A treasured friend and respected colleague who left her body late last week was buried this morning. The work year started, then, with some colleagues and I leaving the office for a portion of the middle of the day to drive up to the cemtery and offer our love to her family and our good-byes to her physical presence. On the way back to the office, I noticed that the Potomac has been icing over, which is very unusual. I also remembered that I had my camera in my pocket. So I took it out and caught the moment in honor of my friend who would have loved the way the birds were dancing on the ice, in honor of beauty, in honor of the life teeming above and below the apparently still, frozen river.
This morning I misted the orchids. None are blooming right now, but an orange catteleya I received as a gift several years ago is budding, as is my favorite epidendrum, which offers up a host of delicate, greenish, spidery blooms every February. It brightens my day to spend a little time tending the house plants when it is most wintry outside.
I rinsed sprouts. I have both bean sprouts and a salad mixture going. I started new batches of sprouts as soon as I returned from NYC. I was grateful for the offerings at the grocery store, but pine for at least a little something truly fresh. I’d had a little chard, parsley, and chives that made it through the snow storm. Much to my surprise, I even managed to salvage enough from the garden to include in an omelet after the ice storm the other morning, but the day-time subfreezing temperatures and icy winds have finished off the outdoor garden until March. I think I am going to get some burlap and start some micro-greens in addition to salad and bean sprouts.
Earlier this week, I took a wonderful class with my friend J, who is an Anusara teacher based in NYC. She started class telling a story of a fisherman. The fisherman had worked hard and long during the spring, summer, and fall and was looking forward to a rest during the winter months. He left his boat and went ashore, looking for shelter. He came upon a brightly lit house and was invited in by a friendly host. He was given a delicious meal and then brought to a beautiful bedroom with a fabulously made, soft bed with exquisitely scented linens. He got into the bed, but tossed and turned and could not sleep. Agitated by his inability to sleep, he left the house, went back to his boat, wrapped himself in his fishy-smelling nets and promptly fell sound asleep.
J interpreted the story as saying that our familiar patterns bind us and keep us from discovering and receiving true beauty and bliss. This interpretation resonated with the students; one called out in a conversation about the quantity of nets we have, that she could alphabetize hers, and we all laughed. I heard something different in the story, though perhaps it was because I had seen part of The Wizard of Oz when channel-surfing in my hotel room the night before. What I heard was that when we accept our work and our place, we find a place of true rest. When the fisherman realized that his place was on his boat — at home with his work, instead of seeking ethereal bliss — then he found peace and true rest (“there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home…”)
What is missing from the movie version of The Wizard of Oz, though, is that in later books, Dorothy goes back to the land of Oz, bringing her family and work (albeit that of a child) with her. She, in effect, integrates the importance of prosaic home and work life with being in a land of enchantment. In that, both interpretations of the story of the fisherman are partly true. We need not to let our old habits bind us, but we also need not to cast off work, home, and community as things that interfere with our discovering bliss. Instead, we need to find enchantment in our very being, as we live and work and relate in this world.
Having grown up in the New York metropolitan area without much in the way of traditions of any kind, I was not familiar with Hoppin’ John. I am fairly certain that the first time I heard of it was from a college friend whose family has been in South Carolina since before the Revolution. As it is not part of my tradition, I do not feel bound to any particular recipe (I am sure it is sacrilege in some circles to leave out the ham/bacon) or to eating it at any particular time of day (e.g., immediately after the clock strikes 12 midnight). It would not be Hoppin’ John, though, if I did not know its tradition and know where I was deviating from tradition. (Though this would entail a much longer blog than is within my time frame today, this balance of freedom from tradition and needing to know and honor tradition is very much an issue for the Western yoga practitioner.)
1. Soak a cup of dried black-eyed peas for at least several hours or overnight.
2. Dice one small onion or 1/2 large onion (about a cup), a few celery stalks, including the leaves, and mince a couple of cloves of garlic.
3. Heat a few tablespoons of a flavorless oil (peanut, corn, or safflower) in a pressure cooker (my preferred method for saving energy and time) or a stock/stew pot.
4. Saute seasoning vegetables along with a few hot peppers until onion is translucent. I used the last habanero from my harvest and so left it whole. You can use fresh or dried chilis in an amount to your taste/tolerance for spiciness.
5. Stir in a cup of brown rice until rice is coated with oil.
6. Pour in 1/4-1/2 cup of white wine and stir until absorbed (as if making risotto). [You could use stock instead. If you are using white rice, skip this step, which serves to partially cook the brown rice, so that it will take the same amount of time as the black-eyed peas.]
7. Crumble in some dried thyme (preferably from your own garden) and a bay leaf or two.
8. Drain and rinse the soaked black-eyed peas and stir into the cooking pot until all ingredients are combined.
9. Add one 28 ounce can of diced tomatoes and 2 1/2 – 3 cups of vegetable stock or water. How much liquid depends on (a) whether you want a soupy consistency or one more like pilaf or risotto; (b) how liquid are the tomatoes; (c) whether you are using a pressure cooker (less liquid needed) or cooking in a pot.
10. If using a pressure cooker, cover and bring to full pressure, then lower heat and cook at full pressure for 28 minutes. Allow natural pressure release (about 15-20 minutes additional). If cooking in a regular pot, bring to a boil, stir, then lower heat and cook for an hour or more until rice and peas are tender, stirring occasionally.
11. While rice and peas are cooking, mince a few cloves of garlic.
12. Rinse and chop several handfuls of greens (collard or curly kale are best; don’t use spinach or chard, they are too tender). Heat oil and garlic together. When garlic start sizzle, add damp greens and saute until greens are wilted and dry.
13. When rice and peas have finished cooking, stir in sauteed greens and bring back up to full heat. Adjust seasonings, adding more salt and your favorite hot sauce to taste (or allow guests to add their own hot sauce at the table).
I don’t know whether having eaten this will bring me luck and prosperity, but I’ve started the year with lots of vitamins, minerals, fiber, flavor, and cooking, which for me means health, love, technique, tradition, flexibility, and joy! Try this, make your own, read all about Hoppin’ John, or call a friend from the South who must eat Hoppin’ John on the New Year and learn about the tradition and what it means.
May your new year and decade be abundant with peace and light. For locals, please join me tomorrow at Capitol Hill Yoga (suitably mid-afternoon for those who like to revel until the wee hours on the eve) for “Flow Into Grace” a special intention-setting all-levels flow practice, followed by yoga nidra. Register on line at Capitol Hill Yoga or just come and register in person. Hope to see and hear from you all soon.
Marveling at the amazing diversity of being and wildness of the human creative spirit. See some evidence here.
This week marks 20 years since I moved into my house. I have been thinking about how grounding myself to living in one place has shaped my life. In some ways, it has narrowed my path, in others opened it.
Last night I dreamed that I was taking a group of yoga students to the Galapagos. I was already on my way, and the dream information did not include the decision-making process that started the venture. Instead of being excited, though, I was feeling anxious and guilty about bringing my inherently destructive presence (the one that eats, defecates, urinates, bathes, wears sunblock, requires built shelters, and, to travel, uses fossil fuels) to a place that we value for its uniqueness in nature and relatively pristine qualities. I woke thinking it was absurd to have had that dream; couldn’t I have enjoyed myself just a little without feeling overwhelmed by questions, doubts, and guilt? Why on earth did my unconscious serve this dream up for me? Is it going to make me live a less environmentally conflicted life (that won’t even begin to happen until I move into a much smaller dwelling unit, my house being my biggest infringement on the environment)? Probably not.
For Christmas this year, I’ll be doing my own version of eco-travel — going to New York City. I’ll be taking the train both from DC to NYC and, on the day I go out to visit my parents, from the City to the Island. To get around NY, I’ll walk or take public transporation. I’ll eat mostly vegetarian/vegan food, some local and organic. I’ll drink tap not bottled water (which is easy to do in NY). I’ll have my bamboo utensils, cloth napkin and carry cup for the meals I don’t eat in a restaurant and my own carry bag. I’ll have handkerchiefs instead of paper tissues. I won’t have the hotel wash the linens until I leave. Oh yes, I’ll be consuming and enjoying. I’ll be eating and looking at art and seeing theater and/or music and/or dance and will inevitably do some shopping.
Where is your balance? Are you comfortable with it?
Hope you all enjoyed the big snow. I missed seeing Saturday regulars and drop-ins with the snow canceling the last day of Willow Street classes and December’s Serenity Saturday.
If you are in need of a little last minute, holiday yoga, come join us tonight at William Penn House, 6:30 pm, all levels class.
For a great way to begin the year, on New Year’s Day itself, come to Capitol Hill Yoga for “Flow Into Grace” a heart-opening, body-shifting (gently), and intention-setting workshop with a combination of all-levels flow and yoga nidra. To register, please visit, www.capitolhillyoga.com. Late night revelers welcome; it doesn’t start til mid afternoon!
I’ll be taking my own holiday break so no Wm Penn or house classes next week, while I am in NY visiting friends, family, and enjoying the delights of the city.
Wm. Penn and house classes resume the first week of January. That week is also free class week at Willow Street Yoga Center (www.willowstreetyoga.com). I’ll be offering 8:30 am level 2 and 12 noon Gentle/Therapeutics on Saturday, January 9th.
If you were registered for Serenity Saturday in December, call Capitol Hill Yoga to switch your registration to New Year’s “Flow into Grace” or January’s Serenity Saturday (January 16th).
May you all have healthy and delightful holidays whether traveling or staying at home.
Peace and light,
How wonderful to be given a day to stay warm indoors with the lights of the solstice tree dancing.