Monday, July 5, 2010

Heat wave

"Horizontal Hold" by Peter Ostroushko is a song about what to do when there's a snowstorm -- get in bed with popcorn, board games, etc.

This week, we have the summer variation, with temperatures in the 90s predicted for at least four days (I know, that's nothing to the Texans, but here in northeastern US, it's an event).  Stephen and Bridget said they were planning to stock up on popsicles and lemonade, and stay in with the air conditioning.

I like the way Stephen and Bridget, just like Peter Ostroushko,  make unpleasant weather into a cozy adventure.

Nevertheless, mostly I like weather when I can comfortably be outdoors.  Sometimes it seems winter is better in that regard, because you can be outside if you bundle up and keep moving, while in summer, sometimes there is no way to be comfortable outside.

But at least in summer, it cools down at night.  Tonight after sunset I sat out on my balcony.  It had cooled down to the mid 80's -- warmer than I prefer, but bearable for sitting outside in the dark.  I gazed at the leaves on the trees.  I think that is what I love about summer -- being able to sit outside and gaze upon leafy trees.

But there is no point in choosing a favorite season.  Though we do have some choice about where to live, the seasons are the seasons, and the weather is the weather, and hopefully we can find joy in all seasons, because life is too short not to find joy in every moment.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Usually I say that I like to go to the fireworks for the atmosphere, not because I like fireworks themselves.  I like the coming together of the people in the community.  I like being outside on summer evenings.  Last night, as I waited for fireworks to start, I thought, "Maybe I should just go home now.  I've been here since 5:00 and enjoyed it, and now I've gotten what I wanted to get out of it, and now I'm tired.  The fireworks will just be loud noises assaulting my eardrums."  But I waited, and I enjoyed the fireworks.  The experience I had with them was similar to what I recall from 1998.  When it seems like I'm directly under them and I gaze up at them, it's like getting entranced by a magical world.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Morning Song

A great way to begin every day is by singing "Morning Song," written by Daniel Dutton and recorded by Atwater Donnelly.


After what I wrote yesterday about consumption vs. making things myself, especially with regard to cooking, it was interesting to read James Beard's introduction to The Fannie Farmer Cookbook:

The decades following Miss Farmer's death in 1915 were not a particularly distinguished  period in American cooking.  Perhaps it was because the average American woman suddenly found herself with no help at all and, instead of wanting to learn cooking, she was interested in liberating herself from the kitchen.  Perhaps Prohibition had its depressing influence.  Whatever the reason, for a long time, the emphasis was on oversimplification, shortcut methods, bastardization of traditional recipes and, as more convenience foods came on the market, there was more reliance on them.  The magazines were full of casseroles covered with a condensed soup or packaged sauce and ersatz products like flavored salts dulled the palate.  It seemed that the spirit and influence of that great woman was drowned in a sea of jellied salad.
One thing that strikes me about that is that James Beard's idea of too much reliance on shortcut measures is still more elaborate cooking than I want to do.  If I cooked according to his idea of shortcut methods, I would feel I was doing my own cooking and did not have to feel guilty.  Which goes to show how much such views of how much to rely on convenience is a result of the time and the culture.

I think for my own life, I should not feel guilty for not being a more elaborate cook.  Compared to many people around me, I buy less.  I re-use more.  I bring my own lunches to work, sandwiches made at home.  But it's not about comparing myself to other people.  There is a part of me that values reducing consumption.  I need to explore that part of me, and make my own choices about what I actually want to do.  Maybe I never will get into cooking, but maybe I'll find other ways to put that value into practice.

Right now I'm happy to have just had a simple lunch made at home, consisting of salad, tofu, and bread with hummus.  The salad ingredients and bread were from the farmer's market.  The tofu and hummus were organic.

Sometimes though, I feel I don't have the time or energy to prepare food.  That's okay.  It's up to me to decide how I want to allocate my finite time and energy. I don't seem to be entirely happy with my allocations now, so it's something to think about.  However, I will never be entirely happy with my allocations, because the amount I want to do always exceeds the available time and energy, so I will always be frustrated about the things I'm not doing.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Dark times, healing, health, and prevention

Healing is the attempt to alleviate ailments.  It is good because it directs care and nurturing to other people.  However, what is even better is health.  To be in need of healing is to have discomforts which impair your ability to do the things you want to do.

I read about how observing seasonal rituals reminds us of the changing nature of life.  I read that there is no life without death, and no light without darkness.

But it is not really true that we must get equal measures of both.  I was reading about how we must have a season of darkness and a season of light, but in the tropics, people get the same amount of darkness and light all year round.

Though we all die, some live to be 100 while others only live to be 5.  Though most of us have some times of health and some times of sickness, some of us live with chronic illness our entire lives while others are rarely sick.

The changing of the seasons is beyond our control.  However, we live with them as best we can.  Here in the northern U.S., we cope with the dark time of the year by heating our homes, enjoying cozy indoor time, and enjoying winter sports such as skiing and sledding.

So too are illness and death often beyond our control.  And so too must we live with them as best we can.  But at the same time, there are things we can do.  We can research the causes and treatment of illness and injury, and then we can apply that knowledge for prevention and treatment.  This is the role of healers.

The same thinking applies to the earth.  The earth may be sick with contamination, but we can research and apply methods to heal this contamination.

And the same also applies to the problems of humanity, such as poverty, prejudice, and violence.

Life will bring us dark times.  To a certain extent, this is beyond our control.   But healers are those who seek to lessen these things.  And my focus as a healer is on prevention.  Illness and injury can be prevented through healthful practices.  Harm to the earth can be prevented through sustainable living.  Poverty, prejudice, and violence can be prevented through education and opportunity.  We can never prevent all negative things, and we should not condemn ourselves for failing to do so.  And because we can never prevent all negative things, we also need the skills to alleviate the bad things once they happen.  I think I need to learn these alleviation skills, but I think that my own personal calling is to focus primarily on prevention.

Consumption vs. making your own

Specialization of work makes us more efficient and productive, and yet, it can be taken too far if we pay for someone to do every personal chore.  There seem to be certain cultural attitudes, and certain ideas which I've internalized, about what is okay to buy and what I should do for myself.

I have no expectation that I should spin my own yarn, weave my own fabric, sew my own clothes, wash my clothes by hand, grow all my own food, make my own flour, bake my own bread, make my own dishes and silverware, or build my own house.  However, I feel that people should not hire housekeepers or cooks (although exceptions may be made in the case of disability).   I feel that I should cook my own meals.  It doesn't have to be fancy -- it can be frozen vegetables, canned beans, and rice.   I feel I should avoid eating prepared foods such as frozen dinners or something from a restaurant on a regular basis, although prepared foods are okay when sick or unusually busy, and a restaurant is okay when going out with people for a special occasion.  I don't have kids so I don't have to decide about that, but it seems that people who put kids in day care are frowned upon, while it is expected that kids will be put in school.

These rules in my head are arbitrary and arise from my cultural circumstance.  I can choose to make new goals for myself.  I don't yet know what those would be.  In a way, I want a life that is based more on making things than on consumerism.  But on the other hand, I don't like cooking.  I often eat prepared foods or buy food at coffee shops, but then I feel guilty about it.  So I want to relax my rules so I don't have to feel guilty about not cooking.

Maybe I can find a way that suits me.  Maybe I can relax the rules about cooking while putting more time into making things that I actually like making.

Do I like making anything? It seems I mostly like reading, writing, music, and movement, rather than working with physical objects.

Figuring all this out will be part of my druid journey.