Category Archives: Everyday Life

STAR BIRTH

 

“It’s morning, swan, wake up, climb in the air, follow me!” Kabir

 

“Will the highs ever be as high as the lows are low?” asked a woman who had been dragged under the waves once too often.  

There are many reasons to feel down and out lately. The lows can feel very low indeed. Yet, is it our goal to always be riding a wave? When I reframe the question from ease and pleasure to one of learning, I see value in whatever I experience, because I can learn from just about anything. For instance, I like sweets, but I don’t eat pie and pudding all day long. It may be pleasant for a while, but sometimes I need garlic, broccoli, and wild rice. It’s a matter of nutrition. I choose what nourishes me in the long run and allows me to grow.

In a similar way, suffering can help me grow, as it carves out space in my heart for more compassion. I’m not always in a place of light and peace. My friend sent me a beautiful essay she’d written about her aunt. Then she sent me a note, regretting it. She worried I’d be troubled by the account of her aunt’s brutal cancer treatments. Yes, the story evoked emotions and yes, it did remind me of how weak and ill chemotherapy made me feel when I had treatment. But I assured my friend that she need not hold back in sharing such things. These stories are about my people; they are where I find fellowship with those who know what I’ve been through. It is not a morbid interest; it is a kinship. And it’s not just cancer. We’re all struggling with something.

I’ve read that the densest clumps of matter in the Eagle Nebula become stars. The cloudy bits become bright, shedding light that will reach the Earth in a millennium or so. I’m learning through all the highs and lows, days and nights. They can all be useful to me. The black pumice stone of sorrow polishes my rough spots until I glow once again – softer this time, with ears to listen and tears for your pain.

When I’m feeling cloudy, I know it’s time to call on my Better Self. Her resources are fresh air, loved ones, and prayers. Sunshine, when available. Naps help, too. I recharge both my super and subtle powers. How do I reactivate my hope muscle? Sometimes with quiet breath and sometimes with noisy dancing. And by visiting the trees. You come, too. The morning star is up.

Eagle Nebula, a star nursery

SHEEP MOB

Tunis Sheep

I made quinoa peanut butter cookies one day. They contained no wheat, which meant I could eat them without upsetting my stomach. I thought the cookies were buttery and delicious, so I took some to our daughter, Emily who lives nearby. When I later asked her over the phone how she and her fiancé Alex liked them, she told me, “Mom, we don’t need to eat gluten-free. We can eat regular cookies.” That seemed silly to me. A cookie is a cookie. Then, as if to take the sting out of her rejection, she said, “The sheep liked them though.”

“Wait. What? You fed them to your sheep?” On their farm, Emily and Alex have a small herd of Tunis, an ancient breed of sheep with coppery-brown faces and bodies billowing with creamy wool. I didn’t know sheep ate anything besides grain and hay.

“Yeah,” she said, “they were climbing on top of each other to get them, they liked them so much.” After that, I started calling the cookies “sheep treats.” At least I had some four-legged fans of my baking.            

In February, I went to the farm to see some newborn lambs, which emerge a cinnamon brown color, so adorable. I had a plastic bag in my pocket with some of my homemade sheep treat cookies inside. No matter that it was tightly sealed. As soon as I went through the gate to the hilltop meadow, the ewes stopped nibbling grass, raised their heads, and laser focused on me. It was a little eerie how quickly they clustered around me. My attention was so much on the sweet, new lambs that I forgot I had treats for their mothers. Emily, however, noticed the adult sheep nuzzling my red, wool coat. “Do you have something in your pocket, Mom?”

Barbara at the farm

“Oh, yeah.” When I pulled out the bag and opened it, that’s when I was in the middle of a sheep riot. Bleating and grumbling, a dozen or so woolly clouds bumped into me, begging for a cookie. The sheep in the back climbed onto the plush bodies of the ones in front to get closer to the treats. In their haste and my nervousness, it was difficult to feed the sheep. Emily managed to get a couple cookies in their mouths, but all the treats I offered crumbled at their assault.            

That was a little crazy. Nevertheless, a bad day getting mobbed by sheep is still a pretty good day. Sheep are a treat for me and I’ll keep on making treats for them, my biggest fans. 

Tunis lamb

QUINOA COOKIES, aka, Sheep Treats (from my box of Ancient Harvest quinoa flakes)

Preheat oven to 350 F

Ingredients

Mix: 1/2 cup butter, 1/3 cup brown sugar (or a dash of maple syrup), 1/2 cup honey, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 cup peanut butter.

Add: 3/4 cup quinoa flakes, I cup rice flour, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix well. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12- 15 minutes until golden brown. Cool for a couple minutes before removing from sheet.