Elizabeth Gilbert and the Future of Hope

I have been on crutches for over two months now from a serious knee injury I have mentioned in previous posts. Ten days ago I was given the green light from my doctor to ditch the crutches and begin weight-bearing around the house.  Sadly, after 3 days the pain returned.  Instantly I went from hope to a state of despair.  How much longer will I have to endure this?

By “chance” I tuned into an episode of the OnBeing podcast called the “Future of Hope” an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert, who happens to be one of my heroes.  During the interview by Pico Iyer, Gilbert speaks of how she navigated the pandemic and also the death of her life partner, Rayya from cancer.  Here are two excerpts from that interview which I needed to hear…

“if there is one thing that I, if I had the chance to do it over again, could’ve done differently, would’ve been to walk into it in a stance of surrender — arms collapsed, no clipboard, no agenda, no cherished outcome — and to have almost gone limp into it, which is not the same thing as hopelessness, but it is a very powerful stance to take in the wake of something that is bigger than you are.”

“And a friend of mine gave me a tip: to lower my standards of gratitude, to lower the bar and to catch the low-hanging fruit so that it’s not — it doesn’t have to be these huge, epic, grandiose gratitudes. The more physical they are, the more I felt it in my body. My gratitude for these slippers that I have that have an insole that you can put in the microwave and you can warm up your feet, that’s on my gratitude list almost every day. And I feel it neurologically. Even when I say it, I remember how comfortable those slippers feel, and remembering that doesn’t necessarily send me into despair over the state of the world, and it starts to kind of rewire my brain.”

Such good advice in tough times be it a pandemic, death of a loved one, or an injured knee.

Surrender

Gratitude

Every day I have to relearn those lessons.

I highly recommend listening to this episode.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Gilbert and the Future of Hope”

The Magic of Synchronicity

“…when you’re on the right path, the universe winks and nods at you from time to time, to let you know. Once you start noticing these little cosmic cairns, once you understand that you’re on a path at all, you’ll begin to see them everywhere.”

From an article on Synchronicity Psycology Today

I’ve had times when my world is a muddle, guidance will appear in unexpected ways – something I read, hear in an interview, a conversation with a stranger.  These incidents usually occur in clusters when I have let go of fear and lean into trust.  Often I’ve experienced them while traveling alone and am literally lost .  

Such a state happened to me recently when I accepted my knee injury, framing it in a more positive light.  Before a concert, my friends and I were out in NE Portland at a little eatery.  The server, a young man took one look at me on my crutches and my imposing exoskeleton of a knee brace and said, “ Oh, it’s going to get better.  You are going to get through this.”  I said “really? You’ve had an injury like this before?” He proceeded to tell me about the broken femur and broken wrist he sustained while snowboarding a few years back.  I was almost in tears.  His words were like balm for my soul.

Later as one of my friends pushed me in my wheelchair in a very crowded line to get into the concert venue (James Taylor and Jackson Brown!) A woman with her husband said to me “Sweetie, you go right ahead of us.”  I replied, “You make me feel like a queen!”  The woman replied, “ You are a queen.  Own it, honey!”  By the way, it was a faboulous concert- but more on that in another post.

The following day, a dear friend I hadn’t heard from called me out of the blue and gave me a good dose of Jewish mothering wrapped up in a pep talk. , “Listen, you are going to get through this. You are a strong woman and you will find your way.” Then she sent me her comprehensive favorite movie list for streaming.

Now to some this would be a series of unrleated events but not so to me. I had to let go in order to open myself to what I needed- a good dose of mothering and encouragement to get me unstuck. Call it God, call it the universe that helps one along when they are lost. Sometimes the cairns appear in the mist to mark the way forward.

photo by Deb Broocks

Grey Zone

There is a space

Between endings and beginnings

A quiet valley

Full of swirling grey mist

All sense of direction

Lost

Be still

In this protected place

Rather than stumble in confusion

Let clarity present itself.

Listen

When the compass needle turns within

And the fog rises slowly

This is the time of departure

Cairns marking the way on the immerging landscape

The start of a new journey

poem and artwork by the author

Notes From A Tripod

(Another take on my knee injury a couple posts back…)

The doctor reviews my MRI and informs me it’s a wear injury- a polite way of saying you’re getting old. The cartilage in my knee has worn thin from age and a simple turned ankle on a hike tore the meniscus which led to a stress fracture to the head of my femur.   “Stay off your knee for 4 months, non-weight bearing- crutches.  Watch that left hip.  It shows low bone density.  Don’t gain weight.   We’ll go from there.  No surgery, no easy fixes. See you after the first of the year.” Appointment concludes.  Crabby surgeon departs.  I remain in a state of shock.

What the doctor didn’t tell me is how to cope with this loss, this massive change in my life- no walking and no clear path to recovery, no dangling hope. All he sees is the injury and not the humanity surrounding it.  The quick fix laparoscopic surgery I expected disintegrated into months of recovery with no clear resolution.  My world shrinks from a universe to the size of an orange.  Will I get to walk or hike with my friends again?  Will I ever again see the tips of my cross-country skis cut through sparking snow?

Every day humans are faced with diagnoses, injuries, and other nasty things that upend their lives instantly.  It can be a lonely path to navigate.  Every day you’ve got to stave off the demons and keep on going, reframe your life, lower your expectations.  For me being a highly creative person and very goal-oriented, this is a challenge.  My big native plant garden project? – canceled until further notice.  Travel?  I don’t think so. Grocery shopping, housework?  NO. Cook?- barely.  This is my first major injury in six decades of living.  I am such a beginner

After weeks of flapping my wings against my cage, I’ve had to revise my life.

Focus on what I can do…

Get a new doctor (check)

Write

Draw

Read

Watch movies

Sing

Play guitar

Swim

Ride my bike

Get outside

Clean out some drawers

Breathe

Meditate

  • I have to remember to ask for help (hard).
  • I have to permit myself to pamper myself- hire a housekeeper, get a massage, buy audiobooks, get a therapist. (hard) 
  • Be humble- I just ordered a wheelchair as my back aches from weeks of crutches.
  • I have to allow myself some days of just being pathetic even though I know things could be worse. (easy)

I emerged from the doctor’s office that day feeling my mortality diminished

but still, I felt a pulse

and I had to drive home to beat traffic.

Said the tree to the sky

My limb is broken

I will have to find a new way

To dance with the wind

Artwork and poetry by the author

See my other blog on sustainable living at OneSweetEarth.blog

The Garden Gazette

This is my alternative news outlet lately…

The Garden Gazette

Off with the news

out to the garden

plenty of good tidings to report there

The red of ripe tomatoes

peeking from a tangle of foliage

zucchini lurking like green submarines

below the surface of splaying leaves

a raspberry to pluck here and there

the green beans are longer than yesterday

maybe tomorrow for dinner?

dangling cucumbers play hide and seek

eluding my grasp

the sunflowers have opened their cheery faces

to the delight of probing bumblebees

the eggplants are ready to pick!

This is a better way to begin one’s day

in the company of bees

to the whirr of hummingbird’s wings

to the gifts of my labors

the earth brings forth

Trying to Keep the Glass Half Full

I’m trying really hard to stay positive as the news gets grimmer and grimmer. The Delta variant and now Afhanistan on top of everything else. A good friend of mine gave me the prompt “unprecedented” to write about. We’ve been hearing a lot of that word lately. Here’s my take….

Unprecedented

temperatures

draught

wildfires

storms

flooding

hospitalizations

deaths

homelessness

violence

misinformation

division

threats to our democracy

pollution

extinctions

PLEASE

can we all come together

sacrifice

give

work for the common good

for this nation

this world

this planet

that would be

unprecedented

Writing Like a Great Horned Owl

photo by Pixabay

photo by Deb Broocks

There was this magnificent great horned owl that lived in the hayloft of the barn, part of the old farmstead that became the Nature Conservancy field station on the Zumwalt Prairie in NE Oregon. A month ago I spent a week there as a participant of the Outpost writing workshop sponsored by Fishtrap, a non-profit writing organization located in Enterprise (see my previous post, Writing the Zumwalt Prairie).

Occasionally we would see this stately bird from its perch at the hayloft’s opening scanning for prey and looking down on us sternly from above.

Owls are unique in that they can rotate their heads 180 degrees in each direction.  Their feathers are constructed in such a way to facilitate silent flight and their eyes are 35 X more sensitive than the human eye needing only 5% of the light we require.  Add to that their extremely acute hearing and you have an extremely adept hunter.

Dissecting owl pellets

Since owls typically swallow their prey whole, they have a daily ritual of regurgitating a tidy package of fur, bones, feathers, and the like into one tidy package known as an owl pellet.  When one dissects an owl pellet you can piece together the skeletons of the small rodents, and birds they consumed.

During our writing circles with our teacher /poet Kim Stafford, he encouraged us to always be paying attention with all our senses as we experienced the prairie around us, being mindful not to disregard the other visitors to our psyche as well.  He stressed to capture those thoughts and inspirations on paper or voice memo before they escaped us- much like the owl and its prey.  These morsels of observation are what feed us as writers.  Kim is never without a small notebook and pen.  I often saw him jotting things down as he went about his day.

To be any kind of creative it is important to pay attention from wherever our perch may be.  Writing, (or sketching)  like an owl is the essence of personal expression.

Writing on the Buckhorn fire lookout

Owl Pellets

 by Alanna Pass

I am learning to write like a great horned owl

I sit on a high perch

so that I may swivel my head in all directions

observing, listening, smelling

for inspirational prey

I leave my perch at a moment’s notice

a presence detected

with a silent swoop I spread my wings

extend my outstretched talons

and snatch my prey before possible escape

I bend head to toes

open my hooked beak, extract this morsel

and swallow it whole

repeating this routine until I feel a blissful sense satisfaction

Then I rest

to coalesce all my inspirational prey into one tidy parcel

until complete

I project my written pellet into the cosmos

to land at the feet of others

with the intention that they may also

experience the wonders, the truths, the inspirations

that I have lovingly collected, digested, and presented

from my perch with a view

art by the author

Writing the Zumwalt Prairie

In the NE corner of Oregon in Wallowa County lies a little visited wonder known as the Zumwalt Prairie. I recently returned from a five day writing workshop in this remote place and still memories swirl in my mind like the prairie wind.

This 330,000 acre bunchgrass prairie remains largely intact as the high elevation averaging 4,000 feet, poor soils, and harsh weather conditions made it unsuitable for the plow. This was a summering ground for the Nez Perce tribe before white settlers and broken treaties ultimately exiled them from their lands. This land is still home to a plethora of wildflowers, elk, deer, badgers, bird, and insect species, many of them threatened.

The Nature Conservancy owns and operates 36,000 acres of this land.  It’s a nature preserve but part of its mission is to work with the local ranchers integrating them with their mission of conservation work which includes biological inventories, ecological monitoring and preserving biodiversity.  It’s a partnership with conservation and private interests.  Careful grazing management is part of the picture.  The Nature Conservancy field station was a farmstead abandoned years ago as the harsh conditions of hot summers, frigid winters, poor soil, and remoteness made it too difficult to farm.

Continue reading “Writing the Zumwalt Prairie”

Digging for Garlic – White Gold

This year’s garlic harvest is in.  It‘s always a bit of magic when the spade brings to light the seed I planted in the fall.  From singular cloves come beautiful heads of garlic ready to enhance my cooking and that of others.  Trim the stalks and brush their smooth skins – a ritual I never tire of.  Then off to the racks of our root cellar (actually a former darkroom) where they will cure on racks.  Typically the harvest will last until mid spring if stored correctly.

We use garlic liberally, often pressing an entire bulb and storing it in a container for use during the week.  When I was a young cook I used to follow recipes that called for a clove or two of garlic. I could never taste the difference.  If you want some pizzazz to your cuisine, be generous 5 or 6 depending on the size of your cloves. Trust your taste buds.

Over many years none of our acquaintances- even my closest friends have ever complained to me of garlic breath.  A good tooth brushing will take care of that!

For more about my garlic obsession, see

The Art of Growing Garlic

          &

Tis the Season of Garlic Scapes

Of Garlic

Plant cloves come fall

Dig bulbs midsummer

Spicy, pungent warmth

Dazzle my senses through spring

Surviving a Heat Dome In Oregon

We were driving back from a blissful writing workshop up in a remote area in E. Oregon when we came back into cell service.  I’ll never forget my friend, Linda saying “Oh my god- there’s this thing called a heat dome that’s moving into the Pacific NW.  It’s going to get up to 116 degrees F!”  Seriously I thought she was joking until she insisted it was true.

We live in a place where occasionally we will experience triple-digit temperatures in the low hundreds but not this.  These are Death Valley or Phoenix temps.- not Oregon.  Another blow- last year it was the forest fires and now in late June extreme heat.  Add to that the pandemic, politics and it’s beyond cataclysmic.

My house has no AC.  There have been few times we have needed it as it is well insulated.  This time, however, since it only dropped into the high 80s at night the house would not cool off and remained at 89 degrees inside. This was intolerable- especially for me as I am highly sensitive to the heat and can get ill.

Continue reading “Surviving a Heat Dome In Oregon”

‘Tis the season of Garlic Scapes

This morning there was an event in my garden- the garlic scapes were ready for harvest.  What is a garlic scape?  It is the flowering stalk that appears about 2 weeks or so in June before the garlic is mature enough to dig.  It’s always a bit of a miracle to see it mature since I planted it way back in November.  We ran out of our garlic about two months ago so it is exciting to know that soon we will have fresh garlic to enjoy.

This is where it gets a bit complicated.  There are 2 types of garlic, hardneck and softneck.  Hardneck garlic is the only type that produces scapes. They have, as the name implies, a long hard neck or stem.  they have fewer cloves but the cloves are huge.  Softneck garlic has soft stems.  They are the type you see in braids.  Their bulbs can get huge with more cloves but they are not as big as those of the hardneck. Generally, they don’t store for as long as hardneck either.  They are impressive and make great gifts

My garlic bed- back right

I grow both kinds, Susanville, a softneck variety, and Musica, a hardneck variety.  Any type you grow at home puts the tiny store-bought garlic from China to shame in terms of flavor and size. (Why we import that inferior garlic from China is a mystery to me!)

Garlic scapes have a mild garlic flavor.  Tonight I will brush them with olive oil and place them on the grill with other vegetables to serve as a side dish.  This is my favorite way to serve them. I also sauté them and add them to everything from eggs to stirfry.  Look for them now at farmer’s markets and specialty grocery stores for a special treat.

Garlic Scapes

Amid the crossing linear foliage

I spot them

heads nodding

shyly on slim necks

stems curving

with gestures of

graceful  ballerinas

First harvest

Artful are these scapes bearing

buds like slender crane’s bills swaddling

garlic flowers

unlikely harbingers of the fiery bulbs

maturing beneath the soil

waiting for my shovel to bring them

to the light of day

to the warmth of my kitchen

to dance in the food at my table

Susanville garlic

For more about my garlic hobby see my post The Art of Growing Garlic