Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Under the Harvest Moon Soup.

The fall of our hearts

And the light faints.

But the colors

Still stain our eyes.

DSCN0909I wrote that poetic bit to mark the end of summer and to welcome in autumn. As far back as my memory will allow this time of year has always made me sad. With a tendency towards melancholy at the best of times, Labor Day weekend is like a freighter that transports me from the light and easy to the dark and serious. For those first few lingering days afterwards, until my eyes adjust to the changing light, when the large blue skies abbreviate and foretell. The feeling of loss that another glorious summer has come and gone, the lazy hazy days are over. It’s back to school. Or business. Life, without beach sand between my toes. I miss it. Pine for it. Beckon it back. Beg it to stay just another month or two. But that’s not the way of summer, North of the 49.

Goodbye to the pastel evening skies. Oh, but hello to early morning light that shimmers and casts rusty hues on the arcing limbs of the Garry Oak trees.

Back into the kitchen, overlooking my reluctant rocky garden, I prepare earthy vegetables for Under The Harvest Moon Soup featuring our volunteer summer squash.

DSCN0892The ingredients.

It’s a simple recipe that involves cleaning out the crisper and roasting what you’ve got along with at least two squash, any kind. Our little miracles are a-corns. My crisper crop usually includes cauliflower, red and orange peppers, carrots, tomatoes, onions, celery, and garlic. Whatever you’ve got that goes with squash will work beautifully.

The method.

Lay these all out in a large baking dish. I use the spectacular Portmeirion baking dish that E gave me for Christmas a few years ago. It’s big and beautiful and roasts veggies to perfection.

Sprinkle with your favorite herbs and spices. For me, curry and turmeric are the perfect spices for squash soup so that’s what I sprinkle lavishly over the veggies. A little s ‘n p.

DSCN0895Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Pop in the oven at 350 degrees for at least an hour, or until the veggies are tender and getting that roasted look.

In no time at all, your kitchen will be infused with a sweet fragrant aroma, like none other. Take a moment to breathe it in. This will make you happy. You will smile.

While enjoying this culinary bliss, remove your magnificent morsels from the oven and set aside to cool. When cooled, blend with a vegetable broth or stock. I just use the Tetra Pak type you buy at the grocery store. But if you’re into making your own, that’s cool. Truth is, water works too since this is already a nutritious and delicious brew. You just need enough liquid to blend the veggies until they are pureed, smooth and creamy. Dump this into a large pot and add more seasoning if you like. I add more curry because I can never get enough. Because the veggies are already cooked, this baby is almost good to go.

DSCN0930Cover and simmer on low heat to slowly warm up the silky smooth veggies. Let them mingle with the sexy spices for a while. Once the soup is nice and hot, I add a tablespoon of butter. You don’t have to do this, of course. I just think butter makes everything better. Except for your butt. But that’s a whole other blog post.

The accompaniment.

Our family likes something starchy with our soup. Like homemade biscuits. Or any kind of crusty Italian bread. E likes Saltines. Enough said.

DSCN0935

Neil Young – Harvest Moon

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Garden of Little Big Things.

DSCN0818I’m big on the little things. The small, unexpected delights that make you smile. Or grin like a fool in love. Stand on your head and spit nickels. The unplanned moments and spontaneous incidences, with their elegant perfect brevity, that takes you by surprise. Then there are all those transitory things that are so easily overlooked or often passed by completely. Those are quite simply, the best. When you raise your head and say, ‘thank God I saw that.’

I also believe in everyday miracles. The tiny wonders that make you grateful.

This summer I was fortunate enough to bear witness to the innate generosity and enduring tenacity of the earth, quite literally beneath my feet. It began with a compost box in our backyard. Actually it began before that. With delicious winter meals of roasted squash and crispy green salads populated with grape and cherry tomatoes.

DSCN0834Little back story. Our house is built on a rock. A massive boulder that ascends heavenward less than ten feet from the back door. Steps have been cut and built into the rock so that you can climb it with ease. At the top it levels off into this lumpy grassy knoll in spring that is parched and stripped of color in summer and then mushy from the relentless rains of fall and winter. Always a farm boy at heart, E refers to this as his Back 40, but unlike his Annapolis Valley roots, where food crops grew in abundance, this little piece of paradise is canopied by Garry Oak Trees and shadowed by the Douglas Firs that tower like looming sentinels in the park that butts up against our property. We soon discovered, our first summer living here, that growing things to eat would be a challenge at best. And far too often, downright heartbreaking.

Like the early settlers and pioneers of the New World, E and I persevered. We were inspired by a deep yearning to sow good seeds, tend to them with loving kindness, watch them flourish and burgeon so that by summer’s end we could enjoy the harvest season, nature’s bounty, the abundance of Autumn. Surely this is what Mother Earth intended, even for gardens grown in difficult settings.

DSCN0971E persevered. I gave up.

Through tenacious experimentation with planting various and sundry seedlings, grew understanding, wisdom and respect for what we had in our Back 40. First and foremost, we accepted that it was different from any other garden we had ever grown. It did its own thing, for the most part. It was a maverick. In many ways, it was a mirror to our own natures.

Eventually E figured out what grew. And what didn’t. Blueberries for example, love the rocky ridged beds that E built and filled with enough earth for them to take hold and produce an abundance of juicy berries. We have over a dozen bushes now of different varieties, including pink blueberries. Who knew? On the very top of the rock, where the trees don’t block the sun, big bouquets of petunias grow beautifully in cobalt blue and burgundy glazed earthenware pots. And a variety of tall elegant grasses do well on the sunny slopes that flank the steps. In the long narrow bed that clings to the side of the rock, just outside our kitchen window, a grouping of succulents with tiny pink flowers that bloom in autumn have taken occupancy. I am a blessed woman.

One of the things we have grown to appreciate the most about this wild horse of a garden are all the things that grow naturally, without any help from us. For the rock knows what it needs and what it wants. Like all the wild flowers that grow in the tiny pockets in the rock. Purple things, little mysterious gems that pop up everywhere all year round. I don’t know their fancy Latin names. I just call them beautiful. Then there are the daisies with their sunny smiles that hang out on the side of the fishpond with the orange spiky lilies, red hots, the scraggly fuchsia bushes and overgrown grape vine. And of course, there are the clingers and hangers-on. The pale green lichens, the mossy carpet bits and the small-scale succulents.

DSCN0735The birds love it here too. Plus, they also do their share of planting. Without them, we wouldn’t have the pink and yellow funny-faced snapdragons.

But of all these miraculous things, the most wondrous of all, are what E calls “the volunteers”, a phenomenon of sowing and reaping that occurred for the first time this summer. One that took us by surprise, and delighted us, beyond measure. And to think, it all started last winter with roasted squash and tomato salads. And that black compost box.

In the spring E filled all the rocky beds with the rich mulch that he had been collecting all winter. And from that, six mystery squash plants and three tomato plants took hold. Sprouted and grew effortlessly. Miracle plants. Gracious gifts from God and Mother Earth.

We’ve spent the summer watching them do their own thing. Just doing what comes naturally, I suppose. Add a little sunshine and water to E’s well-mulched earth. And voila! Hallelujah! A miracle.

And we slow dance under the harvest moon.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: The Photograph.

ma me dog on back steps at 204I love taking pictures. It’s just another one of those things that I come by honestly. I’m not a Pro, nor do I aspire to be. I just like to take pictures. Plain and simple.

My parents loved to photograph the sundry events of our domestic life. Both momentous and intimate alike. All the milestones were covered. So were the trivial, trifling and trumpery.

While browsing through our old family albums, it’s always photos of the small everyday things that captivate me the most. The prosaic and mundane events capture my imagination like no other. For it is in these ordinary images that I see the unguarded details and accidental gestures. They become the grand movements that spawn wonder, and where unexpected beauty dwells.

Everything from Ma in the kitchen stirring the Saturday night pot of spaghetti, with the food-worn wooden spoon that had grazed many lips and touched all of our tongues with its tanginess. Or The Old Man sitting in his favorite orange velvet swivel rocking chair, with his oversized horn-rimmed glasses perched on his nose, engrossed in the evening edition of the Times Chronicle. The exquisiteness of the waning summer light glinting through the living room picture window upon my unwitting father takes my breath away and stills my heart.

There were the bigger things too.

Like the photo taken of me on the Sunday I got Confirmed. There I stood in front of the Kodak Brownie camera looking more like a reluctant blushing bride than a religious devotee, who had just received the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it was the combination of my not-so-holy Mona Lisa smile, the newly sanctified white leatherette Bible that I was clenching so fiercely to my precious budding bosom, and the unfashionable translucent off-white organza dress Ma bought from a secondhand shop just for this pious rite of passage. In the same cream-colored album, just a few pages later, there shines the real bride photo of my luminous sister-in-law in her fairytale wedding gown looking beyond radiant on the day she married my big brother.

Then there’s all those birthday party photos of me surrounded by my little friends in our fancy dresses and Sunday-best shoes. Sitting cross-legged on the grass or standing side-by-side posing, smiling and squinting into the glaring midsummer sun. Ma really knew how to throw a good party.

The silly lighthearted things were captured too. Like the night my sister decided to pin curl both my brothers’ hair. All the crazy amusing family antics. Giggling. Hoot and hollering. Laughing our guts out. All there. Perfectly preserved.

Pictures were taken everywhere. From the bathroom to the beach. Around the kitchen table and all around Lake Superior. In front of the Christmas tree and behind the back porch. Sitting on the front steps, the front lawn, the front seat of the car, in front of the TV, and in front of God.

Ma, in particular, had an abiding love for capturing the events of our lives. She had a Polaroid camera that brought her endless hours of fun and fascination. Its ability to seize a fragment of time instantaneously was a marvel to her. Holding the print in her fingers as the picture appeared within seconds. Right before her eyes. Pure magic. A modern day miracle. A wonder of wonders. Oh how she loved it so. I feel the same way about the photos I take on my iPhone. Mind blowing amazement.

As a result of all this finger-snapping photo-taking, I have a glorious visual documentation of my life. One that covers the panorama of events and emotions. From the bitter to the sweet. Snared at the intersection where joy meets sorrow. Where the profound punches the profane. The everyday and the spectacular events in the life of a regular ordinary family. Nothing special. Yet remarkable.

I have looked at these photos hundreds of times over the years. More so lately as I record the stories of my life growing up at 204.

The cracked and tattered black and white images from the early days. The washed-out color photos from the seventies. The blush-inducing eighties pics. All the nineties farewell kisses. Ma and The Old Man both died in early 2001, and with them went all the interesting, eccentric, peculiar, wonderful, joyful, melancholy, and magnificent photo ops.

There is a photo that I looked at this morning, as if for the very first time, although I had seen it countless times over the years. One of the black and whites taken by The Old Man.

My recollection of 204 was of a lovingly well-kept freshly painted white wartime house, with an enviable vegetable garden in back and beds of sunny happy Marigolds under the front window, with a beautiful Lilac bush that bloomed every June.

But this picture told a completely different story.

Staring down at the image in my hand I thought, “Holy shit. Were we really that fucking poor?” And then, shaking my head in disbelief, I thought, “The place was a run-down beat-up crummy shack.”

But as quickly as these thoughts passed through my mind, I saw this treasure of a photograph through my father’s youthful eyes.

Everything he held dear in life was in that photo. Ma, his beautiful Italian girl looking so lovely in her flowing cotton skirt of flowers. His shy baby girl with curious dark eyes just for him. The sweet gentle caramel colored mutt, with her ears perked up and dialed to his whistle. And of course, the leather baseball glove on the bottom step, ready for a game of catch.

Not so shabby.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Walking the Tightrope.

While Ma was lingering in her last weeks, and then days on Earth, I was walking a tightrope. It was surreal. Dreamlike most of the time. It was a delicate balance. How do you keep precious hope alive while you’re slipping headfirst into the long dark tunnel of despair?

The heart wants what the heart wants. But the head knows the hard cold truth. This cruel candor resided in the belly of the thin black line I traversed every minute of every one of those final evanescent days.

It was as though I was walking high above this fragile life that was unraveling. Thread by thread. Bit by bit. One piece at a time. Tiny fragments dissolving into dust.

There I was, out of my body. Looking down. A witness to my own personal heartbreak.

The line was taut. The emotions tauter. I was neither light on my feet. Nor was I nimble. There was no grace in my step. I was just there. Trying to breathe. Trying to keep it together. Whatever “it” was.

The multi-layers of tyrannizing fear permeated ever fibre and pore of my body. Suffocating my soul. Strangling my spirit. I was bound and gagged by the evil twins, anguish and anxiety.

Fear of losing Ma. Fear of life afterwards. Fear of going on without her. Fear of falling apart. Fear of my emotions and what they could do if unleashed. Fear for my family, especially my children. Fear that my heart would never be the same. Fear that I could not go on. Fear that I would.

Fear. Fear. Fear.

With each teetering step, I wondered if this was the defining one. The tripper. The one where all equilibrium was lost. The pivotal point where standing meets stumbling. The place where I falter. Then free fall.

Down. Down. Down.

Eventually, and inevitably, I did fall. It was inescapable. I couldn’t stay up there forever. I had to come back down to earth. Face the other inevitable. Ma was dying. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. Except be there.

In the end, falling was an epic relief. I would have let go sooner had I known that I had a safety net. It was there all along.

Yes, for I fell sweetly and safely into the arms of everyone who loved me.

 

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Letting Go.

tom and boo on the rocking chairA few weeks ago I gave up. Surrendered. Let it all go. Threw a private tantrum. Held a pity party for one. Screamed silent rage.

What exactly brought me to this place? What triggered it? How did I go from, life is pretty good to life is fucking shit? Why did I switch stations? Which straw broke the camel’s back?

I don’t know.

I wasn’t exactly blindsided but I didn’t see the point tipping either. Nor the stubborn brick wall that refused to budge. I only knew that I was too tired and weary to figure out a way around it. Or through it. Over or under. The gloves were off. I threw in the towel.

I’m not talking about your garden-variety physical tiredness, the kind that takes well to sensible homespun cures. A long hot luxurious bath. Lazy afternoon nap in the sun. Curling up with a good book and a glass of wine. Or simply getting a good night’s sleep with nothing but candy-coated honeysuckle dreams.

I’m talking about a malaise that at times appears so dark and impenetrable. So suffocating yet seductive. Like a Dark Hero who feeds off the tiredness deep inside my soul. The relentlessness of daily life becomes intolerable. The path is overgrown with thickets and prickly thorns. Abandoned by my guide, I grope for a lifeline. I struggle to keep my head above water.

The dove does not appear with the olive leaf.

Little back story. Two things happened in my first year of University. I got pregnant. And I made a conscious decision to be a better person. Partly for my son’s sake, but mostly for mine. I wanted us to have a bigger life than the one Ma and The Old Man lived. This notion, along with a burning desire to prove that I wasn’t a total loser, fueled my passions. Colored my every move.

I was highly motivated. I became a triple, possibly quadruple, Type-A Person. I had much to prove. I was a driven woman on a mission to change everything about myself that I deemed unworthy. Nothing worse than that.

With this ambitious desire for self-improvement came a lifelong pursuit of all things spiritual. I not only walked away from Christ Lutheran Church but I kicked any form of Christianity to the curb. I didn’t walk away from God, just the institution of religion and all that it entailed.

I wanted a deeper, more authentic relationship with my higher power. I wanted something real and meaningful. Personal and gritty. Truthful. No holds barred. I also wanted to feel better.

I became a seeker. Not just of wisdom. But of peace and beauty and truth. And the cynosure, my everlasting muse, love.

Along the way, I discovered my personal gurus and motivational mentors. Everyone from pop-psychology writers to spiritual superstars. Philosophers to fiction writers. Kindergarteners to Doctorates. From famous television hosts to an intimate circle of girlfriends. Colleagues and classmates. Poets. Artists. Musicians. Healers and helpers. All wise, witty and wonderful.

I voraciously read the books. Listened to the audio tapes. Recited the positive affirmations. Attended the lectures. Filled countless pages with lists of things I was grateful for. Gave thanks for everything, and everyone, from Gandhi to Mother Goose. I kept careful watch over my thoughts. Fearful that any negativity might manifest some really bad juju.

Thoughts become things. We are the creators of our world.

I smiled serenely. Like Buddha. Bowed my head. Breathed in the good and let out the bad. Walked barefoot. Sat silently. Practiced yoga and meditation. Got in touch with my body, mind and spirit. I did the cha cha cha.

All these things helped.

But there are times when it is exhausting. Bloody hard work. Being good, and constantly striving to be better, possibly vying for sainthood even, is downright taxing. Every now again it makes me cranky. Just like the two-year old lying on the concrete floor in the middle of the frozen food aisle at Walmart, I throw one hell of a tantrum.

The fortunate thing these days, few witness the thrashing and kicking and wailing at the top of my lungs.

No. No. No. Life’s not fair, I whimper.

I don’t want to be good, better, best. I don’t give a shit about my higher self. I want to hang out in the Dark Side. Amongst the shadowy villains. Monsters and miserable men. Mess around with Lucifer and his gang.

I don’t want to play nice.

It’s at this humbling and spirit-siphoning dead end that I surrender all. Every last bit. I just let go. Hand over the reins to God, the universe, Mother Earth, my Guardian Angel Franny and her sister Zoe.

It usually takes about a week to release the sad, frightened, angry, resentful, jealous, lonely, toxic little child that sometimes grows insidiously within the grown-up me.

To finish this business, I don’t go anywhere exotic. I don’t check into a hotel under an assumed name and have an exorcism performed. No bed rest nor hospital stay is required.

I just stop. Listen to the quiet voice within. Cut myself some slack. Then let go.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: How I Learned to Meditate.

boo on the rocking chairI learned to meditate while Ma was dying. If she had died suddenly. Or in another place. At a different time. I’d probably have a different story to tell.

As an enduring student of yoga, I made countless attempts over the years to learn the nebulous art of meditation. But I just didn’t get it.  Stilling my mind was impossible. Sitting cross-legged for anything longer than a minute or two just about killed me. Om aside, staying focused on ‘nothing’ was a ridiculous premise at best. Stopping the endless chatter inside my mind was frustrating.  All of it made me uncomfortable. Pain, pain, pain. That was my mantra.

I also tried meditating while in the corpse pose. This just put me to sleep.  Within minutes I was dead to the world. A gaping mouthed drooling transcendental disaster.

Ma used to say that God works in mysterious ways.  I didn’t get that either.  I’ve always expected God to be more direct.  Obvious. Straightforward.  Shoot from the hip. Strike with a bolt of lightening. Flood the earth. And part the seas. Regardless of their color.

Who knows. Maybe Ma and I were talking about different Gods.  Despite all those Sunday mornings sitting side-by-side in the ass-numbing wooden pews of Christ Lutheran Church. Hers was an enigmatic deity filled with paradoxes, parables and puzzles. And with an inexplicable and absolutely unfathomable approach to running things. Mine was simple. He/She spoke my language. Read my letters. Understood the complexities and subtle nuances of the word fuck. And why it was part of my daily vernacular.

Then Ma had a heart attack.

I thanked God for not striking her dead instantly.  Which He/She most certainly could have, especially if He/She was in a particularly angry mood on the morning of Ma’s heart attack. Remember all that scary shit from the Old Testament?

Instead we got another 18 months to enjoy Ma’s presence on Earth. And what a gift that time was.

Most of the last six months of her life was spent in a hospital, on the West Coast.  She came for a visit a few months after the heart attack and never left.  By this time The Old Man was living, and I use this term loosely, in a dreary Senior’s home back in Northwestern Ontario.  They died 5 weeks apart, and 3 thousand miles away from each other.  They hooked up in heaven though. At least that’s what I believe. That notion brought me comfort then. It brings me comfort now. Then, I’ve always liked stories with happy endings.

We held vigil by Ma’s bedside. 

ma + aimee + abbyAt times there were enough of us to form a small crowd. We clustered around Ma’s frail sheet-draped declining body. Her little flock of fragile birds. Still hungry to be fed. We took turns holding her hand. We laughed. Cried. Prayed. Told stories. I’m guessing there was nothing unusual about our good-bye time with Ma. We weren’t the first family to experience this.  But this was our first time. Our first rodeo.

My heart was fractured. Armor chinked. Equilibrium faltered as the earth beneath my feet shook. I was standing on a fault line with nowhere to go. With my lifelong safety net lying in a bed dying.

This was also a time of transformation.

My favorite time with Ma was when it was just the two of us.  Not just because it was precious mother-daughter time, which was slipping rapidly and elusively away. But because it brought me peace.  In the midst of family chaos and emotional gut-wrenching wringer days, this quiet alone time with Ma became a place to escape. A safe haven. A sanctuary. It was the sheltered harbor where I moored my heart and allowed my spirit to rest. Next to hers.

It was in this quiet place that I learned about God and his mysterious ways. It was during these soft murmuring twilight hours that I learned to meditate. Ma taught me everything I needed to know about the stuff that mattered in life. This was no different.

Hours would pass. Time had no meaning. I sat next to her bed in the clinically designed hospital chair, with the hard vinyl seat and wooden arms.  The type fashioned for short visits and good posture. Neither of which applied in this situation.  But it didn’t matter.

Very little was said during these visits.  Words were no longer necessary.

I watched Ma sleep. The gentle rise and fall of her breath against her flannel nightgown. The stillness of her body.  Her peaceful repose. It soothed me. Ma had always been able to comfort me when I was hurt.  Nothing had changed in that regard.

I slipped effortlessly into rhythm with Ma’s breathing. Inhaled. Exhaled. I closed my eyes. I let the world drift away. There was no dying. There was no living. There was just being. Ma. Me. God.

And with the ease of a soaring eagle, I was meditating.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter. Flying with the Dog.

IMG_4225In the years before my knees healed, and running was an impossible dream, I used to walk my dogs. First Andy, then the lovely Miss Coco. And most recently, my silly, endlessly amusing, ginger-cookie pal, Rusty.

With the world outside muted and my family resting serenely in the arms of Morpheus, there we were. Just a woman and her dog. In the ephemeral hour just before dawn.

It was a sweet time. A gift straight out of heaven. Peaceful. Quiet. Undisturbed. A writer’s blessing.

It was a time cherished. Held dear. Revered and coveted. The whispered hush before the busyness of the day began. Before E’s alarm went off.  The kettle plugged in. Shower turned on. Before the Today Show announced another incomprehensible tragedy.

We walked the same circle route every morning. At that hour, I was a creature of habit. So were my dogs. But Rusty, in particular, was painfully predictable. You could bet money on him.

He sniffed every blade of grass. Peed on every shrub. Squatted and pooped in all the same spots. I carried a fistful of white plastic grocery bags to scoop up after him. It was all part of our daily dance. I loved every minute of it.

On one of the last mornings that Rusty and I walked together, I had a bittersweet and profound experience.  When we got to the bend in the road, the glorious spot at the crest of the hill, I caught a glimpse of eternity.

The lights below flickered like halos as the world awoke.

At that moment I wanted to fly. Spread my arms. And take off. Rusty has floppy ears that were engineered for flight. I have big hair.

We can do this, I thought.

I stopped and looked out at the sublime sunrise and thought how lovely and endless these days were. Filled with the promise of forever.

But they aren’t of course.

I thought of my mother. My dear Ma. And how this breathtaking orange colored sky would have inspired her to paint.

What a view. Oh God, what a divine view. Tears came unexpectedly.

One day, if I’ve done this right, I will be the memory. I will be the gentle tear brushed from the cheek of one of my children.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Yoga Saved my Life

376817_10150371557691644_851002701_nI do yoga. Like most things, I do it my way. Kind of like Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley or Sid Vicious. The record shows.

Little back story.

I started doing yoga with my best friend B. We were, and still are, kindred spirits. Sisters of the soul. Daughters from another mother. We were introspective, pensive young girls with poetic hearts. On our walks home from high school we spent the time chatting about the usual teenage things that cause angst or butterfly emotions. Boys and clothes and boys and music and boys and books and boys. But we also drilled deep. Explored the darkness and diaphanous shadowy places that sometimes scared the shit out of us.

Somewhere along that uneven lumpy sidewalk, from Hammarskjold High School to our respective homes, we had our first conversations about yoga. Little did we know then, that it would become B’s career, her passion, her calling and life’s work. And for me, it would become a daily part of my life. Like breathing and brushing my teeth.

Sometimes I think it saved our lives. Or at the very least, made it saner. A less troubled place to dwell. Not always serene and tranquil.  But not a total train wreck either.

The mental, physical and spiritual benefits of yoga are incomparable. 

I’m a creative and intuitive person. A writer with an overactive imagination. A sensitive and empathic being. I walk the rutted road.  The pitted path littered with potholes. Equilibrium is not my natural state. Before finding yoga, I was neither calm, cool, and definitely not, collected.

But yoga, and then years later running, changed all that.

Spiritual benefits aside, without yoga, I’m not sure what physical shape I’d be in. I doubt that I could touch my toes. Nor bend like a pretzel. I know with 100% certainty that without my daily yoga practice I never would have recovered from a traumatic injury to my knees.  A double whammy seven years ago that quite literally brought me to my knees. So bad that I never thought I’d run again. But four years on the yoga mat strengthening the muscles around my knees. Listening to my body. Relying on its inner physician. Trusting that it knew how to heal itself. Plus a couple of cocky faulty attempts at hitting the streets, because that’s just who I am. Then another two years of dedicated practice.  More listening, listening, listening. To the inner wisdom of my body and spirit. A year ago I just knew the knees were completely healed.

I laced up the sneakers.  And went for a run.

IMG_1547I’m a largely self-taught. And hardly a yogini, but I do know my way around my own body. Until seven years ago, I never had a yoga teacher, nor a mat, for that matter.  Shortly after my son was born I bought a book called, Richard Hittleman’s Yoga 28 Day Exercise Plan. The poses in this little soft-cover book became the foundation of my daily yoga practice. Later I learned some new ones from The ABC of Yoga by Kareen Zebroff, and her marvelous television show.

After 28 days working through Hittleman’s book, I was hooked. Line and sinker. I was a master. A guru. A wise sage. Enlightened. Transcendent and spiritual. Of course, I was none of those things. I look back on my younger self, and I smile. Like Buddha.

It didn’t take much to bring Ma into my yoga circle. She too worked the book. Then Ma and I discovered Kareen’s Yoga television show. That was another life-changer.

No mats, no gear, no fancy pants.

This was over two decades before lululemon was founded in 1998. Just a mother and daughter in front of a small color TV with rabbit ears in the snug and secure living room at 204.

Here I am decades later. Still practicing many of the same poses from Hittleman and Zebroff.  But with a twist.

I have a mat.  It’s lime green.

Namaste.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Master Po and Grasshopper.

Ma + Boo morning2I’m a wisdom seeker. Always have been. Even as a child I intuitively knew that there was a difference between the information and knowledge I was learning at school or through books. And the universal teachings that drilled deeper into the soul and lifted us higher into the spiritual world. That enlightened place where the spirit transcends and soars with the angels. The metaphysical marvel. The place of wonder. Awe. And beauty. That was where I wanted to go.

My first mentor, and the one who shared more wisdom than anyone I’ve ever known, was Ma.

Little back story.

Ma’s formal education ended somewhere in high school. Back then, this was typical for most poor or lower class families. Getting a “good education” was a pipe dream, but especially so, if you were a girl from a poor family.

Ma loved to read and had a secret desire to be an artist. She wanted more from life but didn’t know how to go after it. Yet, what she couldn’t do for herself, she did for her youngest daughter.

In her unassuming and humble way she taught me what I needed to know to chase my dreams.  Even the big ones.

Gertrude Stein held court in her Salon at 27 Rue de Fleurus for the elite of the literary and artistic world. Ma had a Salon of her own at 204.  Preposterous comparison possibly.  But not to the young girls of the Sixties who gathered there around the kitchen table to discuss the happenings of our time. In our own way, we were equally brilliant and talented.

Ma was always there in the background. Quietly serving up homemade cookies or chocolate brownies, and most importantly, keeping the kettle boiling.

She never intruded. That wasn’t her way.

Although she remained discreetly in the background, we all looked up to her and admired her calm benevolence.  When she did speak, which wasn’t often, we all thought she was so wise and intelligent.  Her kindness, the cradle for her words. She was Master Po. We were Grasshopper.

The secret to her wisdom? 

She listened. Carefully. Attentively. Earnestly. With an open mind and an even wider open heart. Without judgement nor condemnation.

She listened with kindness. Compassion and empathy. Caring and concern. She wanted to know. To understand.

She listened without distraction. She remained focused.  Concentrated. Immersed in every word.

She listened with intention. Studiously. With deliberateness.  Absorbed in the conversation.

She listened to the world around her. To nature. The voice of God.  The universal stories of the Ages.

She listened to the words not spoken. The spaces. Gaps. Pauses. The silences and subtleties. The language of hands.

She listened to me. And still she loved me. Unconditionally. Without question nor hesitation.

There you have it.  Listen and acquire wisdom. Sounds so simple.  Trust me it’s not. Or at least not for me.

My hearing is good. Remarkably good for an old broad. But my listening skills, sadly, are not. And they have grown worse with time, not better. I am ashamed to admit, but somewhere along the journey from the kitchen table at 204 to this iMac, I have fallen in love with the sound of my own voice. All the silly chatter and trite bullshit that flows so easily from my mouth.

But starting today, I intend to change that. 

I am here to listen. To you and you and you. Perhaps grow wiser.

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Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: Happy to be Here.

Photo by Melissa Adams.

Photo by Melissa Adams.

It’s been one of those weeks. The up and down roller coaster ride. Good. Bad. With a little bit of random thrown in for good measure. It’s also been one of those weeks that has left me a little bit shaken. Wobbly-kneed and rubber-legged. But grateful. Big time.

It’s easy to be grateful during the good times. Especially when the living is easy. For the good things. All those blessings that we want more of. Happy shiny people all around us. Our dear ones by our side. Full of good health and abundance. Kindness and generosity. Peace love and understanding. The list is endless of all the good things to be thankful for.

But what about the hard times? The sad and tragic days. The difficult seasons of stress, when life feels more like a pressure cooker than a pastoral playground. How do you find gratitude when you feel like giving up? When life is just one super-sized shit show. What about those days when the best you can say is, thanks for nothing? How do you find the place in your spirit where gratefulness and appreciation dwell?

I don’t know.

I do know this. When you have a close call. A brush with death. A collision with calamity. The veil of ambiguity is lifted. You see. With such lucidity. Clarity. And in high definition. At least that’s what happened to me this week.

While driving into work on Thursday morning, I was in an accident with my truck. It happened in an instant. One minute I was stopped at a crosswalk watching the pedestrian at the curb. Then within seconds I was shoved from behind and catapulted into the middle of the intersection.

That woke me up.

I was momentarily stunned by the deafening sound of the truck behind engaging with the rear-end of mine. It sounded worse than it actually was. Once I got my bearings and realized that the only damage was to my truck. No humans were harmed. Everyone involved was alive and kicking. I was grateful.

I am here.  All is well.

Trucks can be repaired. Or replaced. They’re just material things. Temporary impermanent pleasures. Not important in the grand scheme. Humans and all living creatures matter. I’m thankful to have been intimately reminded of the difference.

The young man, who rear-ended the truck, was horrified that he hit me. My heart ached for him. It was just one of those things. He looked away for a second. That’s all it took. Could have happened to anyone. Including me. I’ve had some close calls. We all have. But for the grace of God, goes I. So in our brief exchange, I got well with him, right then and there. On the spot absolution.

I’m grateful for that too.

Truth is, at that moment, my gratitude muscle was in a need of a workout. It had grown complacent. Lazy even. I had said the words “I am grateful” so often, they had grown damn near meaningless. Rather than coming from a sincere place deep within my heart, they rolled off my tongue like liquid gold. By rote. Like rhyming off multiplication tables. They had become a cliched elixir to cover my ass in the spiritual department.

Evolved psychologist, spiritual gurus and preachers advise us to be in a mindful state of constant gratitude, especially if we want to be divinely healthy. Honestly, I thought I was. After all, I am the Queen of Deep. Especially after the year we just had with E and the Big C.  I was spewing words of gratitude like yellow smoke from a factory. I had it down.

Then Thursday morning happened. I am truly grateful to be here. To write this post. To spend a little time with you.

To say thank you.

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