Thursday, September 30, 2010

Golden Handcuffs of Comfort and Wanderlust

The lust for comfort murders the passions of the soul.
-Khalil  Gibran

Comfort is nice, but the draw to do exciting new things has always pulled me in directions unknown. Whether this is good or bad matters not. What matters is living as much as possible. Putting too much off for a rainy day creates a habit stunting the adventurous life. Habits are easily formed and difficult to break- I try to avoid accidentally falling into habit of inactivity for comfort's sake. Safety and comfort, in moderation, are good, but without excitement and adventure, what is life but waiting for death?

Getting lost. Taking chances. These are the things that make my day worth the energy of getting out of bed. I try to fulfill my hopes and desires because I am only here once. This does not mean disregarding relationships, but what it does mean is making sure not to spend my time just watching others live. I want to feel the wind in my hair and the ground under my feet; to be passionate about things, to have opinions.

As a child, days lasted forever, but time is a fickle creature, it has the habit of passing faster than one realizes.I try not to wish my days away. They all pass so quickly. 

I find the word ‘expire’ very interesting; it is a word that relates to both breath (that which provides life) and death (the ceasing of life)- different sides of the same coin. No one knows when they will expire. My hope is that I expire without regret.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Sound of Crackling Leaves

In honor of the first weekend of autumn, I headed out to one of our wonderful state parks to see what secrets the forest would share. Although I found no hieroglyphics etched in stones, I heard the rustling of leaves, the songs of the birds and the scurrying of small unseen creatures in the brush.

Some of the leaves have already made their final journey; their dried carcasses left upon the footpaths. I love the sound of crunching leaves underfoot even when it interferes with my chance to glimpse the life of those who make the forest their home.

The harvest colors are already beginning to appear: the soft browns, warm yellow-oranges, fiery reds and purples. The greens are still present along with the blue sky which presents the full rainbow of color, a true celebration of life.

As humans we are anything but quiet- we walk noisily, we talk noisily and rarely sit still. Sometimes I like to stop, shed those human qualities (if this is truly possible) and just be- to take in my surroundings, allow them to fill me with their stories. The trees speak of beautiful days basking in the sun and hard weather; birds speak of visitors, both friend and foe; and the little animals and bugs speak of change.

Stopping the rush of everyday life, of forcing things to go the way we believe they should can produce amazing results. It isn't necessary that our focus always remain on the future. Sometimes the now is more important, just to be. So much can be missed when we forget to look and direct our attention to what is in front of us.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

And Autumn has Fallen

As I sit writing, I hear the wind, strong and purposeful, bringing cooler weather. A wind such as this shall bring good sleep and good dreams. Dreams of colored leaves and carved gourds. We are at the cusp of autumn! Today is the autumnal equinox and, although the sky I am under is overcast, I hear that this is the brightest harvest moon seen in the last decade. I hope those of you who (saw) can see it are reveling in its glow. The autumnal equinox is the balance between night and day (theoretically speaking).

A day of balance.

Welcome autumn with your fiery glow of leaves and cheeks
One last burst of color before the sleep of winter blankets you 'til spring
The nights linger longer and the days taste of the final harvest
Masks and shadows expand and disappear
Welcome autumn, my favorite time of the year!!

Make sure to dance by the light of the moon tonight!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Storytime at the Whistler

On Sunday, after a trying morning, I coaxed myself to attend a poetry/short story reading at the Whistler. The bar was warm and friendly, small enough to feel cozy, but large enough to move around. And, as an added bonus, it also has a patio! There are so many hidden gems within my neighborhood, and after Sunday evening, I must add this place to the list.

I have always enjoyed being read to and this was no different. Storytelling is a lost art, a sad relic of a time before television. When stories are read to me I become entranced; the child all comfy in my footed pyjamas waiting breathless for what will happen next resurfaces. I believe the crowd felt something similar...

There is something special about hearing people's work, something they are clearly proud of, being read by them. They know where they wanted certain intonation and tone. They know the color of the story. Without having to question the author, the listener shares in the secrets of the author's thoughts. Some funny, some absurd, some melancholy, but all wholly the author's.

One of the authors reading that night was Davis Schneiderman. He provided us with a taste of his book Drain, a futuristic story about the drying up of Lake Michigan and the colony of peoples that moves in. Sounded to be an interesting read.

Davis Schneiderman

The next reading is scheduled for the 3rd Sunday of October (actually the 3rd Sunday of every month). If you are free and want to hear some interesting new material, you should stop by... oh, and the drinks are pretty good too. Go for the violet concoction... very nice... Maybe I will see you there...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Once I Dreamt… (Poem)

This photo inspired the following poem:

Once I Dreamt…

Once I dreamt I was the trees
I grew in the mountains and shivered in the breeze
I held steadfast to the ground and the rock
Moss clung to me and blanketed me from the winter’s cold stare
I was wise and gentle, yet strong and solid
In youth I was fictile, often changing direction as the wind
Time wore on and I grew into myself and strengthened my foundation
With the strength I withstood the defects of my youth
Old age brought blight and rot
I was devoured from the within
Unable to shake the emptiness, I died
Once again the ground that I consumed, consumed me
And all was well…

(J. Smith 2010)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Visual of the Renegade Craft Fair

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rememberance of Things Large and Small

Today is the anniversary of a day that any American alive nine years ago will remember. The destruction of lives and families that occurred on this day nine years ago was unfathomable. The memory stays with one just like the explosion of the Challenger Space shuttle or the assassination of President Kennedy. The difference between the other events is how many lives 9/11 actually touched. The attacks of 9/11 were on such a great scale, greater than we have ever experienced and it rippled throughout. It destroyed families, friendships, and shook our nation's belief that we were safe from harms such as this. These sorts of attacks happened elsewhere, not on our soil. We were wrong.

My heart goes out to those who continue on while still experiencing the loss of the loved ones missing from their lives.

I remember that day well. My husband (we had just started dating 2 weeks before 9/11) and I worked together at the time. He was on his way to an on-site meeting in Indiana. After he left for his meeting, I received a call from a supplier who shared with me that the towers were under attack. I was in shock. At the time my husband did not have a cell phone and there was no other way to contact him. I knew he was driving through downtown Chicago to get to his meeting and all I could do was worry. Chicago, being a financial center, and a large one at that, very well could have been on the list of targeted places. We were luckily spared. Sadly, other places were not. When he returned to the office I was so relieved. I have never been so happy to see someone return as I was him. Not long after, he asked me to marry him. We were married March of 2002.

Nine years later, I am experiencing the destruction of my marriage, which oddly began in March of this year when my husband decided that he would have an emotional affair with another married woman regardless of our happy marriage. This would be the same woman he went on date with this past weekend disregarding the fact they are both are still married. I have to believe something good will come out of this destruction as well. This is something on a significantly smaller scale, but one which affects my life completely and has created large ripples in the lives of those affected.

I make it a point to remind those I care about how much I love them and never leave them angry. The events of 9/11 reinforced my belief. I also like to believe that something good can come out of all destruction. As with the phoenix,

“The phoenix hope, can wing her way through the desert skies, and still defying fortune's spite; revive from ashes and rise.”

(Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra )

I hope this is true. We all have struggles, challenges and sadness in our lives. For those dealing with their own struggles, challenges and sadness, I wish you all peace, a heart large enough to forgive and the gift of love.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Celebrations and Resolutions

Today is Rosh Hashanah, also known as the Jewish New Year. Rosh Hashanah (my understanding) is also the first day of the high holidays, a time of repentance. To me, this means inquiry as to what needs to be forgiven of yourself and others.

Tomorrow is the celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The purpose of the fast (once again, my understanding) is to develop strength to live a life of purity, patience and obedience.

I find both of these traditions beautiful. I believe we need more reflection, repentance, patience and strength to steel ourselves from temptations. As I have previously said, I am not religious, but I can certainly appreciate what I consider positive contributions from all religions. I believe that as a whole, we need to pull these virtues back into our own lives. Maybe by starting with those we surround ourselves with- our family and friends.

How often have you looked at someone you should know so well, as well as yourself, and realized that you have no idea what they are thinking and who they might be today? This could be a spouse, a friend, a family member, whomever. How well do we know our best friends? Can we recount their deepest darkest secrets, do we even know what they are? When was the last time you had an in depth serious conversation with that person? Can you remember it?

I wonder how often we forget to examine the person next to us because, we believe, wrongly I might add, that we know that person without continuing to reach into their hearts, into their souls to understand them and their wants, needs and desires. This is something we should forgive ourselves and others for, but resolve ourselves to correct and have the patience to do so.

People change. This is a fact. They may look much the same, but new ideas are everywhere, each experience changes us. It is up to each of us to reexamine our friends, family and loves often to learn who they truly are. To share who we truly are with them. Only then can we continue our journey with them. Without that understanding of each other we can easily drift apart, creating conflict and miscommunication.

We are more than just our physical being. We are more than just our actions. We are our thoughts and dreams, our ambitions, our fears, our successes, our failures. All of the things that make us complete are special, unique and, in love, should be shared.

On this Rosh Hashanah, maybe take a look inward and then outward, make your peace with the world and then consider a resolution for this year to be more open to sharing, loving, giving and forgiving of yourself and others. For those who celebrate Rosh Hashanah, happy new year! For those who do not, each day is a day of renewal and you can begin your "new year" at any time, so why not today?

Maybe we can all be reminded that patience is necessary to understand our world and the people in it, during this the end of Ramadan. For those who celebrate Ramadan, Happy Eid! For those who don't, maybe consider introducing more patience and understanding into your lives and celebrate those strengths.

Both are recognition that we should strive to be better people. What a wonderful world this can be if we all try to be better people. Better to each other, better to ourselves, better to the world around us.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Actors and Observers Lost in the Tide

I am hungry. Hungry for a change, hungry not to feel like my world is coming down around me. I am looking for signs hoping that by keeping watch I will catch that "ah-ha" moment.

As many of you know I enjoy photography. I keep my camera very close at all times, just in case something catches my fancy. Just in case all the celestial beings line up providing me that perfect shot. Most of the time I am appreciating the comfort of the camera's weight- it reminds me that I am in the here and now. I have a choice, I can capture it or I can live it. I don't know if one can do both, not for that single moment. We are either the actor or the observer, but not both at the same time. It is difficult to pull oneself from the play of life and just watch the goings on when one is also actively acting. When it is your cue you must race to your mark on the floor, no time to observe your surroundings. Out with your lines!

This weekend I was the actor. I said my lines, finally. I do not know how they were received, or if they were received at all, but they are out. Now, I am the observer. I am stepping back, waiting to see how this part of my life will turn out. I cannot claim to know. I am no magician, I cannot read or tell the future from leaves and cards. If I could, I believe the excitement (good or bad) of what is to come next would be lost. I am sure I will be stepping back into the actor's shoes very shortly, but for now, I am taking a deep breath and just observing.

To him that watches, everything is revealed

                                                               (Italian Proverb)

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Vietnamese Spring Rolls in Translation

While teaching English as a Second language, my friend and student Mai, determined that I learn to make something Vietnamese, suggested I make spring rolls. She guaranteed that they were easy to throw together, especially since I would be making a vegetarian version. As with most "cooking" type things, I did not believe her. I tucked away her suggestion and then last weekend, on a whim, I decided to tackle the spring roll.


dry Rice wrapper (round)
shitake mushrooms
bean sprouts
rice noodles (thin)
really good soy sauce
sesame seed oil

For Dipping:

Spicy peanut sauce
Really good soy sauce
Plum sauce

First, bring a pot of water to boil for the noodles. Do not add the noodles yet.

While waiting for the water to boil, saute the shitake mushrooms with a little soy sauce and sesame oil put that aside to cool.

Once the water is boiling, turn off the heat and add the noodles. keep stirring the noodles until they are soft- once soft drain the noodles and allow them to cool.

Julienne both the cucumber and the carrots.

Fill a large bowl with lukewarm water to rehydrate the dry rice wrappers. Take your first rice wrapper, while holding it, dip it into the bowl until it is soft, but not disintegrated.

Once the wrapper is moist, lay it down to begin adding the filling. I place them on a cutting board to make it easier to move around.

On one end, place some of the noodles, carrots, cucumber, shitake mushrooms, bean sprouts and cilantro. Pull the end of the wrapper where you placed the filling over the filling completely.

Fold in each side of the wrapper to secure the filing and then roll away from you. The wrapper is sticky and will seal itself. Place on the side. Repeat these steps until you reach the number of rolls needed. You can keep the rolls cool in the refrigerator while finishing up the remaining rolls.

Toss cut scallions over the rolls as garnish.

Use one or all of the dipping sauces and enjoy.

Have you ever notice how much fun rolled foods are to eat?  There are burritos, tamales, egg rolls, spring rolls, etc. Anything that is self contained and easy clean up is alright by me. I also enjoy the versatility of these rolled foods. The fillings can be replaced, things can be added or removed, all giving a nice twist to the traditional.

Thanks Mai!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Masks and Reality Revealed

Leaving Our Masks Behind

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.

 - Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Who are we truly? Are we the person we present to others or are we hidden? Do we even know? When the masks come off do we feel liberated and embrace the other we only knew through the mask or do we shrink back into our protective shells, cursing ourselves from sharing what we did with a perfect stranger? 

 I do not know. Only time and experience can answer this question. 

This will be a laborious weekend for me as I ponder these issues and hold my breath... 

I wish you all an enjoyable Labor Day weekend and last days of summer for those who believe summer ends this weekend (even though summer lasts until the September 22nd when we are graced with the fall equinox... and my favorite time of the year!).