weather.
It seems that these celebrations, commemorations, and observations focus on themes of light and the turning of time, and this integration of themes has resulted in February 1, 2 and 3 becoming the unofficial start of Spring. It seems like we can’t help ourselves but to look forward to longer and warmer days.
I myself can see the sun rising higher in the sky each day and its rays beginning to creep across my yard. That being the case, I had better get to work in the garden and start planting some lettuce and beets.
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.
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.