I went for an early morning walk today. I was on a mission to pick persimmons to make steamed persimmon pudding. There are several persimmon trees here at The Bishop’s Ranch and as always there was an abundance of persimmons. Yesterday I noticed that most were gone or fallen to the ground, or pecked to the stem by grateful ravenous birds; birds who can’t believe their luck to find such a treat just days from a solstice dark night. This frosty morning I realized that if I don’t get some now I wouldn’t be able to make my Aunt Lorraine steamed pudding.
My Aunt Lorraine turned 90 this October and I brought her some stone hard persimmons as a gift. As a thank you she sent me her recipe for steamed persimmon pudding… and in her Christmas card I got this week she asked me if I’d made it yet. So you can see I felt duty bound to honor this women with the making of a steamed pudding!
As I often do I started making the recipe before reading through the entire directions. My batter was made before I realized I’d need a “6 cup greased metal mold” – opps – I could picture what I think I need, my grandma had all these copper decorative pans with fluted sides – I think that’s what I need – all I have is a Bundt pan – it will have to do. As I read on I realized I need to fit this Bundt pan into a large kettle – it just fits! Uh oh how do I get it out? I need to put water in the bottom of the pan… with a bit of kitchen twine and some knotting skills I managed to rig a string lift to check the water. Now I’m ready to go! What? “Steam for 2 ½ hours”. With time on my hands I did this little painting of some persimmons waiting on my windowsill. Still more time and I’m writing this blog and connecting with you… still 59 minutes to go, I guess I should clean the kitchen now. But not before I give thanks for persimmons, and family recipes, and the gift of time for this disorganized cook to paint and ponder and reach out to you.
Be well this holiday season and take time, however it presents itself, to give thanks for all the beauty and love swirling around the long dark nights and short crisp days of Solstice.
Spring brings blossoms, summer brings fruit, and fall brings libations!
Last weekend some friends invited us to help them pick and press apples. We picked pounds and pounds of apples, brought by the wheelbarrow full to the press. Then we washed and dropped the apples into a mechanical chopper. The chopped apples were then put into an old-fashioned crank juice press. We took turns washing, chopping and cranking – filling jugs of apple juice to freeze for drinking later. Then we juiced more, about 20 gallons more in fact. This juice is now bubbling and brewing and becoming hard cider. This process is way beyond my skills, I’m leaving it up to a master mixer, but since I volunteered to pick and press… this fall I’ll get to taste. Not bad pay!
I have a years worth of workshops lined up on the calendar go to my website to see what’s happening and how to sign up! http://lisathorpe.com/classes.html
I was out at our house in the redwoods this week for a little respite and of course with home ownership come chores. There are some things that must be done and my ongoing battle with three fierce enemies is a summer ritual. My battle for dominance is akin to the Game of Thrones series. For those of you unfamiliar with Game of Thrones, there are multiple competing forces all vying to rule a fantasy world. I can’t really keep track of who’s who most of the time; and there really doesn’t seem to be a clear good guy, but there are clearly bad guys….any how, I took on my annual battle with the forces of nature like Khaleesi fighting the despicable slavery lords. My three opponents are these: One- the wily Poison Oak, clever at disguising itself – it can be a shrub, a vine and often likes to hide among other plants lying in wait to spread it’s itch inducing oils. Two- the spiny Blackberry, armed from leaf to root with thorns and able to amass a great, vast, impenetrable army of shrubbery to defend itself. Three- Scotch Broom, an invasive species that shoots up everywhere, really everywhere, like the Zombie White Walkers in the afore mentioned fantasy world; and left unchecked can take over a hillside in a year or two. So those are my enemies, and while the weapon of a hoe is honorable and effective, it is no match for these voracious foes. Don’t hate me for bringing out the big guns, Round Up and a two-gallon hand pump sprayer is my bazooka, or to keep the Game of Thrones metaphor going the Round Up is akin Daenerys Targaryen’s mighty flying dragons defending her territory from all comers. Fingers crossed I have kept my rivals at bay for another year, but never fear, season 12 is just one rainy winter and sunny spring away.
I went for a hike along the trails here at The Bishop’s Ranch yesterday morning. The sun was bright and warm, tempered by a brisk spring wind. As I walked through the heirloom apple orchard the nearly century old trees, twisted and bedraggled with dead branches, persisted in blooming, they resist the urge each year to give in to winter and choose instead, with what energy they have, to embrace spring. Thanks to the abundant winter rains this year the trees are surrounded by carpet of green dotted with delicate, bright yellow buttercups. As I bent down to pick a few a sweet memory flooded through – forty-five years or more ago I bent to pick these same buttercups. That day I stood in a meadow with my sister. The meadow had a little creek that ran through it and housed two fat ponies and a burro. While they grazed idly by we picked buttercups. We picked buttercups not by the handful but by the armful. We truly filled buckets with buttercups to bring to the house. We filled every nook and cranny with buttercup bouquets.
Yesterday I brought my bundle of buttercups to my studio. I am preparing for a mixed media nature journaling class I’m teaching in May here at the Ranch (class info). I have been experimenting with printing organic objects. So I inked up my printing plate and placed my buttercups down, laid the paper on and rubbed. When the print is lifted what showed is the negative space around the buttercup. Then I gently peeled up the buttercups and made what is called a ghost print of what was left behind under the buttercups. I found these negative space prints and their ghosts to contain a simple quiet beauty and while I was making them I began to think of my father who passed away last fall. I have been working on a slide show for the celebration of life we are having for him next weekend. While I have done the best to find images of him throughout is life from birth to death, to somehow encapsulate who he was in one slide show, I know is folly. There are gaps of course, missing pieces things he loved not captured in film, people whom he loved and loved him not pictured. The gaps and missing pieces in this slide show are like the negative space buttercup prints- they depict the presence of absence the space around the life. And like the ghost prints it is just a whisper of the vibrant life he led. I am grateful that his memory comes to me in many ways through photos and celebrations, and quiet buttercup prints reminding me to leave space for the presence of absence.
It has been awhile since I blogged so happy New Year friends. I had a lovely New Years trip to Kauai and before that I was wrapped up in the holidays. I’ll admit to being a swirling mix of feelings this past couple of weeks; dismay, disorientation, disgust to name a few. I don’t talk about politics here but now is the time. I want a conversation, an exchange not just teams sunk in their own huddles listening only to themselves. So I must be part of that conversational solution. I’ll give you a little history. In 1992 my sister, mom and I (oh and half a million other people) marched on Washington in support of a women’s right to control her own body and for one last push for the Equal Rights Amendment (which didn’t pass so to this day women are still not named in the constitution…). So now as a new conservative government takes charge, I have a choice: hide or engage. I choose engage. Here is a quote that reminds me why my voice is important:
“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable. Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels inevitability. Every step towards the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals. Without persistent effort, time itself becomes an ally of social destruction. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”- Martin Luther King, Jr. in Stride Toward Freedom the Montgomery Story
I will admit that since that march in 1992 I’ve been more talk than action. I guess I thought the wheels were rolling forward so I could take my hands off the cart. I see I was wrong. But what I want to push for is conversation, for understanding and finding common ground. I have something in common with the anti-choice voice – I think we can both agree that abortion is not the best way to control birth. Now from there we diverge on how to prevent abortions but still we have common ground. But maybe, just maybe I can engage in conversation from that point of agreement, right? I’ll try. Tomorrow I march with friends in Sacramento, I march to remind myself that nothing rolls on the wheels of inevitability, I must put my hands to the cart to move the conversation, I want to be a voice of strength, love and inclusiveness, I want to engage with you and the world to ensure that the advances towards “liberty and justice” are truly for ALL. Thanks for reading – now take positive action – ENGAGE!
Here is a link to a great History of Planned Parenthood mini documentary that is very informative; I hope you’ll watch it.
I’ve been a bit wrung out these days, my to-do list just won’t get shorter, my sleep is off, the short days and early dark – you know what I mean – I’m out of whack, I’m in disequilibrium. So where the mind goes so goes the body and a few weeks ago I bent to zip my zipper or tie my shoe or something else innocuous – there was a loud pop in my neck and my range of motion stopped at about twenty-five degrees each way. Ok fine universe, I’ll do some stretching, etc and keep on going. Well let me tell you the universe did not abide, so last week after a regular teeth cleaning (nothing unusual) my jaw slipped out of gear just like the clutch going out in your car but this came with gnawing pain with every chew and my bite out of alignment….. OK, OK universe I get it – STOP – I added “take care of self” to my to-do list. There was a masseuse right here at the Ranch for the week – nothing was stopping me. So today (just hours ago in fact) I got an amazing massage!
I scheduled a 90-minute massage instead of just 60 minutes (a splurge I have never allowed myself), I told my masseuse of my woes and she got to work, she dug and pressed and smoothed every inch of me with her hot angel hands. While I was on the table an image of a strong, fierce, determined angel wringing out laundry along the Ganges came to mind. The masseuse was the angel, of course, and I the laundry, the pouring rain outside played the part of the mighty holy Ganges River. After almost 2 hours she left me – set out to dry in the tree branches along the riverbank. Neck is moving to 35 degrees each way now (not perfect – but better), jaw thinking about getting back to work (maybe a few more days). Thank you universe for reminding me to take care of myself – but next time can you just send me a text?
So here is your reminder before it’s too late- make time for yourself in the midst of your all your busy!
PS – Thanks Angel Anya for your strong hands and open heart!