Monday, February 28, 2005

cafe botz

My schedule at work got confused the other day, and instead of being blocked out after 4:30 for a meeting, I was blocked out for the whole day. Oops! Oh, well, might as well go home, sit in the sun on the deck, and have baklava with a cup of sweet, hot, turkish "mud coffee" scented with cardamom, which my "adopted kibbutz mother" Judy gave me as a reminder of Israel.

Here is my current favorite baklava recipe, which I have smushed together and modified from the recipes in Joan Nathan's Foods of Israel Today, and Gloria Kaufer Greene's The Jewish Holiday Cookbook.The parts of the recipes (in parentheses) are my helpful tips ;-)

mix together & set aside:
4 cups (about a pound) of shelled and finely chopped--but not totally ground up--walnuts or combo of walnuts and/or pistachios and/or almonds (if you are chopping them in a food processor, do the almonds first since they're so much harder)
1/4 cup sugar (so far I like the organic freeze-dried sugar cane juice best--it has a brown-sugar taste)
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves

One box (one pound) of phyllo dough from the Greek or Middle Eastern grocery or the co-op. If it's frozen, let it thaw in the refrigerator overnight the day before you need it and then let it come to room temperature the day you're going to use it.
1-1/2 sticks butter, melted. Add a tsp of warm water to the melted butter and brush some on the bottom of a jelly-roll pan (10" by 15" by 1" pan); keep the rest warm/melted till you're ready to use it.

Honey Syrup:
1-1/2 cups water
1-1/2 cups sugar (I use the freeze-dried sugar cane juice here too)
1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
a few cardamom pods
Juice & finely shredded zest of one lemon
1/2 cup honey
a few drops of rose water or orange blossom water (I like to use both!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
OK, now open the box of phyllo dough. There will be 18-25 very thin, tissue-paper-like sheets in the box. They are fragile and dry out easily (and if they dry out they become very aggravating to work with) so you have to keep them covered with a damp (but not wet) cloth between lifting off each new sheet and arranging it in the pan. They should be easy and fun to separate from one another and not stick together in a clumpy mess (and if they do, they are not salvageable. Toss them and get a new box)
Lay one sheet of phyllo on the buttered pan (it will overhang). Brush it lightly all over with the melted butter + water mixture. Lay a new sheet of phyllo on top of the that, and brush with the butter mixture. Repeat till you have 5 sheets in a buttered stack. Scatter about 2/3 cup of the nut filling over the whole thing. Stack two more sheets of phyllo on top, buttering each (some recipes say that you can skip buttering every third sheet but I think, why bother pretending there's a low-fat version?). Scatter another 2/3 cup of the filling on top. Repeat, sprinkling 2/3 cup filling on every two buttered sheets, till you've used up all the filling. Then keep stacking sheets and buttering them till you've used them all up or until you get bored (if you have left-over sheets, wrap them back up in plastic and they will still be usable for another few weeks). If you run out of butter, you can use oil.
Trim the edges that are overhanging (& put them in their own little buttered pan, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon and bake till brown and crispy)(or discard them)
Then, score the baklava by cutting with a very sharp knife halfway down to the bottom of the pan. Cut diagonals both ways to make diamond shapes, or cut triangles or squares, whatever size you prefer.
Bake it in the upper half of the preheated oven for one hour. If the top gets too brown too fast, cover it with aluminum foil.
While the baklava is baking, combine all the syrup ingredients except for the flower water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the rose and/or orange blossom water.
When the baklava is done, it should be crisp and golden. Take it out of the oven and immediately pour the syrup over the top of it, and it will make a lovely hissy crackly sound. Cut all the rest of the way through where your scored lines are to separate the pieces. Let it rest uncovered or covered just loosely with aluminum foil for several hours or overnight before eating it, with strong black coffee or earl grey tea with lemon.

(thank you to the new for the coffee in Israel link)

Turkish coffee photo originally uploaded by Joseph Robertson

our own true size

Some more notes on Spring time, the season that corresponds to Wood and to Growth. This info is from deeply vibrant teacher Thea Elijah  who offered a rich and lively seminar called Transforming the Spirit: A Five Element Perspective on Herbal Studies, combining both information-packed lecture and direct energetic transmission of knowledge.

Each of the phases/elements/seasons/organ systems pertains to a particular aspect of the human psyche-spirit. The aspect that belongs to the Liver and thus to Spring is the Hun, the Ethereal Soul.

What Thea says about Hun: (filtered through my own mind and hands, and I apologize for any mistakes...)

The Hun is the aspect of Spirit that is completely unfettered by time and space. It's utterly free and can go anywhere, because it is the power of imagination, of creativity. It's the part of us that allows us to be always larger than our circumstances. Because of the Hun's ability to go anywhere, we can know that our own true size is the Whole Universe.

Sometimes if we can't see the way ahead, we lose hope and put the Hun in a box of preconceived restriction.

First the Hun flies,
then it figures out where it's going.

Hope does not rest
on seeing the future.

Hope must precede vision.

Moses was a prophet of the Wood element: someone who, in an external situation of slavery, refused to be a slave internally. The untameable part inside is the Hun, is Hope, is like a
bird circling, waiting for opportunity. It's the one who sees the problem in the first place who can be the greatest visionary, the one with the greatest solution, the one with the greatest Hun. Their tendency to anger is a sign that their soul is acutely aware of fairness and how often it doesn't manifest, and their route back to alignment with Tao is to transform excessive or stuck anger into visionary creativity.

"Our deepest pathology is our only hope of redemption."

circling for a thousand years

Lindsey sent this yesterday:

I live my life in growing orbits
which move out over the things of the world
perhaps I can never achieve the last
but that will be my attempt.

I am circling around God, around the ancient tower,
and I have been circling for a thousand years
and I still don't know if I am a falcon, or a storm,
or a great song.

~Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by Robert Bly)

Friday, February 25, 2005

Your Presence

Last weekend during Shabbat School, Rav Olivier, Bet Alef's wonderful French-American rabbinic intern, told this story about his favorite prayer (and mine!):
One Shabbat, everyone was in the synagogue waiting for the rabbi to begin the morning service. They waited and waited and waited, and finally decided to go ahead without him. Hours later, at the end of the service, the rabbi appeared. All the people rushed up to him, concerned! What had happened, where had he been?

That morning he'd gotten up and had begun to say the morning prayer as usual:
Modeh* ani l'fanecha (I am thankful in Your Presence), melech chai v'kayyam, shehechezarta bi nishmati, b'chemlah. Rabah emunatecha (sublime power of life and eternity, who has restored my soul, with mercy. great is your faithfulness). But as he sang "modeh ani l'fanecha" he fell in so deeply he couldn't go on--only modeh ani l'fanecha -- I am so grateful to be in Your Presence -- over and over for hours.
*girls and women say "modah"
Lately modah ani l'fanecha has become the little song I sing in my mind as I do my work with people, especially during those times when we're quiet together--when I'm checking the pulses, or slipping needles into acupuncture points, or holding the warming moxa over the parts of the body-mind that are sore or sad or stressed.

Monday, February 21, 2005

pilgrimage & finger knitting

Last weekend we zipped up to Vancouver (well, zipped up to the border, then crawled over that, then zipped up to the Massey tunnel, then inched through that...) for a dinner gathering first conceived of by master-manifestor Penny Scott.  Penny had the idea a few months ago that it would be lovely to somehow gather together Ashley (then living in Texas), me (in Seattle), Caitlin (Bowen Island) and herself (North Vancouver). It sounded like "a good idea but who knows when that could happen" kind of dream. But now I know that things like that come together all the time, and easily, around Penny! And it was a lovely gathering, lots of sushi, wine, and funny stories.

A couple of days later we tagged along with Ashley to Bowen Island to visit Chris and his children (Caitlin was visiting her mother in the city) in their sunny home full of paintings and drawings and things to play with. After chatting on the deck that overlooks the bay, surrounded by evergreen treetops, and after Aine taught Ashley and me to finger-knit with chunky yarn, we went on a perfect blue-sky, spring-scented walk around one of the lakes, where Chris plucked licorice fern root for us to chew on, Natan and Finn ran ahead again and again to hide and jump out at us (Finn chose an exceptionally great hiding place, under the bridge like a little troll) and we talked about lots of things and no-things. Just weaving an elemental, sun and water and voice and eye-to-eye substrate of relation, to deepen friendships that have consisted in large part of electrons printing out thoughts on a screen. It turns out that more than a few blogger and Open Space friends have made the idyllic pilgrimage to Bowen to visit Chris and his family, which creates in my mind the image of a glowing criss-crossing of resonant tracks and footprints, a lively magnetic field being born of conversations and overlapping presences.

snow on mountains, bowen island
Originally uploaded by Christy Lee-Engel.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

season of hope

Though it's not officially Spring quite yet, the peonies are poking their deep red stems through the ground and the cherry trees are blooming, and you can feel the sap waking and rising.

"If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye, which every young and ardent, sees the possible."--Kierkegaard

“…although it is not visible to you, the apple tree is already developing its fruit buds deep within its tissue the summer prior to the year in which the bloom becomes visible. Starting in about mid-June, the fruit bud tissue starts its development and differentiation. The process is completed by late March, shortly before bloom.” –The BackYard Orchardist

This is the power of Wood and the realm of Growth—the ability to envision the possible far into the future, and to plan and enact its realization. In the Chinese 5-Element system, Wood energy pertains especially to Spring, the season of Hope. This phase follows the cold, dark, quiet stillness of Winter, when a world of concentrated invisible life bursts and blossoms and unfurls into visibility—into tender leaf and flower, into new-born breath and heartbeat—intensely fresh and full of possibility.

Other gifts of Wood, whose organic home in the human body is the Liver and Gall Bladder, are suppleness and flexibility, discernment and decisiveness, initiative, motivation. Wood’s primary challenge arises when encountering immovable (or what just feel like immovable) obstacles to growth and desired action. The resulting stagnation of energy can result in feelings of frustration, irritability and anger, as well as bodily symptoms such as muscle spasm and cramping, headache, high blood pressure. Some important basic remedies for this kind of stagnation are playful and regular physical movement, and ample water intake to encourage circulation. And, paradoxically, the giving up of a certain kind of hope—the releasing of our attachment to a particular outcome, the letting go of the desire for reality to be other than it is.

During this season, imagine how we might strengthen and harmonize the gifts and power of the Wood element in ourselves and in the world. Some questions to consider are: How can I practice bending, without cracking, in the midst of the winds of change? How rooted am I, how flexible, how do I incorporate/embody healthy movement? How well do I stand up for my self? What is my vision of the best possible present and future, and what strategy can I create for living into that vision?

Czech statesman, playwright and poet Vaclav Havel says, “Hope is a dimension of the soul…an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart…It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.”

Sunday, February 06, 2005

mycelium & marbles

Last Monday's meeting turned out to be a good opportunity to re-connect with or meet like-hearted colleagues working in various aspects of health care. We only had time to just begin to hear about what people are doing and thinking and imagining, so what will be more interesting to me will be to see how the conversation is continued. 

An image I've absorbed from my friend, super-catalytic network weaver Susan Partnow, to describe these sorts of get-togethers is that they are akin to the fruiting bodies (otherwise known as "mushrooms") of the vast and singular mycelium noticing and becoming aware of themselves as One Self. Geographically distant individual mushrooms are the aboveground organs of intricate, fully entwined-into-the-earth, vast underground organisms.

Which cosmologically brilliant, mountain-man mushroom scientist Paul Stamets describes on his website as "the earth's internet"

So, all of us fruiting bodies have now seen each other and begun to sense that we're all doing varied aspects of one work. Part of our conversation was about how we can contribute to the larger conversation about health care, how we can "shift the cultural paradigm of healing". At this point, changing paradigms sounds lofty, and so much about changing someone else (Them, Out There). 

What I can do, maybe, is to practice paying attention to the world view I come from in my own work in my own small area, to continue to listen and speak up whenever the conversation arises, and at the same time to support as I can the work of colleagues who operate more at the state, federal and global levels. Again, drawn to the image of underground roots with their tiny, delicate, root hairs that can eventually penetrate, open, and change the structure of rock and cement.

Before going to Monday's meeting, I thought to bring my journal to take notes in, since my perimenopausal memory is more like a sieve than ever - but I couldn't find it. Like the elderly Lost Boy in the movie Hook who had literally lost his marbles (but who touchingly found them at the end!), losing my journal felt like losing my mind. Luckily, I had left it at a meeting at our friend Carolyne's apartment building (even though I was sure I had it when I left) and her kind neighbor found it and now I've got it back. 

More evidence for the way that aspects of our minds and hearts and selves live and move and pour together out in the wide world, and back into the wide world in "here". Zen teacher Joan Sutherland writes in the March 2005 issue of Shambhala Sun:

"Perhaps, after all, we shouldn't take our lives so personally, shouldn't think of them as the monologue of busy and insistent and separate selves. Perhaps we are made up of landscapes and events and memories and genetics; of the touch of those we hold dear, our oldest fears, the art that moves us, and those sorrows on the other side of the world that make us weep at the breakfast table. The astronomer Carl Sagan used to say that if you really want to make an apple pie from scratch, you have to start with the Big Bang."
Like waves on the ocean, like mushrooms popping out of the ground, at the same time particular and none other than the whole.