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Bruised Peach Cake (and transforming disappointment into delight)

Yesterday at the Dupont Circle Fresh Farm Market I carefully selected four peaches that were not quite ripe.  I anticipated them ripening on Tuesday and Wednesday, so that I could have them when I returned to the office (always good to have a special treat when returning to the office from vacation).

By the time I got the peaches into the kitchen two hours later, three had ripened and gotten sufficiently bruised during the journey that they could not be carried to work.  I used this as an opportunity to make a decision about what to bring to a potluck tonight:  bruised peach cake.

3 very ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and very finely chopped, with juice

2 eggs well-beaten with a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt (optional) and a splash of vanilla extract

1/2 cup vegan shortening, softened (or same quantity oil or butter)

1 cup succanat (evaporated cane sugar)

splash of orange juice (how much depends on whether using yogurt)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

a couple of shakes of salt

pinch or two of dried, powdered ginger

Nuts optional (I now try not to cook with nuts when bringing food to a gathering where I do not know all the guests)

Cream shortening with sugar.  Add in beaten eggs, yogurt, and juice.  Mix well.

Blend or sift all dry ingredients together.

Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, taking care not to overmix.  Blend in peaches and their juice.

Turn batter into greased (butter or flavorless oil) 9×9 (or 8×8) baking pan.  Put in 325F oven (no need to preheat) for 20-30 minutes.  Check after 15-20 minutes to make sure not cooking unevenly or browning too quickly.

Energy saving tips: (1) many non-yeast leavened baked goods do not need the oven preheated; (2) by baking bread-like cakes that are traditionally baked in a loaf shape  in a square baking pan, oven time is reduced by more than half; (3) use the toaster oven so that you are not using more oven space than needed.

Taking Woodstock (and spanda)

Kashmir shaivism, using the term spanda, talks of the ultimate pulsation of life itself, all being a vibration, everything a play of opposites, a constant dance of concealment and revelation.

Yesterday I when I went to see Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock, I thought about about what a dance of moments, desires, emotions, motivations, opportunities, and relationships made Woodstock the phenomenon it became.

I remembered when I was a teenager asking my mother why we had not gone; I had some idea that good family friends had made the trek from Long Island.  She said it did not seem sensible to bring three girls under 10.  I am sure that if we had gone, my memories would have been of being dirty, hungry, tired, wet, and overwhelmed.  Instead, I grew up with the instant nostalgia of someone who was just a few years too young to make it up there on my own.  In this contemplation, I marveled nearly as much at the play of spanda in my own life as in the world around me.

Breitenbush Retreat (and bringing joy back home)

rainbowI returned home last night from eight days away, five of which were truly on retreat — just meditating, bathing in hot springs, hiking, eating well, practicing yoga, and celebrating with dance and music.  To see pictures, click here.

The focus of the week was honoring the past and engaging in the present so as best to serve the future.

We left Breitenbush Hot Springs mid-afternoon on Thursday.  Rather than take a red eye, I stayed Thursday night at an airport hotel and took an early morning flight home on Friday.  I woke early Friday morning and rested in meditation to ease the shock of going from an off-the-grid community in the forest to an airport hotel.  This rainbow glowed over the airport while I was waiting for the hotel shuttle to take me there for my flight.

The rainbow reminded me to carry the deep joy of the retreat home with me.

Roasted Vegetables (and getting ready for vacation)

Yesterday morning, when I was starting to pack to leave for Oregon today, the most critical elements for getting ready (after making sure I had my wallet, camera, and some yoga clothes in a suitcase) were to water the garden well, pull some weeds, pick ripe vegetables, and cook.

I’d given away some produce a couple of days ago, but still had eggplants, peppers, tomatoes from the garden and half an onion from something I had cooked earlier in the week.

I cut everything in half, slathered it in olive oil, sprinkled the vegetables with coarsely ground pepper Himalayan pink salt and put it into the toaster/convection oven (my favorite kitchen appliance).  The vegetables roasted while I was doing other chores.  Now, on my return, I will be able pull from the freezer ingredients for a wonderful pasta sauce.

As much as I am looking forward to a week of yoga and exploration, I’ll be delighted to come back to garden and my own kitchen.  It is almost time to start planting greens, beets, and turnips for fall.

Reminder (blog copy of newsletter)

Dear Friends,

I hope you are having a rich and full summer.

To celebrate the yoga with John Friend, the delightfulness of the Pacific Northwest, and to get a break from routine — in a word to take a vacation — I will be out of town next week.

While I am on break (September 1st and 2nd), no Wm Penn or house classes.  They resume as usual on Tuesday, September 8th.

There are wonderful subs for Willow Street classes this Saturday, August 29th, but there are no classes at Takoma Park, Willow Street, Labor Day weekend (Saturday, September 5th).

Upcoming:  Free class week at Willow Street on September 12th.  Start of the new session September 19th.

Serenity Saturday, September 19th.

See you soon.

Peace and light,


Bhagavan (what does it mean to be prosperous?)

Bhagavan — another name for Shiva — literally means “possessing fortune, blessed, prosperous.”

What does it mean in this context to be possessed of fortune, to be blessed, to be prosperous?

What does it mean in the context of balancing individual and societal needs, hungers, and wants?  What could it mean the current conversation about taxes, government spending, and healthcare?  In the discussion of budget, war, etc?

We live at one level in a paradigm in which communal wealth is finite and is fought over to obtain individual wealth.  How do we live within that paradigm and still find a sense of inner prosperity with what we have been given?

Construction and Reconstruction

I have lived in my house for almost 20 years.  The house came with a bottom of the line, circa 1977 Hechinger’s bathroom.  The bathtub has been rusting for a over a decade, part of the faucet would come off when turning it off, etc.

Finding myself without any pets and between tenants, it seemed like a good time to renovate.  Last week, in just a day, what was a bathroom, is now a gutted space.  Amazing how quickly something can be rooted out and undone.  It will be taking a lot longer to reconstruct.

What I am finding most challenging is not the physical chaos.  I am used to it as an old house often needs work, and this house needed work (though it was not the kind of fixer-upper that was completely missing floors, electricity, and plumbing).

Rather, what I am wrestling with is my emotional reaction to the idea of having a brand new, beautiful bathroom.  There is a big feeling guilty component to be spending money on something that feels not entirely necessary when so many are in need.  So while the contractor is working on the construction, I am working with a wonderful opportunity to help reconstruct (post deconstructing) my emotional relationship with things.  How do I find balance between honoring those in need, my impact on the planet, maintaining my house, and my enjoyment of beautiful things?  How do I feel at peace with my decisions once they already have been made?  How do I apply discrimination in my aesthetics to assist in this balance?

Shiva the Dissolver (and rare hybrid orchid)

The other day, it was announced that following a controlled forest fire, a rare hybrid orchid that hasn’t been seen in the wild in Maryland for the past 70 years has emerged.  This, I think, is such a wonderful example of the privileging of the destructive energy of of Shiva in the context of the triad of Brahma (creator), Vishnu (sustainer), and Shiva (destroyer).

Shiva in this context does not so much destroy for the sake of destroying, but is part of the inevitable and necessary part of life that strips away, dissolves, razes, eliminates, so that new life can emerge and be sustained.