Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gratitude.

I am blessed beyond sense in so many ways. Though I often trudge through my days, dragging my feet (and other body parts), there are moments in which the whole of my being is flooded with gratitude for the abundance of love and amazing people in my life.

"How will you use your leisure and fortune today?" This is written on a card that sits on my dining room table, again on my kitchen cabinet, and, in a slightly different formulation, on the mirror in my bedroom. I was asked the other day what it means, and was reminded that, what can seem so obvious to one is not clear at all to others.

If you are reading this, you are blessed by leisure and fortune. If you did not go to bed hungry for lack of food, you are blessed by leisure and fortune. If, indeed, you went to bed in a bed in a house, you are blessed by leisure and fortune. If you had a break from work today, you are blessed by leisure and fortune. If you own a TV, a radio, a phone, a car, more clothes than you need, have heat, indoor plumbing, and electricity, you are blessed with leisure and fortune.

So often, however, we take all this for granted. We don't think about the fact that the water that comes out of our faucet is a small miracle unavailable to a sixth of the world's population. We hate our jobs. We bemoan our bills. We complain about the cost of holiday presents. We complain about gas mileage, mortgage payments, and our schedules busy with engagements, meetings, errands, parties, and concerts. We pay money for the gym, and whine about having to go take our flaccid, overfed, underworked bodies to "work out."

Please understand that I'm not in anyway saying these things to stir up guilt. I don't feel guilty to have any of these things. That they are in my life is an act of grace and the result of karma. The question is not whether I should feel bad about my blessings (how ridiculous), but  how I will use them. Whether I will cherish them and employ them in the service of others, or if I will twist them into burdens to be grudgingly borne? Think about it--a billion people in the world would probably die of gratitude if they could walk from their heated, comfortable bedroom into a bathroom where they could relieve themselves in a sanitary toilet, wash their hands with soap and clean water, brush their teeth and swallow water that would not give them dysentery. Yet we drag ourselves from bed, complaining that the room isn't warm enough and that the gas bills are so high, thoughtlessly go through the motions of our morning rituals, complaining that it takes the water too long to get hot, thinking about all the rest of the crap we have to do today, dreading donning our multiple layers of clothes, shoveling our sidewalks, and getting ourselves to work.

I'm not saying that I like paying my bills or coming to work. I most certainly do not. I'm not saying that I don't have real problems and that addressing them isn't a struggle. But relative to many, many people, I am rich beyond belief. My modest American standard of living far surpasses that of billions of people. Billions. So what will I do with it? Is my life really so hard? Really?? Beyond the physical comforts I enjoy, I have had access to an education, to spiritual teachers, and to an abundance of undeserved love. I am a woman who can read, who can work, who has never backed down to a man, never been raped, never been hit, never been degraded for my sex, never been told that I could not ________ because "women can't do those things." To write those words breaks my heart because I know there are billions of women around the world for whom ignorance, domination, abuse, and humiliation are just the way of their lives. So how will I use my knowledge, my freedom, my voice?

Gratitude is the greatest antidote to feeling small, useless, angry, exhausted, put-out, deprived. Gratitude, when it floods the heart and soul, begets generosity, and it is generosity that gets us everything else. Abundance comes from a lack of attachment, so if you want to be full--give of yourself. Give it away. Unclench your fist--it can only hold but a tablespoon of water.  Hands open in praise receive the entire river in its passing. 

So how will you use your leisure and fortune today? How can you use your blessings to bless the world?

...all that has come to us
has come as the river comes,
given in passing away...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unfolding.

For ANH.
The tight ball of newborn leaf
unfolds in its time,
fleshing out to become
what it has always been,
needing only time to complete
the revelation.

The ancient oak contained
complete in the acorn,
but needing every moment
to find its true self
each dawn.

All that will be
is here at inception,
but the acorn
cannot be rushed.

It is the journey
that is needed.

12/13/2010
-|kxm|-

Journal Entry, 29 July 2009.


I want to be an old woman shelling peas with you next to our garden, it's bounty spilling over the fence, the harvest of years of our love, patience, and attention.

I want to bring in cut flowers to sit on the table where we dine together in thanksgiving for the benevolent abundance with which we are blessed.

I want to walk hand in hand through the forest, our fingers interlocking, meeting each other in custom grooves made over the course of many years.

I want to be understood, so that saying who I am isn't a constant battle of words ever missing the mark. I want to know your thoughts before you think them, but ever be delighted by welcome surprises from your engaging intellect.

I want what I have to offer to be enough, because you understand the full import of what I give.

I do not want to live out my days a solitary stranger, never to meet you, love.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hello love.

Hello, love--
Why am I crying
when in you I find
happiness & joy?
Hello, love--
Why am I fearing
when with you I find
safety & peace?
I have no new walls
to build, love,
just old ones
to keep tearing down.
I love slow…
It is so hard to trust,
to believe,
to accept,
to allow...
The scars run deep,
the fear known to well.
Panic, in a moment,
replaces safety,
for no apparent reason
but deep…
Be patient, love,
keep a hold on me,
I will give in to you

3/6/94, redux 12/12/2010

-|kxm|-

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Return, 1997

I left to escape the walls that bound me.  I left broken-hearted.  I left broken in spirit.  I had forgotten who I am.  I had forgotten from where I come.

I returned to remember.  I returned to grieve.  I returned because self-preservation is basic human instinct. 

I live with the premise that life will provide what is needed.  Everything happens for a reason.  No experience is coincidental.  No encounter is by chance.  Based on this premise I go where the Universe takes me and know that my path will await me -- I only need to keep my eyes wide open.

It is the nature of the world to heal.  It is the nature of the world to seek balance and harmony. In death there is rebirth.  In destruction creation.  All excesses are tempered.  All famines end.  Saplings spring forth from scorched earth.

I did not know why I came here.  I only knew without fail that I would find it.  I came with faith in the Universe, despair in my soul, and my heart in my hands.  Nature has begun to heal me.  She has brought me my memories.  She has placed passion in my soul to bring me to life.  She has gently begun to stitch the pieces of my heart together with thread made of my own iron will, which she knew I had forgotten was my rightful possession.

-|kxm|-
 1997

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Depleted - redux

I want to expand on a thought I expressed in an earlier post, "Depleted."  I wrote of feeling as though I need to be perfect, but I don't know that I fleshed out completely what I mean. I wrote:
If I could be perfect--perfectly organized, perfectly disciplined, I would feel better and be able to do so much more. But I'm far from perfect, and getting there requires that I overcome what the perfection would solve--in order to acquire my panacea, I must solve all the problems it will fix. 
I am almost never sick in the traditional sense. (I feel a winter of plague about to descend upon me... ;-)) What happens to me is that I get worn down--exhausted in epic proportions, I feel crumpled, depleted to the core, emotionally fragile, mentally compromised, functionally deficient. (This article from BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders gives a good picture of exhaustion in fibromyalgia.) What I need is a "reset" day. I need to sleep 10-11 hours and just do nothing--hang about in my jammies, let my brain sink to the back of my skull, relax, not stress, and recharge.

In my head, I can do the math:  1 reset day > 7-10 half-functional, crappy days where I'm grouchy, mean, stressed, want to cry, in pain, and functionally worthless. This does not, however, seem to make it any easier to take this time. Even with a reasonably supportive work environment, I feel guilty if I call off and I'm not hugging my toilet bowl or incapable of standing up for more than 10 minutes. But why? Why, despite knowing that I just need the day to replenish my energy supply, is it so dang hard to give myself permission to do it? Why does it kick up so much guilt, shame, anger...??

Because I'm not perfect, and in my damaged little head--I should be. If I were perfect, if I could manage this condition perfectly (and on my own, of course), and I wouldn't have this problem. I wouldn't collapse anymore, I'd be somehow almost cured, and able to pretend like this doesn't exist. If I could manage my sleep and exercise and diet and stress and workload perfectly, I would be fine. I would be able to crawl into my protective shell of denial and you all would never know that anything was wrong, right? Then, if for some inexplicable reason, I had a bad day, I'd be able to take the day off because it wouldn't be my fault.

That, there, is the real twisted little crux of this problem.

Somehow, I've decided that, unless I do EVERYTHING 100% perfectly, my suffering is my fault, and, as such, I do not deserve any sort of break. Which is really screwed up. How many diabetics or people with heart conditions take lousy care of themselves? Yet we somehow still do not blame them for their conditions (even if we admonish them to not eat that Primanti's sandwich and box of donuts and to get some exercise), or for the corresponding issues they suffer from not caring for themselves. I don't completely ignore what I am supposed to do, I am trying to figure out what works. I do try to take care of myself--my problem is that doing so is one. more. thing. that I have to do. One. More. Thing. to add to everything else. More time, more energy--that I don't goddamn well have.

It requires giving things up--I can't give up the job that feeds me and gives me money to spend on caring for myself. I can't, at the moment, give up school which I hope to be the ticket to a career I find meaningful. I could drag that process out, making it suck even longer, or give up and resign myself to spending 40 hours a week doing something I dislike. So what then? Give up the things that make my life feel meaningful? The things that keep me from going crazy? Give up caring for my friends and spending time with them? Or, you know, if I could just be more efficient at everything--cut out all the slack, all the time wasted on account of being too mentally or physically tired to do anything actually productive (solve the problem for which perfection is the panacea...)--I could get everything done. If everyday was scheduled and regulated, meals planned, time blocked off for everything that needs to be done--work, school, exercise, PT, mediation, assignments, community service, 8 hours of sleep--and executed with no deviation--if I could be perfect, I could make it all work.

Unfortunately, I left my cape and "S" on the bus, I think.

Mind you, I know darn well that a) perfection is not possible, and b) that there is no proof that, even if I were able to discern what it is that I need to function and could give it to myself, I would not still have bad days or struggle in spite of it all.

I have a hard time reconciling what I know with what I do. Being of a cerebral nature, I feel like there should be an automatic connection between knowledge and action--that is, the simple act of possessing knowledge should spontaneously result in the corresponding right action. We all know, however, that to create new habits, we have to practice things. We can study skiing for a year, but until we put the sticks on our feet (well, you crazy people can--I know enough to know that I'm not doing it... ;) ) and hurtle ourselves down a hillside, you don't know how to ski. I have a lot of information, but weaving it into the fabric of my life is a lot more complicated than reading a book or a journal article. Regardless, it is this failure to do so for which I hold myself accountable to an inappropriate degree.

I'm not entirely sure how to fix this, so I've taken an approach that I find to be fairly effective, if a bit inelegant. Even when it cuts against my inclination, even when I know that I haven't worked it all out, even when I know that it will throw me off balance and make me uncomfortable--I just stop. The anecdote to a brain filled with crap is action. I work with my body in yoga, and it helps to heal my heart and my mind. So it is also with this--and I do it OH SO very imperfectly, but my plan, my hope, is that with repeated action will come habituation. If I just say "$#%& it" and give myself a break, despite what "people will think," despite whatever narrative I have running inside my skull, perhaps I'll get better at it, more graceful, more at ease in my own skin. And, perhaps, if I cut myself some slack it will become easier to deal with the lead-filled bones inside that skin, and that will ease the tension in my chest, which will make my heart softer and my thoughts more calm.

So often, to get what we want we have to act counter-intuitively. If you want abundance, practice generosity. If you are angry, practice forgiveness and patience. If you want to act with more ease and grace, do what knocks you off balance and makes you struggle. If you want to be perfect, be imperfect and at some point, new habits will form and (it is my hope anyway) perfection will no longer be (perceived as) necessary.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

NOMS -- Cornbread!

I loves me some cornmeal. I like cornmeal bread, cornmeal pancakes, cornmeal dusted pizza crust, grits, and polenta. Needless to say, I also love cornbread. I used to buy the super cheap, yet still super tasty, Jiffy mix.  I nommed on the warm, yellowy bread in ignorant bliss for years until one day I actually read the ingredients:
INGREDIENTS: WHEAT FLOUR, DEGERM-INATED YELLOW CORN MEAL, SUGAR, ANIMAL SHORTENING (CONTAINS ONE OR MORE OF THE FOLLOWING: LARD, HYDROGENATED LARD, PARTIALLY HYDROGENATED LARD), contains less than 2% of each of the following: BAKING SODA, SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, SALT, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID.
CONTAINS: WHEAT
Who the heck would think there would be LARD in cornbread?!? Is it 1953? Saddened, there was no more Jiffy cornbread mix for me.

A number of years ago, I was at a friend's house and he gave me some cornbread his roommate had made. It was delicious, and, it turned out, also lowfat.  I got the recipe, and while I rarely make it as lowcal and lowfat as it might be, you certainly can do so and it will still be tasty.  I sometimes use buttermilk instead of skim milk, or I use a splash of each. If anyone has any suggestion for how to replace the eggs in this, I'd be interested in trying a vegan version. I'm thinking maybe mashed banana?

If you want to do the lowcal, lowfat version, use whatever margarine product you like, replace the sugar with Splenda™, and use skim milk.


Cornbread

2/3 cup      white sugar
1 tsp           salt
1/3 cup      butter, softened
1 tsp           vanilla extract
2                 eggs
2 cups        all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp        baking powder
3/4 cup      cornmeal
1/3 cup      skim milk
1 can          creamed corn

1.    Preheat oven to 400°F.  Grease or lightly coat with cooking spray a 9 x 13 baking pan.
2.    In a large bowl, beat together sugar, salt, butter and vanilla until creamy.
3.    Stir in eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.
4.    In a separate bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and cornmeal.
5.    Stir flour mixture into egg mixture alternately with the milk.
6.    Add creamed corn. Beat well until blended.
7.    Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until top is lightly browned. 

Serve warm. 
Local eggs are the only way to go.



Wednesday, October 27, 2010

draft.

draft.
 
fingertips touch
misty tendrils
of memories.
this emptiness is
the lack of you
between my ribs,
letting the draft
rush through
the hollow that
is me.


10/27/2010 -|KXM|-

Monday, October 18, 2010

NOMS -- Best. Pumpkin. Bread. Ev. Er.

By now, it is probably pretty obvious that cooling temps and the scent of apples, spices, and warm, dry leaves shuffling in the crisp air, excite my culinary senses. Fall and winter are surely my favorite times of year. I like that people gather together to celebrate the many holidays of harvest, equinox, and solstice. Thanksgiving is easily my most favorite holiday, calling us to gather our most precious and beloved around a table heaped with the harvest of our land to give thanks--thanks for the bounty, the love that surrounds our table, our lives, the warmth of our hearth, and the profound generosity of the benevolent abundance.


The practice of gratitude is, perhaps, the single most life-changing endeavor in which you can engage. When you give thanks, you cultivate a sense of satiety, of contentment, compassion, and generosity.  When you give praise for the bowl of food in front of you, you may think that another's is empty. When your heart is warmed by the affection of a small creature who shares your home, you may wish to alleviate another's loneliness. When you reflect upon the many, many hands and hearts who have helped you in ways from the seemingly trivial to the profound, you may find the desire to pay it forward to another, be it a stranger or your best friend. So, in the spirit of generosity, let me share with you the recipe for the bread that is currently tormenting me with its luscious fragrance wafting from my kitchen...

Pumpkin-Pepita Bread

This is another recipe that was given to me by a friend (who first blessed me by giving me some of this bread *swoon*) and which I only  have as a photocopy, so I cannot credit the original source.

The cookbook says: "Serve this slightly sweet quick bread with soup or salad for dinner, or as a breakfast treat. It stays moist for several days and freezes well, so it's a great food gift for the holidays."  I would agree, though I cannot speak (yet) personally regarding its freezing or keeping properties. The cookbook also notes that the bread can be kept wrapped in plastic wrap for up to 3 days [yeah, try to keep it around that long!] or can be frozen up to 1 month.

Ingredients

½ cup raw, unsalted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup solid-pack pumpkin puree
⅓ cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
1½ cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan.

In a small, dry skillet over medium heat, toast the pepitas until they pop and are lightly browned. With a chef's knife, coarsely chop them and set aside.

In a bowl, mix together the oil, eggs, pumpkin puree, and water. In another large bowl, mix together the remaining dry ingredients.  Add the pumpkin mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until combined. Fold in the toasted, chopped pepitas and spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool and remove from the pan.

After my struggles with Heidi Swanson's completely amazing Zucchini Bread, I was really nervous to make sure that this was cooked through, yet I wanted to be sure not to overcook it and dry it out. I did leave it in for an extra 10-15 minutes though because the part at the base of the crack in the crust below seemed a bit gooey, and I thought I might cry if it turned out to be filled with gook since the unbelievable smells coming from the kitchen were nearly torture as I waited for the timer to ring.  I barely waited for the bread to cool before cutting it, and let me just say that the title of this post is no exaggeration. About half the loaf is gone now (yes, I shared), and it is properly cooked all the way through, and my mom agrees--it's The. Best. Pumpkin. Bread. Ever.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have, and do try to share--it will be hard, but it will be worth it to see the smiles on others' faces. :)

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*


Sunday, October 17, 2010

NOMS -- Parmesan-Carrot Risotto

A colleague at work gave me this recipe some time ago, and I finally got around to making it. I only have a photocopy, so I can't credit the original cookbook or magazine from whence it came.

Here's the original recipe with my comments interspersed:
Instead of using the pricier traditional Arborio rice, we experimented with long-grain white rice in this risotto. Surprise! It yields results that are just as creamy and delicious. [kxm: I had some Arborio rice, but it was old and had gone rancid, so I also used long-grain white rice, and I'm not disappointed in the results.]
Ingredients
  • 2 - 14.5oz cans of broth [kxm: I used homemade vegetable stock & cubes b/c I was low]  
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 medium red onion, finely chopped
  • 6 medium carrots, grated
  • coarse salt & ground pepper
  • 1-1/4 cups long grain white rice (or Arborio)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (I didn't have this on hand, so I used stock with a couple of capfuls of lemon juice in it)
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan 

1) In a saucepan, bring broth and 2 cups water to barely a simmer over medium heat.

2) In a large saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp butter over medium heat.  Add onion and carrots; season with salt and pepper [kxm: I used lemon pepper and recommend it if you have it on hand.] Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Stir in rice. Add wine [or stock w/lemon juice]; cook, stirring, until absorbed, 1-2 minutes.

3)  Add 2 cups broth; simmer over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until mostly absorbed before adding more.  Cook until rice is creamy and just tender, about 20 minutes (you may not need all the broth) [kxm: I probably had 1/2 cup left].

4) Remove risotto from heat. Stir in parmesan and 1 tablespoon butter and season with salt and pepper.

I am not entirely sure, but I suspect that I had a lot more carrots than maybe I was supposed to, as my 'medium' carrots were pretty big. As such, and because I really like Parmesan, I probably used more like 1/3 - 1/2 a cup of cheese.  For a time saver, I grated the onion in the food processor with the carrots and then just dumped it all into the pan.

If you are looking to save calories, you could probably use a lighter calorie oil instead of butter and/or forgo the last tablespoon with the cheese.

This was easier than I anticipated, and I'm not displeased with the results at all. Thanks, Inky!


BTW -- If you are reading this as a Facebook note, I recommend clicking on the "View original post" link to see it as it should be displayed.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

NOMS -- Autumn Millet Bake


This is my take on Heidi Swanson's take on Mark Bittman's recipe.

It is rare for a recipe to go straight from Maiden Voyage to Crack Food Category, but occasionally the stars do align. Usually, the first run generates a list of things that I would tweak, realizations of what I screwed up, or other adjustments to improve either the recipe (I'm looking at you, Mollie Katzen) or my execution thereof, but this dish was pretty fab right out of the oven.

Here is Heidi's version of the recipe: 
Mark Bittman's Autumn Millet Bake Recipe
I screwed up a bit and used dried cranberries. If you are referencing the photo [on her website, pics here are mine ~kxm], you'll notice the shrivel factor. Still good. You can make this vegan, vegetarian, I used a bit of cream* - but you can use just stock or water. The real trick is getting the millet to cook all the way though, so don't over toast it, and keep adding liquids if you need to.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus oil for the dish
3/4 cup millet
1 medium butternut or other winter squash or 1 small pumpkin, peeled seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup fresh cranberries
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon minced sage leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
1 cup vegetable stock or water, warmed*
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds or coarsely chopped hazelnuts


Preheat the oven to 375F and grease a 2-quart casserole, a large gratin dish, or a 9x13-inch baking dish with olive oil.
Put 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the millet and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and golden, about 3 minutes (hs note: don't overdo it). Spread in the bottom of the prepared baking dish. 
Scatter the squash or pumpkin cubes and the cranberries on top of the millet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and the sage and drizzle with syrup. Carefully pour the warmed stock over all (hs note: I did about 1/2 cup stock & 1/2 cup cream based on one of his variations). Cover tightly with foil and bake without disturbing, for 45 minutes.

Carefully uncover and turn the oven to 400F. As discreetly as possible, sneak a taste and adjust the seasoning. If it looks too dry, add a spoonful or two of water or stock. (hs note: This is key! The millet should be close to being cooked through at this point, if not you need to add liquid and keep it moist and cooking - I used another 1/4 cup+ of stock here).
Sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top, and return the dish to the oven. Bake until the mixture bubbles and the top is browned (hs note: and the millet is cooked through), another 10 minutes or so. Serve piping hot or at room temperature (hs note: drizzled with the remaining olive oil if you like). 
Serves 4 to 6. 
* In the end, I used 3/4 cup stock + 1/2 cup cream

  
*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I used a 2 quart Pyrex casserole dish with a glass lid, an ambercup squash*, thawed frozen cranberries, lemon thyme instead of sage, no cream, and honey instead of maple syrup. I used olive oil spray to oil the dish, probably less than 2T to toast the millet, and I didn't add any more at the end. I did not have a problem with the dish drying out at all, and did not add any more liquid at the 45 minute mark. I did, however, screw up and forget to put the pepitas on top and I put the lid back on. Frankly, no harm, no foul. The top didn't brown, and the pepitas didn't get toasty, but neither detracted from the dish at all.

Personally, I think maple syrup would be too strong a flavor and too sweet, but if you are a big lover of maple flavor, it might work for you, or you might want to try it with 1 tablespoon of each, honey and syrup.

This dish was easy to make, the hardest part was cutting up the squash, but once that is done, it moves quickly, though it does require nearly an hour of baking time. You could still do it on a weeknight, so long as you didn't arrive home ravenous.

I foresee this dish becoming a fall/winter regular along with my Spiced Butternut Squash Stew over Couscous (yes, I will get to a post on that...). MMMNOMNOMNOM!  I hope you like it as much as I do!


* Here's a nice list with pictures of different types of winter squashes to help you identify them in the store or at the farmer's market.

Depleted.


I know I'm different from the average bear, but sometimes it's hard to tell in what ways and to what extent. I've never fallen asleep quickly. For example, I gave up napping at 7 months.  I remember staying awake pretty much the entire night as a kindergartener, just me and the stories in my head. I can recall going to sleepovers and being annoyed because everyone would just fall asleep. At some point in my life, I learned that most people in the world fall asleep within 10-15 minutes of going to bed. My jaw dropped. Totally unbelievable. It had never occurred to me that such a thing was a possibility, let alone a norm.

So when I say I know I'm different, I don't just mean in that meaningless, bland way that we're all 'special' and 'unique.' I mean that my body and brain do some strange things that other people's bodies don't (apparently) do. And when I say that I don't always understand how that works, I mean in that way that if you only have one point of reference, it is nearly impossible to realize that there are other perspectives, let alone imagine what they might be like--you are blind to your blindspots.

I'm always tired. I'm always in pain. The extent of either varies from day to day, hour to hour. My desire always overreaches my capacity, and I push and collapse, push and collapse.  If I could be perfect--perfectly organized, perfectly disciplined, I would feel better and be able to do so much more. But I'm far from perfect, and getting there requires that I overcome what the perfection would solve--in order to acquire my panacea, I must solve all the problems it will fix. If I didn't feel like my bones were filled with lead or like I had just been beaten with a rubber mallet and my muscles were covered in mini vice grips, hey I could probably get more sleep and not skip the gym and have more stamina and be able to plan meals, study productively, and stick to a rigorous schedule that allowed me to both accomplish my obligations and enjoy my leisure time, rather than feeling like I'm in an endless loop of ripping off Peter to pay Paul. I seethe with frustration and self-hatred, neither of which reduces my pain, improves my sleep, nor helps me achieve anything. For all my loathing and misery, I'm no thinner, more organized, nor more compassionate; my house isn't cleaner, and no items get checked off of my to-do list. Then I hate myself for not being able to lay down the hate, anger, and frustration, and isolate myself from people because I believe they'll be as appalled as I am should they peer inside. But it is people that I need.

My life feels empty. People advise that you should be happy alone, blah blah blah. It's not as though I don't have friends, because I do, however, actually seeing them with any regularity is another story. It used to be, back in the day, people just hung out.  There were always people at my house, I had friends at work and at school.  There was a tribe of us who loosely hung together, not always all at once, but some of us were always together. Now it takes a lot of effort and scheduling. Everyone (including me) is consumed with their own lives--work, school, kids, houses, hobbies, whatever it may be, so it is just much harder to make things happen, to have those regular interactions that allow relationships to deepen. I do like to be alone. I am, most definitely, a woman who likes her solitude. I like quiet. I like sitting alone in the woods, breathing cool, sweet air, with none but the birds and squirrels for company. I have never felt lonely in the forest. And I do plenty of things alone because otherwise I would just sit in my house for eternity. I go to movies alone, I go take pictures alone, I go to yoga class alone, I go for walks alone, I go to Phipps, museums, events, lectures, and drink tea alone. I even enjoy much of what I do by myself, even if I would prefer to share the experience with someone else.
But everything has its limits, and we are social creatures, pack animals, by nature. If a baby is given all its physical needs, but no affection and attention, it will die. People can, in fact, die of a broken heart. Sometimes I feel mute, as though I'm trapped behind bulletproof glass--my words hit and lodge in the wall, never making it out. I try to explain what things are like for me, but at times it feels like I'm speaking a dead language. Sometimes I feel like there is a rotting wound in the middle of my chest, emptiness gnawing through flesh. Almost every day, I wake up and wish I didn't, wish that I never would. Everything just gets so exhausting. My world becomes so heavy. Every movement, every word, every action. Every. Thing. My relationships with others suffer because I lack the energy to "rise to the occasion," because I forget to lie when I'm asked how I am.

I'm out of gas. I run on fumes. I try to pretend like I'm not different. I try to pretend that everything works just fine. I try to pretend that, if I just act like it's true, it will be. That my legs won't give and that I'll be able to run the race, that I can win. But there is no race, no winning.

Just an endless trudge up the hill, pushing a rock.

Monday, October 4, 2010

NOMS -- Apple-Oat Bars

I'm (apparently) busting out the fall/winter comfort food recipes!

Last week, I cooked up a batch of one of my absolute favorite cool season standbys: Spiced Butternut Squash Stew over Couscous. [Obviously, just switch out the chicken broth for veg, and you've got yourself a vegan meal--use quinoa or rice instead of the regular semolina couscous if you also wish to avoid gluten. I like using Israeli coucous or Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend (Israeli couscous, baby garbanzos/chickpeas, quinoa, and orzo pasta). If I go with regular couscous, I like to use spinach for the added color. Next batch, I think I'm going to try serving it with red and white quinoa or Trader Joe's Brown Rice Blend (w/daikon radish seeds and black barley).  Given this aside, don't be surprised should it warrant its own post in the near future...]

Last week at the farmer's market, I picked up some cranberry apple cider and some big, locally-grown, Honeycrisp apples, and this week I got some Empire. This, coupled with the crispness in the air and chilly nights, got me thinking about these Apple-Oat Bars.

Ingredient List
Serves 16

  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup apple cider or apple juice
  • 3 cups peeled, chopped tart apples, such as Granny Smith 
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted, optional

Directions


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 9-inch square baking pan, or coat with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Mix flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in mixing bowl. Using fork or fingertips, work in oil and cider until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. 
  3. Press about 1 1/2 cups oat mixture firmly into bottom of prepared pan. Sprinkle with apples. Mix walnuts into remaining oat mixture, sprinkle evenly over apples and pat into even layer.
  4. Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until top is golden and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. 
Nutritional Information
Per SERVING: Calories: 150, Protein: 2g, Total fat: 3g, Saturated fat: g, Carbs: 29g, Cholesterol: mg, Sodium: 100mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugars: 16g

 
I really like using apple cider (or cranberry apple cider) rather than apple juice, as I find that it has a richer flavor. I am generous with both the cinnamon and the nutmeg (do yourself a favor and buy a nutmeg grater and grate your own--so much better!), and may try adding a bit of ground clove or ginger in the next batch.  I have used many types of apples, none of which have been Granny Smith.  Braeburns are a favorite as they have a nice balance between tart and sweet and they are a nice, hard apple. I also use pecans instead of walnuts, but that is just personal preference.

Two reviewers on the Vegetarian Times website indicated that they found this recipe to be tricky, but I that has not been my experience. I've made them several times, and each time I have the same problem--"16 servings" my butt. :-D You can't just eat one bar if you cut a 9x9 pan into 16 pieces. It's just. Not. Possible.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

More Wendell (repost due to technical difficulties).

The Want of Peace
wendell berry
All goes back to the earth,
and so I do not desire
pride of excess or power,
but the contentments made
by men who have had little:
the fisherman's silence
receiving the river's grace,
the gardener's musing on rows.
I lack the peace of simple things.
I am never wholly in place.
I find no peace or grace.
We sell the world to buy fire,
our way lighted by burning men,
and that has bent my mind
and made me think of darkness
and wish for the dumb life of roots.

WINDOW POEMS
wendell berry
13.
Sometimes he thinks the earth
might be better without humans.
He's ashamed of that.
It worries him,
him being human, and needing
to think well of the others
in order to think well of himself.
And there are
a few he thinks well of,
a few he loves
as well as himself almost,
and he would like to say
better.  But history
is so largely unforgivable.
And now his mighty government
wants to help everybody
even if it has to kill them
to do it—like the fellow in the story
who helped his neighbor to Heaven:
"I heard the Lord calling him,
Judge, and I sent him on."
According to the government
everybody is just waiting
to be given a chance
to be like us.  He can't
go along with that.
Here is a thing, flesh of his flesh,
that he hates.  He would like
a little assurance
that no one will destroy the world
for some good cause.
Until he dies, he would like his life
to pertain to the earth.
But there is something in him
that will wait, even
while he protests,
for things to turn out as they will.
Out his window this morning
he saw nine ducks in flight,
and a hawk dive at his mate
in delight.
The day stands apart
from the calendar.  There is a will
that receives it as enough.
He is given a fragment of time
in this fragment of the world.
He likes it pretty well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Greetings and Good Tidings to the Autumnal Equinox

[NB: All the pics in this post have disappeared. Figuring out which ones they were and getting them back in may take awhile. Their absence significantly detracts from the post.]

Yesterday was one of those unbelievably perfect fall days--skies so blue they make you feel like an M80 went off in your chest, sun shining, warm, but not too hot.  With a day like that, I couldn't go to my windowless gym and spend time 'walking' on a machine.  I went home, grabbed my camera and my bike and headed into the park.  It amazes me sometimes how much time can pass between my visits.  I live a block away, yet sometimes weeks can pass without me finding myself in the forest or down in the holler.

Summer has been winding down in valley for some time now, even if it seems less obvious in the concrete jungle above where the pavement still cooks in the sun and it feels every bit like summer is still doing keg stands at 3 AM, oblivious that last call was hours ago.  (For tomorrow, the first official day of fall, the weather forecast is calling for a high of 88F.)  I headed out through the playground and began my descent along the hillside.  I came around a bend to find this beauty shining in the canopy--hello Fall!


I got down to the valley floor, and rode straight into the unrelenting sun for a bit before looping around to have it at my back as I poked up the single-track next to the stream. I love this light and the glass-like surface of the slow moving water.  After uploading these photos to my computer, I flipped through my folder of pictures from the park and noted at how the deep, lush green of June and July had faded to these muted yellows and light greens.  It happens every year, yet never fails to captivate me and fill me with wonder.  These small, gradual changes occur before our eyes every day, yet only when flipping through a collection of these moments captured in time does the profound contrast really strike me.




I like fall. I like to watch the world gradually wind down, pulling its energy inward, slowly closing up shop in preparation for the approaching long days of winter. I like to see the cycle of life in action at each of its stages, savoring the flavors, colors, and textures of each one.  I don't want to live in a perpetual summer (or spring or winter or fall) because it is only in the movement between the seasons that each fully comes into its own, and we are able to fully appreciate its gifts.


This way.
Tonight at 11:09, we mark one of the two days of the year when the day of light and the darkness of night will be perfectly balanced.  Perhaps we can use this moment to reflect on achieving balance in our own lives, or as a point at which to rest and look back across our busy, active summer lives and forward to cooling temperatures, shorter days, sweaters, and returning to life on the inside of our homes. Taking time to appreciate the days of hot skin, bright light, kinetic energy, and time spent with puffy white clouds as our ceiling and towering tree trunks for walls, and anticipating the spicy, earthy flavors of fall--the smell of cinnamon, apples, pumpkin pie, and warm, dry leaves; the soft texture of wool and well-worn denim; and the way the world becomes smaller, gathered around points of light and warmth as we work our way into the heavy hibernation of winter.

Ragged butterfly rests at the end of a long, hot summer.
Of course, modern life works against us, but tens of thousands of years of evolution don't give up without a fight.  The tides of our bodies still move with the ebb and flow of the earth around us--its light, its warmth, its abundance, its dearth.

So no matter what the electric lights, alarm clocks, central heating systems, and work schedules tell you, remember that. Remember that you are a native child of the universe, and its intimate movements move within you.
There is beauty in every stage of life.
Despair not as summer's bounty fades and dies--for it is nourishing its resurrection.  In one half turn of the earth, we'll be back at this point of balance, gathering our energy once again to spring forth again--flinging open the doors and windows, welcoming the return of the life-giving sun, ready to uncurl dormant seeds from the earth once more.

Friday, September 17, 2010

"The Pittsburgher's Creed" by James G. Connell, Jr.

I was looking for an old note that I had put up on facebook, and I came across this quote by James G. Connell, Jr. that I had posted last year. I initially found it on the Carnegie Library's Pittsburgh history website, and  think it is sufficiently awesome to archive here.
I believe in Pittsburgh the powerful--the progressive. I believe in the past of Pittsburgh and in the future founded on the heritage of that past; of clean living, frugal, industrious men and women of poise, power, purity, genius and courage. I believe that her dominant spirit is, has been and always will be for uplift and betterment. I believe that my neighbor stands for the same faith in Pittsburgh, although his expression may vary from mine. I believe in Pittsburgh of the present and her people--possessing the virtues of all nations--fused through the melting pot to a greater potency for good. I believe in taking pride in our city, its institutions, its people, its habits.

I believe in the great plans born of initiative, foresight and civic patriotism in the minds of the great men of to-day; here--now. I believe that the Pittsburghers who truly represent her are those of God-fearing lives, scorning ostentation and the seats of the ungodly, building surely, quietly and permanently.

I believe that those who know Pittsburgh love her, "her rocks and rills, templed hills." I believe that Pittsburgh's mighty forces are reproduced in a mighty people, staunch like the hills--true like steel. [See note at end for attribution.]
"I believe that her dominant spirit is, has been and always will be for uplift and betterment." 

One might contest such a statement now by pointing to the many whom we hear despair and disparage our fair city. I am, however, more inclined to agree with Mr. Connell. This City built the world. This City was one of the mightiest industrial capitals on earth. From those towering heights, we crashed with an equally resounding bust. Pittsburgh has been abandoned, kicked, and left for dead. Many who left did so with heavy hearts and empty wallets. Those who have stayed, come back, or ventured in for the first time, saw the diamond under the soot, and have set about cutting and polishing it.

Despite it all, still we rise, the phoenix out of the ashes (but unlike Phoenix, we have water). 

I believe that my neighbor stands for the same faith in Pittsburgh, although his expression may vary from mine. I believe in Pittsburgh of the present and her people--possessing the virtues of all nations--fused through the melting pot to a greater potency for good.

Pittsburgh is not well-known as a town of cosmopolitan, avant-garde living (though those elements are certainly here, and have been so historically). We are, in fact, reputed to be a bit xenophobic, content to remain nestled in our hollers and on our hilltops, unwilling to pass over a bridge or through a tunnel to see the other side of town. I can speak personally of the Pittsburgh Gene that renders natives constitutionally incapable of living more than 3 miles from the house in which they grew up. 

This tendency to hole up in one's own part of town has made Pittsburgh a profoundly racist and segregated town. But this manifests itself, or, I guess more accurately, fails to manifest itself in some odd ways. Pittsburghers are notoriously nice people. Of course, this is not universally true--we have plenty of jagoffs and racists running around these parts, but often you'll see bigoted bluster contradicted by compassionate action. A neighbor in need is a neighbor in need, even if you are someone who falls into an abstract category of people they allegedly dislike. This in no way excuses myopic and misinformed bigotry against people of color, immigrants, foreigners, or people of different religions or sexual orientations. As one on the receiving end of such confusing treatment, I do not enjoy the cognitive dissonance to which the experience gives rise. I only mention it because the phenomenon reveals a Pittsburgh tendency to dislike "them," but erase the dividing lines if you are one of "us."

Despite these more unfortunate tendencies, many Pittsburghers can and do come together as one under the black and gold flag, and not just the one with the yellow, red, and blue stars. As parochial as we may be, we actually do love the ethnic flavors of this town. I consider myself part Italian, Jew, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern by association. I don't care that "my" people didn't make pirohi, polkas, accordians, latkes, or baklava--the ethnic foods, music, dancing, and celebrations that have woven the beautiful tapestry of this town, are also a thread in the tapestry of me. And yes, I believe that the fusion of all of our ancestries have come together to create something better and stronger.  There are pieces of the originals throughout, but together they have woven a new story, a Pittsburgh story, of which we are all a part.
 
I believe that those who know Pittsburgh love her, "her rocks and rills, templed hills." I believe that Pittsburgh's mighty forces are reproduced in a mighty people, staunch like the hills--true like steel.

Let us hope that this is true.  We've got some vexing problems to deal with, and it's going to take a lot of love for this place and a lot of "mighty people, staunch like the hills--true like steel" to have the fortitude to right the ship.

-----------------------------------
From Pittsburgh "Promotes Progress": Presenting a Brief Story of the Country's Greatest Industrial Center, a City Powerful and Progressive; Emphasizing Its Unique Position in Reference to the Nation's Population; An Omen of a Mighty Future, Dominant Like Steel. Pittsburgh: R. L. Polk & Company, [1924], 62.

Mr. Connell was the son of Dr. James G. Connell, an East Liberty physician. In 1905 James Jr. was a "clerk" at Penn Paper Box Co. at 302 Ross St. Within five years he had risen to manager. In 1913 he became manager and vice-president of West Penn Paper Co. at 300-304 Penn Ave. He died 9 October 1914. His grave is in Chartier's Cemetery.
-- Sources: The Pittsburgh Press, no date; and, George T. Fleming. Pittsburgh: How To See It.
n.p.: William G. Johnston Company, 1916. p. 5.
------------------------------------
updated May 23, 2013

Thursday, September 16, 2010

National Chronic Invisible Illness Awareness Week

Some of you know that I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2007. Few of you, or anyone else for that matter, including me, really know what that means.  I know what it means to live with fibromyalgia.  I've read articles, books, and medical journal pieces about it, but there is no clear, definitive answer as to why this family of symptoms seem to hang out together.  No one fibro case is exactly like another.  The medical community is even considering changing the diagnostic criteria (specifically the 11 pairs of "tender points") because they're not as definitive a marker as they are oft made out to be.

For an introduction to the syndrome, see the National Fibromyalgia Association's webpage.While I would never downplay the utterly devastating effect that chronic lack of sleep and exhaustion and pain have on my life, one of the worst things about having an invisible condition, let alone a very poorly misunderstood one, is that if I want people to understand what I'm experiencing, I have to tell them, lay it all out. And that can be annoying and frustrating in itself--I'm tired, I feel like I've been beaten with a mallet and someone filled my bones with liquid lead and my brain with fog. The last thing I want to do is to try to explain that to someone at the time. If I don't, however, I'm viewed as inexplicably "grouchy," "negative," "unhappy," "insert your favorite unpropitious adjective here."

I just want to be "normal" (whatever that means)--I want to be able to have full, filling, days, come home at night, take care of what I need to do at home, go to bed and blissfully slip into sleep. I would like it to not take 20 times more energy to deal with basic interactions because I'm fighting the desire to just put my head down on my desk and sleep, or trying to ignore the sharp pains and dull aches in my arms, hips, shoulders, neck, back, legs... I would like living to take less effort so that I could have more patience with others.  As it is, I'm so frustrated with myself, that extending patience to others becomes doubly difficult. I realize that that still makes me suck as a human being--that's why its on the list of things that I would like to change. I also know that there is no miracle cure, that drugs have limited application, and that I have to be committed to maintaining a lifestyle that allows me to function at the highest level I can, which, as anyone who has tried to make any positive lifestyle changes knows, is much easier said than done, especially when you are lonely, ambitious, and have a wide-range of interests.

I also don't much like talking about living with fibromyalgia because I know that a) I sound like a whiner, and b) even if I don't, people don't much like hearing endless negative crap. Yet, this goes back to the beginning of this post--I have to talk about it if I want the people in my life to understand me...and to be able to help me.  I don't just mean in the sense of helping me do tasks that need to get done, but to support me with the lifestyle  I have to maintain (exercise, meditation, relaxation, sleep, healthy eating) and help me sort out all the crap in my head and heart that hurts. If I want them to understand that I'm not just a miserable, angry, negative person, but that I'm miserable, angry, and negative for a reason. I don't want to be pitied, and I certainly don't want my anger and negativity validated--they don't serve me and they don't help me serve others. I need to lay them down, but part of getting to that place is feeling heard, connected, understood; feeling like I can ask for and receive help without feeling like a burden or useless or ashamed.

To that end, I'm posting this as part of National Chronic Invisible Awareness Week.  I've also included their meme:

30 Things About My Invisible Illness You May Not Know
  1. The illness I live with is: fibromyalgia
  2. I was diagnosed with it in the year: 2007
  3. But I've had symptoms since: the mid-1980s.
  4. The biggest adjustment I’ve had to make is: trying to pace myself to avoid sprints and crashes. Asking for help.
  5. Most people assume: that I'm young and in great health and/or that I'm "just" a grouchy person.
  6. The hardest part about mornings are: getting up at all. Fighting through the exhaustion and stiffness.
  7. My favorite medical TV show is: House
  8. A gadget I couldn’t live without is: iPhone
  9. The hardest part about nights is: getting to sleep, especially when I can't get comfortable either from pain or hypersensitivity.
  10. Each day I take 1 pill & vitamins. (No comments, please) <-- Too bad. I currently take no medication for fibromyalgia. I recently weaned off the two I was taking because I wanted to see where my body is on its own and determine if non-pharmacological treatments could improve my situation as, if not more, effectively.
  11. Regarding alternative treatments I: am pursuing chiropractic, massage, meditation, and therapy.
  12. If I had to choose between an invisible illness or visible: I would choose: visible, and better understood.
  13. Regarding working and career: It is a daily struggle to function, focus, and be productive. I could do so much more if I were well-rested and not in pain.
  14. People would be surprised to know: how truly miserable I really am, and how hard it is for me to function.
  15. The hardest thing to accept about my new reality has been: the isolation, the loneliness, and the mounting despair.
  16. Something I never thought I could do with my illness that I did was: go to grad school and work full-time and maintain my 4.0.
  17. The commercials about my illness:  make me want to punch things. Instead, I mute them.
  18. Something I really miss doing since I was diagnosed is: I've been living with pain and exhaustion for so long that the diagnosis didn't really change anything.
  19. It was really hard to have to give up:  It is hard to say no to things I want to do. It is hard for me to accept not being able to do things, so I push too hard and then fail.
  20. A new hobby I have taken up since my diagnosis is: biking.
  21. If I could have one day of feeling normal again I would: Heh - I do have good days, but one day doesn't really help much overall. In fact, they're almost depressing because I realize that a) if I act on the energy I feel, I'll have a flare, and b) what I could do if I could sustain that level of energy.
  22. My illness has taught me:  This should read "...is teaching me," because I definitely have not completed my lesson. My illness is teaching me patience, compassion, and to ask for help.
  23. Want to know a secret? One thing people say that gets under my skin is:  "You're too young to know about pain." Yeah, jagoff, only old people know what it feels like to feel like you've been hit all over with a mallet and someone filled your bones with lead and your brain with fog... How could I possibly know anything about pain?
  24. But I love it when people:  Just help without me having to ask, making a production about it, or asking how I'm doing. When people neither treat me like an invalid, nor as though I'm "well." When they just understand that I always hurt and I'm usually exhausted, and a little help getting through the day is nice.
  25. My favorite motto, scripture, quote that gets me through tough times is: "When you find yourself going through hell, keep going." -- Winston Churchill.  "Be not afraid of growing slowly. Be only afraid of standing still." --Chinese proverb
  26. When someone is diagnosed I’d like to tell them: Take care of yourself, even when it's hard and exhausting. If you don't make it your #1 priority, you will not achieve anything.
  27. Something that has surprised me about living with an illness is: how having a name for it doesn't make it any less frustrating at all because fibromyalgia is so poorly understood--even by the medical professionals who specialize in it.
  28. The nicest thing someone did for me when I wasn’t feeling well was: give me a hug and clean some of my house for me so I wouldn't be annoyed by the dirt and doubly angry because I was too tired and frazzled to take care of it.
  29. I’m involved with Invisible Illness Week because: I get tired of feeling alone and misunderstood.
  30. The fact that you read this list makes me feel: like someone is paying attention.


Why is this place called Rough Branch?

Rough Branch is a reference to Wendell Berry's "mad farmer" poems. Berry is an agrarian populist poet, and advocate for sustainable agricultural practices. I don't agree with every position he takes, but his reverence for the beauty and balance of the natural world, for the preciousness of the life that runs through it (including our own), and of the community that sustains both the land and each other, speaks to my heart.

Over the past few years, I have sunk myself into the soil in my back yard, and into the community of neighbors that surrounds it, and it has begun to restore me. My garden is not just a plot of dirt providing vegetables for the salad bowl, it is an act of love, a place of profundity and awe. If you knew about the ecosystem that lives in but one gram of good earth, you would be humbled, literally, to the ground.

Berry's poems are passionate calls to live--deeply, profoundly, fearlessly. To step out of narrow-minded egotism, to secede "[f]rom the union of self-gratification and self-annihilation, [to] secede into care for one another, and for the good gifts of Heaven and Earth."

And so I have made my own nation small enough to walk across. I have named the small corner of the earth I steward Rough Branch. I have declared myself free of ignorant love, and I secede...

From the union of power and money,
from the union of power and secrecy,
from the union of government and art,
from the union of science and money,
from the union of ambition and ignorance,
from the union of genius and war,
from the union of outer space and inner vacuity,
the Mad Farmer walks quietly away.

There is only one of him, but he goes.
He returns to the small country he calls home,
his own nation small enough to walk across.
[...]
(From "The Mad Farmer, Flying the Flag of Rough Branch, Secedes from the Union")
The Mad Farmer challenges us to reconnect, to resurrect our land, our communities, and our souls.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.

Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
[...]
(From "Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front")
All quotes from Wendell Berry.