Wednesday, February 27, 2013

monkey mind

Just got back from my yard work side job and am slurping down some lentil soup while still wearing my sweat-drenched long johns.  Don't worry - a shower is next on my agenda :)

I am one of those people who is in the habit of being over-analytic.  I am breaking this habit ever so slowly, but it's deeply entrenched and may take a lifetime to conquer.  But that's okay.  In the meantime I have a mixture of days where I successfully follow my intuition and enjoy life and other days where I become a miserable heap of 'what if?????????'  My mom always says that all her philosophical problems can be solved in the garden.  She seems to be prone to epiphanies and resolutions.  I, on the other hand, am prone to questions, and 'monkey mind' where my thoughts and emotions wander all over the place, like a chimp swinging through vines... until he is accidentally tangled up in them and rendered immobile and panicked.  Today while chopping real life vines, ripping rusted wire fencing out from under ivy, clipping and digging, I found two prominent things looping around in my head.  One:  "Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't!  Almond Joy has nuts; Mounds don't!"  Followed by:  "MICKEY MOUSE! DONALD DUCK!!  MICKEY MOUSE!  DONALD DUCK!!"  I promise I am not mentally ill.  I am laughing though.  I have no idea why those were there.  Interspersed between the recurring little songs, my thoughts flowed freely... a melange of memories and possible daydreams of my future.  I didn't experience any kind of conclusion, resolution or epiphany.  But, I did coast home on my bike, weaving from side to side of the quiet, sunny street, and I felt happy and worry-free, like a drunken pirate with my insulated overall pockets full of golden coins! (Yes, the man I'm working for sometimes pays me in dollar coins.  It is fun!)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

super delicious gluten-free peanut butter cookies!

 Today was a very good day - productive and smooth-flowing... somehow things seemed to fall into place of their own accord, and lots got done.  In the morning I rode my bike over to a man's house on the other side of the block.  I've been helping him clear the lot next to his, which has been neglected for a long time, and he and his wife recently purchased.  I've been getting lots of good exercise there.  I even use a  kind of rotary blade that is somewhat similar to a weed-eater, except int stead of string, a steel blade spins at the end.  I've been using it to eradicate ivy that has spread a thick, vine carpet along and over the embankment that stretches along the property line.  There are countless rocks and bricks and all sorts of debris mixed in with the ivy.  Anyway, not long after I got there at 8:30 this morning, I found myself in the grips of a major bout of cramps.  I considered telling the man I was going to have to go home, but I wasn't sure how I would word it, and I wanted to go forward with the job.  I remembered reading anecdotes from much older women who claimed that the best thing to do when overcome with menstrual cramps is to chop wood.  So today I tried out that approach.  Sure enough, by the time I was drenched in sweat, I wasn't in pain anymore!  (Well, except for my upper body... and I might end up looking like an amateur body builder by the time this derelict lot is all cleaned up!!)

While at the grocery store later today, I bought the yellow roses (pictured above) for my table.  My whole living room smells like them, which is very uplifting!
 In between chores and painting, I enjoyed the sunlight in my apartment.  And I also made peanut butter cookies.  This is a recipe from my wonderful friend Nora.  It is very, very simple.
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg white
1 t. backing soda
1/4 cup chopped peanuts
1 t. vanilla extract
Mix it all up thoroughly, form into balls (about ping pong size) and mash with fork tines.  Makes about 15 hunky cookies.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.  Leave them on the tray to cool.  They are very brittle until they are completely cool.  And beware - they are deathly rich.

Monday, February 18, 2013

a snowball of positive energy

new leaves coming out on the rose bush
 Before you realize what has even happened, and without intending to, you can find yourself absolutely sick and tired of the life you're leading.

What little things could be making you sick?  It could be a highway you travel too often, lined with ugly gas stations and strip malls competing for your visual energy, making you feel like all the wildness and mystique has been paved out of the journey.  It could be a lack of money.  It could be a fear that you wouldn't quite know how to be happy even if money were no object.   You might feel trapped in a job that has nothing to do with anything that makes your heart sing.  You might be sleep deprived.  You might have overwhelming questions about love or taxes.  You might feel crowded or bossed by people you feel are really irritating and unappreciative.

But there is something that can help almost any condition of malaise or discontent.  It is something that brings comfort no matter how uncertain you are, and can little by little lift up your spirit for making big positive, refreshing change in your life.  There are breadcrumbs leading you forward as you are learning how to navigate your woes.  All you have to do is look around you - even if you're on the toilet, you might see that you have sufficient (or ample if you're lucky) toilet paper.  I always feel rich when I have 3 or more rolls on the shelf.  Really enjoy the process of making coffee.  (DO NOT try to get the coffee made ASAP so you can run off, spill it, and drink it when it is still too hot, not even tasting it, probably burning your tongue; or get caught up doing something else and forgetting about it until it is cold).  Listen to water boiling while you're cooking.  Really feel the smooth wood of a banister under your palm.

When all else fails, we still have sensory beauty all around us.   A collection of 3-second pauses filled with love and gratitude scattered throughout a day can grow powerful enough over the course of weeks and months to change your life.  The positive energy will snowball.  Too often we wait for happiness or beauty, and we expect it to be loud and splashy.  It might be true that a lot of people live a lot of their lives feeling dreary, waiting for one little week of vacation each year so they can take their shoes off on the beach.  But we are supposed to seek out beauty and inspiration every day.  There is always something beautiful nearby that needs your attention, even if it's small and quiet.

sunlight on my wall, filtered through the old blown glass windowpanes 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

hanging basket

 On Saturday I got some new plants, including this asparagus fern, which, for the moment at least, I'm enjoying hanging in a basket above my desk.   I can't say why, but I like it when a house feels a little bit under construction.  Not in an uncomfortable way, like with sheet rock dust or splintery floors... but so that it feels like the furniture and decoration hasn't been in the same place for too long, and that it could all be rearranged to suit circumstances at any given time.  I much prefer half-painted cabinetry or rough looking walls that have recently had wallpaper stripped off them to a room that is smothered in wall to wall carpeting and drapes that match the sofa.  I've also always thought it would be great to live in an inventor's house or the house of a biologist or mapmaker from a long time ago... with interesting tools and objects under study everywhere.  There shouldn't be an air of stagnancy, but one of activity and discovery, movement, flux and flow and fresh air So maybe that is why I like having this fern hanging with a length of thick upholsterer's piping.  I can almost pretend like it's on a pulley and I could hide a journal in it and reel it up every evening after writing things I don't want other household members to read.  (In which case I'd have to remember not to let anyone else water the fern).  Anyway, I may or may not leave this arrangement for long, but for now, I like it!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

multitasking is silly!

For some reason, I launched into making old fashioned popcorn on the stove top while making candied walnuts and setting a new pair of candles in candlestick holders all at the same time.

I'd washed the candlestick holders and put them out on the kitchen counter and put the candlesticks in them.  They were top heavy and slanted to one side, but I had to leave them and dash back to the stove to stir the walnuts and shake the popcorn before they burnt.  Only a few seconds into the stirring and shaking at the stove, there was a crash.  The new candlesticks had fallen onto the floor, broken, and one of the glass wax catchers that sits on the candlestick holder was shattered.  The other one was still whole.

Oh I was SO angry, and frustrated, and disappointed too...   I had to cry a little bit while I swept up the shards to help let go of my emotions.  The candles weren't expensive, but they were pretty... luminescent milky white, and just moments before they'd been whole and enfolded in newsprint as the shopkeeper yesterday had wrapped them so thoughtfully... and I was really looking forward to the light they were going to shed on the dinner table.

If I'd been giving someone CPR and the candles had fallen, well then who cares?  But I'd only been trying to do too many things at the same time.  If I had waited until the popcorn and the walnuts were all done, and then tended to the candles, all would be well.  Instead of feeling rushed, I could've enjoyed the sound of the olive oil simmering and the popcorn hitting the lid of the pot.  I could've appreciated the subtle change in color as the walnuts browned.  But instead, I ended up with broken candles and feeling tired and a little grouchy.

What good came of it?  A healthy reminder that less is more, and that multitasking is not a good idea.  The object of quotidian life is to enjoy it as much as possible, not to scramble through it dividing your efforts.  By focusing individually on the things you're obliged to do on a daily basis - like cooking or cleaning or conversing with people - you can absorb a lot of wonder and pleasure, even from the mundane.  Whenever you divide your attention between too many things, your experience of them is also fractured.  You end up feeling scattered, your chance of creating a sensory memory is diminished... and who wants to feel scattered anyway?  So here's to eliminating senseless multitasking from daily life!