There’s Always That One Storm….

Image courtesy of

Thunder followed by rain pattering against the window woke me up at 5:30. I closed the windows and dozed for an hour or so, listening to Oakley snore from the comfort of his new bed.

In any other time, I would have been picking him up after sleepover camp at Ms. Lanette’s. Hubby and I should have been at Ren Faire yesterday, but fates and COVID-19 said otherwise.

It is what it is. And what it is in this case is The Storm. The storm that marks the transition to cooler fall weather. It’s usually the week after Labor Day, sometimes the holiday weekend itself. It sounds different, slower, as if taking its time to give the earth a good soaking.

We’ve had two of these storms announcing fall’s arrival (even if it’s astronomically the 21st or 22nd of September) when Hubby and I have been at Ren Faire. Usually, it starts raining late afternoon as we debate if we want to see another act, go to the book store, or start heading home. When that happens, we usually bid a fond seasonal farewell to Bristol and head home.

One arrived mid-afternoon. We squeezed into a pottery shop next to the stage where the band we’d planned to see was scheduled to perform. No matter. The band squeezed in with us and did their set and some more to boot.

When the storm tapered off, we walked the rain slicked lanes through the last sprinkles to do a bit more shopping, see maybe one last act before we parted for the season. Too wet to sit anyplace, so we stopped at another pottery shop before heading home. I found soup bowls and salad plates, substantial weight, dark green with a design inspired by pine boughs and cones.

Those became my go-to for cool weather meals and pasta dishes year round. When I pull them out of the cupboard, I revisit that day, how the wind played the music for the leaves’ dance, how the band put a little something extra into their performance, and laughing at myself trying to navigate the muddy streets in my Birkenstocks.

And I smile, remembering.

The Humble Yet Exalted Lentil

Courtesy Wikimedia

It’s practicing for fall out there today. We started the morning with a thunderstorm at 5:45. It poured for a couple of hours, then settled into sprinkles long enough so Oakley and I could do about a 20 minute walk.

If the weather chooses to practice for fall, then I will practice cooking for it. I decided to try a new lentil curry recipe in the slow cooker for dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Among the legumes, lentils are arguably the easiest to cook. No need to soak them; just put them in a pot with water or stock and seasonings as suggested by a recipe or your culinary intuition and you have the beginnings of a meal in less than an hour. The red lentils cook in less than thirty minutes, so be aware of that if you choose them.  Check the liquid levels frequently, though, since they absorb like little sponges.

For a basic soup, sauté an onion and garlic to taste in olive oil in a good sized pot. Add the lentils and stock or water in a 2:1 ratio (i.e. 2 cups liquid to 1 cup lentils). I put in salt at the beginning. Some wait until the end due to concerns about toughness, but I’ve never had that happen.  When the lentils are done, correct for salt if needed, and add in some lemon juice and chopped spinach. The heat from the lentils will cook the spinach quickly.

Some cooks use a ham bone or bacon (precooked) to add flavor. Not my personal jam, but you do you.

Oh, you’re not in the mood for soup? If you soak and grind the lentils, you can make the crepe’s Indian cousin the dosa. Any good Indian website will have a recipe. I’ve not tried making them myself, but the restaurant we go to has them on the lunch buffet fairly frequently, so I will tell you they’re quite yummy.

Thanks to their ease in preparation and versatility, lentils have graced tables since 11,000 BCE. Native to central and western, Asia, they spread via trade routes across Europe and into India.  They can be grown in tough conditions and can return nitrogen to the soil after depletion by two or three seasons of cereal crops such as corn or wheat. They don’t need a lot of water, either, in order to thrive.

Nutritionally, they are quite the little powerhouses. According to the USDA, 100 grams of cooked lentils provide 116 calories, 10 grams of fiber, and lots of B vitamins. The type of fiber may be beneficial in balancing blood sugar levels for people living with diabetes. And they have quite a bit of protein, too.

All that nutrition, versatility, easy to grow, available in almost any grocery store? There is nothing to dislike about lentils.




The Peace in the Pose



My arms started to wobble as I held in plank.

Calls at 9:30 bode unwell any day, but especially on a Friday night. 

The teacher made some adjustments, guiding my arms and feet with touches about the weight of a nickel.

It was Eldest Sister on Hubby’s side. Are you coming to Arizona? No; why? Second Sister had to have colon cancer surgery.

“Find the peace in the pose,” said my teacher.

“Oh, no. How is she?” 

Once aligned, my body, although surprised, settled into position. One, two, there breaths. Lower to the bamboo floor, lying parallel to the spaces between the boards.

Something had gone horribly wrong. Sepsis developed. A respirator breathed for Second, breathed while the life-giving fluids and antibiotics dripped into her veins in a fight against the infection. 

Push up to baby cobra, then step back into downward dog. Balance on hands and feet, butt towards the ceiling, thighs pointing to the back wall. Look down. Amazed that I tracked Oakley’s fur onto the mat.

The teacher made some feathery adjustments. Again, my body settled into position. The muscles engaged while staying relaxed. My brain appreciated the fresh blood flowing into it. “Find the peace in the pose,” she reminded me again.

Another call. Second Sister had been taken off the respirator, but was unresponsive. The doctor remained unhelpful. One day, acting as if she’ll get better; might take a year, but she’ll get better. Next day, asking if they’d thought about funeral arrangements. 

Walk hands back to my feet. Dear Mystery, do I need a pedicure.

Hubby went to Michigan to work on his mom’s house. Dropped by to see Eldest and her husband. Eldest Brother in law had been living with stage four lung cancer for eighteen months. The most recent check up showed that the cancer had jumped the chemo fence and started taking up camp in other parts of his body. Try something different? Or put the emphasis on comfort for whatever time is left? They will look at options with the care team. We wait. 

Bless my sturdy, stalwart feet. Stand up in tadasana, mountain pose, thighs inwardly rotated, hands in prayer position at heart center. A few more stretches to mobilize the hips, then hug knees to chest, exhale into savasana to close out the class.

Roll onto my side. “Take just another moment to thank your body.” I did. Deep, sincere thanks that she hasn’t retaliated for all the unwise food choices and spotty exercise by giving me cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.

There hadn’t been any word from Detroit or Arizona, but that meant nothing. We wait. 

Teacher and I parted for the evening with a hug. I stepped out into late summer twilight, looking at the gold-tinted pouring over the houses and trees on the west side of her cul-de-sac.

Sadness, yes. Nothing to be done except wait, and pray, and go about our life in the meantime as we wait the long wait to see how these stories play out. But somehow in the middle of the chaos and sorrow, there would be an island of peace.



Lessons of the Leaves

Oakley and I completed our morning constitutional by 8:15. What breeze there was rustled the leaves, inviting them to dance. We went to the observation platform overlooking the green glass river, then retraced our steps to the car.

Today won’t be as bad as initially predicted temperature wise, but it will still be sticky for the next couple of days. It is equinox, autumn, the first day of fall, and we welcome it.

I shed no tears for this summer’s passage. In fact, if it had a rear end, I would send it off with the admonishment not to let the door hit it there as it left.

While it wasn’t all bad, it just wore on and on past its useful purpose. The two trips to Ren Faire went well, thankfully. The never-ending string of sticky days, mechanical and technological failures, loved ones facing health challenges, and Oakley’s colitis flare-ups just wore me to a nub. I had too many days of non functionality because of fatigue and the heat, but know I will perk up as autumn unfolds.

The leaves have started letting go, gracefully travel on the air currents to land on the earth, weaving tapestries to protect the ground and newly seeded life from the elements. I envy their grace and ease as I do my own letting go: cleaned out my social media lists; deleted some contacts from my phone, including the number of  a friend and teacher who passed almost two years ago; let go of some false hopes about close real life relationships and dreams.

As the release of the leaves from the trees makes way for the new ones next spring, I await the arrival of the new with curiosity and advance gratitude.

The Wings of Evil


from Funny Pictures

The flying lowlifes are part of the wasp family. They get riled up about anything at this time of year. Now you know why I love early frosts.

Recovery from Sunday’s nailing continues. The bite is still itchy, swollen and red despite essential oils, Benadryl spray, triple antibiotic ointment, and lots of time spent with my leg resting on an ice pack. Some improvement, yes. The itching is intermittent, but it’s still sore.

I checked with Dr. Google. The good doctor concurred with my choice of home treatments, but suggested adding oral antihistamines (specifically Benadryl, which works wonders but incapacitates me to the point where I believe Jerry Springer) and Advil. That doesn’t, so I took a couple doses of that. Looks like 7-10 days before it clears up.

The swelling’s subsided enough to see where the little mother grabber nailed me not just once, but four or five times. All the welts are along the hem line of my capri pants, the part of my calf that bumps against the edge of the seat as I get in and out of the car. Mindfulness is the order of the day. The next 7-10, to be exact.

So the ice pack, triple antibiotic ointment (it has a topical pain reliever and keeps bacteria at bay), and Advil are my companions of choice. It will get better. In the meantime, I contemplate the irony of all the bugs I get exposed to in the woods where Oakley and I walk. Yes, I get the odd mosquito or fly bite. But this? At a suburban gas station? Go figure.

Oh, well…sigh. Could have been worse. I didn’t go into anaphylactic shock. It wasn’t on my foot or many worse places (some of the pics will induce nightmares, so don’t ask).

I just wish it had been this kind of a Sting:


not my work…not credited….used in Wikipedia

Life Does Not End after Ren Faire Season

OK, it might slow down, and the fumes from the turkey legs and memories of the performances might have to carry me for a while. I might end up going to the much smaller Faire at Stronghold the first weekend in October and will see if I can convince Hubby to go to the Janesville Renaissance Faire next spring.

Earlier this summer, I went on line and made notes in my calendar to remind me of upcoming events. In September, there’s a pow-wow near by and there’s a couple of spiritually oriented events that I’ve made tentative plans to attend; in October there’s the Stronghold Olde English Faire; but in November…oh, is there something to attend in November.

Finally, after many years of wishing and hoping, Garrison Keillor will be doing his one-man show at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora on November 13. This is only 20 minutes from my house. The tickets are on the way.

Most Saturdays and many Sundays, I’ve listened to “Prairie Home Companion” faithfully. Lake Wobegon has been and continues to be an oasis of calmness and decency in a world growing crazier by the day. I’m glad that it’s continuing. It will be different this fall, yes, but I will still have my two hour vacations and soundtrack for dinner prep on weekends.

It’s a little bittersweet to see Garrison. The whispered word is that it’s likely his last tour due to age related health concerns, but no matter. Finally I will get to see him in person.

Hubby and I were able to see a live streaming broadcast of “A Prairie Home Companion” some years ago at a local cinema. I know that this show will be just as good, even with the knowledge that this will likely be the last one. I’m just grateful that I’m able to attend.

I’m also grateful that I have a new perspective on Labor Day this year: it may be the end of the season at Bristol, but it’s the start of the countdown to see Garrison.



(image courtesy of )

Dream: I’m at some kind of gathering…it’s outdoors. A woman a few years older than me has a tent with several raptors. She has an owl perching on her left hand. She asks if I want to meet the owl. Of course I do. I hold up my left hand, and Owl steps onto it. She’s very lightweight. We touch foreheads, and she (Owl) stays with me for the rest of the dream (which I don’t remember).

I woke up smiling this morning. Owls are a mature woman’s totem, a symbol of Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and arts. Could it be that I am finally nearing the end of the ride on the menopausal crazy train? Will my wise flow soon be stored inside? I hope this is a sign of that. I hope that the touch of our foreheads imparted the wisdom of the ages to me, and that when the time comes, I can share it as needed and appropriate.

In the broader world at this time of year, the conversational call of the barn owls punctuate late afternoon walks with Oakley at the forest preserve. They have been kind enough to acknowledge my calls and response, perhaps taken a bit aback by my efforts.

The elongated who-o-o-s are not just a request for identification, but a question to contemplate as the northern world descends into the short days between Halloween and winter Solstice: who am I, really?

More importantly, who do I want to become in this about-to-be written chapter?

At this stage of the game, all I can do is get out of my own way and let myself evolve.

Walking West

A supermoon and an eclipse accompanied the equinox this year, heightening the sense that the veils between the worlds grow thinner by the moment. It is the the quarter of the year’s wheel when the harvest comes in; the time when the leaves turn colors and the grasses grow golden in the low-angled light western light at dusk. Let go, let go, it’s all done, completed, whispers the wind.

It seems as if the last couple of weeks since then have ushered in a lot of letting go. First, the passage of a very old friend’s mother–as in since kindergarten old friend’s mother. Mrs. R. had stepped up as a second mom after my mother’s unexpected death. She was 90, and the matriarch of a large blended clan. Until the last few months, she had been more clear-headed and coherent than many half her age, and burned up Facebook with the best of them. (“Having laser surgery on my eyes today. Asked the doctor if the beams will come out of my butt.”) Mrs. R, if you see this, thanks. I’m sure that she and my mom have the coffee going and are getting caught up.

Then came the call from a shell-shocked close friend whose late 80-something year old parents are engaging in synchronized self destruction. Her mom is in supported living; her dad in hospice. My face froze in the deer-in-headlights position for her.

Yesterday was acupuncture day. There had been a group of elders who had pretty much grown up here in the little town, and treated their weekly treatments as they might going out for coffee or another social event. None of them were there. One had lost his license due to age related problems, another had fallen and broken her arm, the third had another health crisis that prevented him from coming. The community treatment room was entirely too quiet.

And yesterday came news that the husband of another friend is facing a cardiac bypass in the next few days. He has a complicated medical history to begin with, but is going ahead with the surgery despite the risks. He’s tried everything else, and would not be going ahead with it if he didn’t feel that it was warranted.

We wait. We ask the Great Mystery for the best possible outcome. We burn so much incense that the sheriff’s deputies might catch a whiff and show up with a probable cause warrant.

Pause, inhale. Be aware of the cool damp earth supporting my feet, the scent of the incense and the smoke from the piles of pruned branches, fallen leaves, and other plant matter burning to expedite its return to the earth.

Pause, aware that some day, hopefully not for a long time, I will finish the westward walk and step through the veil, reunited with the ones who have gone on before.

A Certain Slant of Light

Oakley and I walked in the thick morning air today. I don’t think we’ll be back out except for running sanitary errands. It was still a good walk. We sat by the river for a while. He kept watch, guarding me from squirrels and chipmunks  while I meditated. Shafts of light flowed through the leaves, and light mist rose skyward through them.

The morning light holds a rose-gold color. In the evening, just at dusk, the deep gold light pours across the grass in the field behind the house. The earth and the sun have changed their relative angles to one another as they dance through the wheel of the year.

In spite of the levels of heat and humidity usually left behind in July, the signs and signals indicating autumn’s impending arrival unfold. There’s the light, of course. A handful of leaves experiment with red and yellow edging; a few have even made the leap and lie on their backs on the ground, staring up at the shortening rays of the sun.

Despite the discomfort, I’m having urges to bake, to freeze, to follow the lead of the squirrels and begin to put food away for the winter. No, not at 90. Maybe I’ll play in the kitchen next week when temperatures are slated to return to a reasonable level, but not today. It’s a good day for a lot of iced tea, but for soup and stew and having the oven on, not so much. The air conditioner has enough to contend with without the oven.

This weather, the yuck and the stick and the sweat, this will pass. I find comfort in knowing that it will not last forever. The slant of the light as it gilds the field is welcome to stay as long as it wants.

Monday, Monday…

I’m not feeling very coherent today. Yesterday was cool and rainy. Oakley, sensible fellow that he is, slept the better part of yesterday. We paid for it with a 2 AM potty run. I wasn’t able to get back to sleep very well, so I’m dragging a bit.

Today he’s going for his bimonthly spa treatments at a new groomer’s. She is a handler at his newest day care place, and so far, they like each other. I’m sure they still will after the bath-ears-nails-routine.

Thoughts in the food department are equally incoherent. Root veggies are on my mind. My local friendly organic farmers had their last farm stand yesterday. Carrots, real big chunky ones, ended up in my bag. Not sure if they will be eaten or photographed. They look like the ones Bugs Bunny chomps as he counters Elmer Fudd.

Squash, too, is on my mind. I’m thinking about the butternut squash curry with tofu my beloved late local pan-Asian made. Time to do some research and make some myself.