Archive for December, 2008

Bear At Sunset, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Got Your Back, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Circling, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Burning The Yule, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Fire & Snow, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Shadow Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Bear circles Yule fire
drumming sunrise to sunset
gift of tobacco

cool blue snow cave hides
monks of the animal world
heartbeat disappears

long sleep of Winter
cubs born in hibernation
lean fat of the land

Winter Solstice past
contemplative Void lingers
the promise of Spring

American Spirit, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Bear Meat In Ritual, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Cool Drums, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Cool Drums, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Winter Solstice, December 21st 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Promise Of Spring

New Year’s Eve approaches. Black-eyed peas are soaking in a pot on the stove, awaiting the bone of ham. Taking a much needed rest, I’m reminded of the hibernation of Bear. We learned on a wind chilled, -18 degree Winter Solstice that bear cubs are born during hibernation in the black cold of January.

After the Winter cave of silent dreams, we move into 2009 with the promise of rebirth — Spring.

The Bear Facts

To learn more about the winter habits of Bears and other hibernating animals such as squirrels, groundhogs, chipmunks, bats, rattlesnakes, and hedgehogs, visit these links:

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, December 30th, 2008, with gratitude to my friends Carol, Susan, and Gail

-related to post:  haiku (one-a-day)

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mii familia, “mii” family, friends, and strangers we’ve set up on the Wii we got for Christmas, December 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Santa brought us a Nintendo Wii for Christmas. Yesterday we had a good time hanging out at the house and learning how the Wii works. One of the best parts about the Wii is setting up each player, which is called a mii.

When setting up your mii, you can choose head shape, eye shape, nose shape, color of eyes, hair, etc. You can add moles, make-up, eyewear.

I think Jim did a pretty good job of fashioning his mii after himself. See if you can figure out which one he is in the screen shot above.

(BTW, if you find Jim, move over to his right—your left—and that is the mii the girls created to represent me.)

What were some of your favorite gifts and/or moments from the holidays?

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With the preparation being so labor and time intensive, tamales became holiday fare, made for special occasions. This tradition remained for thousands of years, with the women of the family working together to make the sauces and meats, preparing the masa, and finally assembling and wrapping the tamales before steaming them in large pots on the stove. The process takes all day, the preparation often starting one of two days in advance. It is virtually unheard of to make a few tamales. In most cases, when they are made, hundreds are made at a time. Everyone—young, old, family and friends—is invited to tamale feasts where they are enjoyed, savored and loved by all.

~from “The History of Tamales,” Tamara’s Tamales, Los Angeles, CA

Two Sundays ago the girls and I met my sister Bobbi and her daughter at Mom and Dad’s for the making of the tamales. Mom didn’t start making tamales until about 10 or 15 years ago. She began the tradition when my sister Janet began hosting the Christmas Eve family gathering at her home. Mom decided that what she wanted to contribute to the feast was several dozen tamales. Thus, a family tradition was born.

Truth of the matter is, Mom didn’t learn to make tamales from her own mother. My grandma got her tamales from an Indian woman named Benina. Every year Grandpa gave Benina the head from a butchered pig, and Benina in turn gave Grandma and Grandpa some of the tamales she made with the meat.

Mom tried to teach herself how to make tamales. Back when we lived on Neat Lane in Albuquerque’s south valley, Mom and a neighbor, Ruth, who also happened to be my godmother, tried one day to make tamales. “They ended up weighing about a pound each,” Mom recalled. She can’t remember how she finally figured out to make tamales, but she thinks it might have been her cousin Maggie who finally taught her.

Tamales are found all over Latin America but are said to be from Mexico, although back in the days when tamales first appeared, there was no such thing as “Mexico.” Which probably means that tamales were made by various indigenous groups—Aztecs, Mayans, the Incas. Tamales are made of one of the most basic staples in indigenous diets—corn. Several sources on the history of tamales described them this way:

In Pre-Columbian history, being on the move and at war, there was a need for a portable yet sustaining food; hence, the tamale was born. Tamales can be made ahead of time and steamed, grilled, put directly on top of coals to warm, or even eaten cold. There is no record of which pre-Colombian culture invented the tamale, but the evidence suggests that one culture did and the others followed the example.

Tamales caught on fast and there were a variety of dishes, many unknown to modern tastebuds. There were tamales with red, green, yellow, and black chile; tamales with chocolate; fish tamales; frog, tadpole, mushroom, rabbit, gopher, turkey, bee, egg, squash blossom, honey, ox, seed and nut tamales. There were white and red fruit tamales, yellow tamales, dried meat tamales, roasted meat, stewed meat, bean and rice tamales. There was sweet sugar, pineapple, raisin, cinnamon, berry, banana and pumpkin tamales. There were hard and soft cheese tamales, roasted quill tamales, ant, potato, goat, wild boar, lamb and tomato tamales.

The wrapping for these tamales varied almost as much as the ingredients. Cornhusks, banana leaves, fabric, avocado leaves, soft tree bark and other non-toxic leaves were used. The most typical wrappings were cornhusk and banana or avocado leaves.

Today, the most common tamales are red and green chile with chicken, pork, or beef. There are also cheese and vegetable tamales, which probably came about as more and more people have opted to not eat meat.


Making tamales requires plenty of preparation and a lot of determination. Mom makes hers over a period of three days, the last being Assembly. She doesn’t follow recipes, but I’ve done my best to document her methods.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Five pounds of pork loin.
  • About sixty or so chile pods, which you can usually buy in a Mexican fruit market, if your town has one. We often get our chile at a place called “Fruit Basket,” which is a local chain with little stores not much bigger than fruit stands.
  • A package or two of dried cornhusks, which are called hojas in Spanish. Mom gets these at Costco, or at our local tortilla factory. You can probably also get them at a Mexican fruit market.
  • A package of Masa Harina, which is pre-mixed corn mixture, or masa. This you can pick up at a regular grocery store, assuming your city has a pretty big Latino population. You might need to have on hand some baking powder to add to the mixture.
  • For seasoning, per your own tastes, have on hand fresh garlic, a few yellow onions, fresh or dried oregano and cilantro, salt.
  • A few big bowls, a kettle or deep pot, roasting pan, blender for making the chile, a food processor for mixing the masa, and a steamer that holds a lot of tamales.

Day One – The Meat & The Broth

Place about five pounds of pork loin in a large pot or kettle. Add enough water to completely cover the meat. Throw in an onion or two, about four garlic cloves, fresh or dried cilantro and oregano, and boil for about five hours. As the broth boils down, add more water to make sure the meat stays covered.

If the kettle is too big to store in the refrigerator and if you live in a climate that easily dips below freezing most nights in December, you can store the kettle outside in the garage. (That’s what Mom does.) If you don’t live in a cold climate, then make room in the fridge and place the pot in there overnight.

Day Two – Turning The Meat Into Chile Meat

The next day you’ll skim the fat off the broth; this is easy, since overnight as the broth cooled, the fat rose to the top and solidified. Take the pork out of the kettle, shred it into small pieces—it should fall apart after having boiled for so long the day before—and put them into a large bowl. Put the broth back in the garage or the refrigerator; you’ll need it tomorrow for the masa.

Here’s where the recipe gets especially intuitive. Mom makes about two blenderfuls of red chile, but we’re not sure how many pods one blender of chile requires. We’ve estimated you’ll need about 30 chile pods per blender (60 pods total).

Wash the pods in water and dry them a bit. You’ll need to clean each pod by slicing it down the seam, opening it up, and scraping out the seeds. Also discard the stem, which will require cutting it out.

The chile pods are dry and can break apart. That’s fine. Put all the “flesh” parts in the blender. Throw in a couple of cloves of garlic, a small onion (cut in fourths), a couple sprigs each of cilantro and oregano. Add in a bit of water, enough to get the blender going but not so much as to make the chile watery. You want thick chile for tamales. Blend until smooth.

Add the first batch of chile to the meat, and make a second batch. When that’s done, add it to the meat, too. You’re finished for the day.

Day Three – Assembly

Clean the hojas , which will be stiff and unusable. Put them into a roasting pan (you’ll need something long enough to lay the hojas flat), cover with water, and boil. Let the hojas boil for about two hours, until they are soft and workable.

Once the hojas are ready, the next step is to prepare the masa. Follow the directions on the package of Masa Harina, which per Mom’s recollection requires you to add salt, baking powder, and broth (or water). Put the dry masa into a bowl and moisten it with broth. Put the moistened mixture into the food processor and add more broth, a little at a time, mixing with a spatula until the mixture is moist. At some point Mom knows there’s enough broth and turns on the food processor for about 30 or 60 seconds.


Mom says you want the consistency of the masa to be similar to cake mix, but my take is that you want it to be stiffer, like frosting. (The good news is that the package will give you the right measurements, so hopefully it won’t be quite so ambiguous when you do this, although Mom doesn’t follow the package directions and instead relies on her senses to tell her when she’s added enough broth.)

Now assemble the tamales by laying out an open hoja, dropping about two or so tablespoons of masa into the center and smoothing it out like frosting, dropping about one generous tablespoon of chile meat into the center of the masa, rolling the cornhusk lengthwise until it’s closed, and then tying the ends. One person will need to tie the ends (using little strips of cornhusk, which that person can tear off to form a little pile of ties) while another person holds the tamale.

The Sunday of our tamale making adventure, we made about six dozen—not a lot compared to what some families make. We steamed enough to eat right then and there, but the rest got frozen. Tamales must be steamed for at least an hour, and depending on the thickness of the masa, maybe longer. It’s always good, too, to let a steamed tamale sit for about 15 minutes before you open up the cornhusk; that way, the masa can set.

Epilogue – To Tie Or Not To Tie

You may notice when you buy tamales at a market or order them in a restaurant that some come without ties. Many, probably most, people make their tamales by flattening the filling (much more than Mom does—hers are kind of fat and round) and folding up one of the ends of the cornhusk instead of tying both ends. This tends to be a personal preference. Some say that folding is easier and doesn’t require an extra set of hands. Mom insists that folding takes a special knack that she never learned, and so she opts to tie.

Whether folded or tied, tamales are one of the best-tasting foods there is. Maybe it’s that they’re made with such care and intention by so many loving hands. Maybe it’s the stories that get told during the hours of making, the laughter that is spilled.

We eat our tamales on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, smothered in red chile, or my favorite—on top of a bowl of posole (I’ll save that recipe for another day) and then the whole thing smothered with red chile. That’s all the nourishment I need.

Happy holidays to you and yours, whatever it is that sustains you this time of year. (And to my sister in Denver and her husband, my nieces and nephews-in-law, and my grand-niece and nephews—we love you and miss you!)

Online Resources

Corn, Maize, Masa, Nixatamal, Pozole by gourmetsleuth.com
A Thumbnail History of Mexican Food by Mexican Mercados
Making Tamales, by fellow blogger Corina of Wasted Days and Wasted Nights

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Antique Lights, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Antique Lights, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I can’t believe it’s Christmas Eve. Our cat Chaco, who we discovered last week is chronically ill, is resting comfortably in the bedroom. He spent Winter Solstice in the emergency hospital. We brought him home from the vet yesterday along with three prescription medications and a bag of fluids we’ll be administering subcutaneously over the next few days. Dr. Blackburn says he’s a fighter; he’s walking better, eating more regularly, and his little Spirit has more life than it did last week.

We’ll take him back on Saturday to see how his vitals look. In the meantime, we are learning to care for a chronically ill cat. It goes without saying, Liz and I haven’t been getting much sleep. So the energy for posting has flagged. But then I ran across this inspirational poem by Russell Libby.

Described by kindle, site of the Northern New England Bioneers, as “a farmer, a selectman, an economist, a poet, and a visionary builder of local, organic food systems in Maine and beyond,” he seems like a man close to the Earth. Since 1983 he and his family have grown organic food for friends and family at Three Sisters Farm in Mount Vernon, and his Maine roots date back to 1635, when his forebears settled in the colony.

His poem reminded me of all the trees that lose their lives this time of year (31 million Christmas trees last year in the U.S. alone). Many Christmas trees come from tree farms these days (500 Minnesota tree farmers expect to harvest 500,000 trees this year), though I have been known to go out and cut my own from the forest of a friend’s ancestral lands. Fresh pine is the smell of Christmas for me. And I love sitting in the dark and staring at the lights on the tree.

Time For Your Close-Up!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Time For Your Close-Up!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Time For Your Close-Up!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Time For Your Close-Up!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Since we haven’t had time to put a tree up this year, I thought I’d post these photographs of the antique Christmas lights mentioned in The Poet’s Letter — Robert Bly. It was at Poetry Group that night that our friend Teri shared a story about how her family discovered the lights hidden on top of a rainwater cistern in the basement of a Minnesota farmhouse that has been in her family for generations.

Trees provide balance and structure for the thousands of lights that burn brightly this time of year. I am grateful for the untouched land, places preserved for old growth forests, trees with skins that will never be touched by an ax or saw.

Here’s one last quote for the trees I found in an Alice Walker book, Anything We Love Can Be Saved — A Writer’s Activism. It’s printed below a black and white photograph of a man with his arms stretched wide around a tree. It’s a good time of year to remember what is worth putting our arms around.

This photograph of an Indian man hugging a tree has been attached to my typing stand for years. Each day it reminds me that people everywhere know how to love. It gives me hope that when the time comes, each of us will know just exactly what is worth putting our arms around.

   -Robert A. Hutchison


Holding The Light, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Holding The Light, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Holding The Light, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. Holding The Light, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Holding The Light, Minneapolis, Minnesota, September 2008, all photos © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

American Life in Poetry: Column 194


Father and child doing a little math homework together; it’s an everyday occurrence, but here, Russell Libby, a poet who writes from Three Sisters Farm in central Maine, presents it in a way that makes it feel deep and magical.

Applied Geometry

Applied geometry,
measuring the height
of a pine from
like triangles,
Rosa’s shadow stretches
seven paces in
low-slanting light of
late Christmas afternoon.
One hundred thirty nine steps
up the hill until the sun is
finally caught at the top of the tree,
let’s see,
twenty to one,
one hundred feet plus a few to adjust
for climbing uphill,
and her hands barely reach mine
as we encircle the trunk,
almost eleven feet around.
Back to the lumber tables.
That one tree might make
three thousand feet of boards
if our hearts could stand
the sound of its fall.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Russell Libby, whose most recent book is “Balance: A Late Pastoral,” Blackberry Press, 2007.

Reprinted from “HeartLodge,” Vol. III, Summer 2007, by permission of Russell Libby. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

-posted on red Ravine, Christmas Eve, Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

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Jim and his lapdog Rafael, Rafie in need of a bit of love, November 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Jim is a Solstice baby. As a kid he resented that his birthday fell so close to Christmas. He still tells stories about how everyone gave him “combined” gifts. “Here’s your birthday and Christmas combined.”

We try to make a big deal out of his birthday. Separate gifts always, and not just a t-shirt. Definitely a birthday cake, homemade, with frosting and candles.

Jim’s birthday has passed and, yes, we’re on to Christmas, but before his carrot cake is just a few smudges of butternut frosting on the cake dish, I wanted to say a few things about him:

  • See the photo of Jim and his lapdog Rafael? Well, Jim is something of an animal whisperer. Critters of all types love him. And the reason is that Jim lets creatures be themselves. He’s part animal himself, in a good way. He speaks to them through some special language. So when 75-pound Rafie sidles up to Jim on the overstuffed chair, Jim knows immediately that Rafie just needs to get on Jim’s lap and fall fast asleep. The way Sony gets to do on my lap.
  • Jim loves the cold and winter. Right now he’s outside, has been all day, getting the corral ready to bring our horse over for the start of the new year. Jim works like a horse himself, and in the cool and cold months, he’s always outdoors. I used to think it was Jim’s Scandanavian blood (his grandparents were Swedes) that made him so comfortable in the cold, but I’ve come to realize, Duh, he’s a child of the Solstice. Winter doesn’t bother him one bit.
  • Jim sometimes forgets to take off his fleece cap when he comes inside. Sometimes it’s not until he’s about to get into bed that he realizes he still has it on. Jim’s not the kind of guy to look at himself in the mirror, even when he’s brushing his teeth. Once I gave him an old-fashioned shaver and shaving brush for Christmas; guess what I added to my sister’s flea market goods a few years later? I like that he doesn’t have a vain bone in his body.
  • Jim’s hair is longer than mine. He always said he wanted long hair, but since his hair is also wavy, he’d hit that awkward Bozo-the-Clown look and I’d beg him to cut it. Finally, he just did it. We both survived the “I am a ragamuffin” stage, and now he has lovely long hair that he pulls back into a pony tail, unless it’s right after a shower and he wants to make us all laugh (in which case he wears it loose, like Jesus). 
  • Jim doesn’t much care to get old. He came from the generation that mistrusted anyone over 30, and now being over 50, well, Jim doesn’t like to make a fuss over yet another birthday. But I have to say, and this isn’t my bias speaking, he’s aging well. About a dozen years ago we went to his 20th high school reunion. We took our newborn baby in a sling (she slept the entire event) and one guy asked if that was Jim’s grandchild in the sling. Apparently, most of Jim’s peers had their kids ages before and were already grandparents. I whispered to Jim that he definitely wasn’t old enough to be a grandfather. Yet.
  • I can’t quite figure out if Jim is Sagittarius or Capricorn. His birth date is on the cusp, and he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever get his astrological chart done, so my only cues are the ones I find in astrology publications. I’ve always considered him to be a Sag, probably because they say that Sag and Gemini (me) are compatible. Which we are. But there are some aspects of Sagittarius that don’t fit Jim, such as being an optimist. Jim can be a “glass half empty” sort of fellow, which is something I’ve often thought had to do with the dark side of being a Solstice baby. Yet, he’s definitely adventurous, honest, outspoken, and independent—all qualities associated with Sagittarians. Then again, he’s got the Capricorn characteristics of being tenacious, resourceful, wise, and constant.
  • Mostly Jim is kind-hearted, loyal, a good father and good steward of the earth, and the one I love.

 Happy birthday, old man! You’re still a hottie.


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Splash Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Splash Fire (Dreamscape), Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Winter Solstice is peaking in the Great White North. The darkness of winter reflects off the cold blue snow. Yesterday we had blizzard conditions and the cottage sits behind a wall of white. I wanted to get up and write in the shadows, calling upon dreams I wish to bring into the light.

Mr. StripeyPants sits beside me on the couch, trying to keep warm. Kiev and Liz are still asleep. Chaco, bless his heart, is spending the weekend in an animal hospital. He declined quickly this week and, after two visits to our vet, we had to make the hard decision to put him in emergency care over the weekend.

The doctor called last night to say he is steadily improving. At 12 years old, he is experiencing the beginnings of kidney failure. We are not sure how long we’ll have with him. Quite a few tears were shed this week. Into the fire it all goes. I can release the grief and pain. I don’t have to carry the burden.

Winter Solstice in Minnesota hit her highpoint around 6 a.m CST. From that moment on, each day takes us more into the light. The Universal Time for Winter Solstice in 2008 is 12 21 12:03:34 UT. In the Midwest, we have to subtract 6 hours to arrive at the accurate time zone. (To learn more about Solstices and how to translate time for your part of the world visit the links and comments in Solstice Fire In Winter or Winter Solstice — Making Light Of The Dark.)

Around Noon we will head over to our friends’ home for a Winter Solstice celebration. They usually use the dried and cut Yule tree from last year’s season as kindling to start the fire. On the longest night of the year, we’ll draw on the cave-like energy of Bear, Spirit Guardian of the North.

Bear is feminine reflective energy. She is known across many cultures as a symbol for divinity and healing, and a powerful totem. According to the Animal Spirits cards, illustrated by Susan Seddon Boulet, the Ainu people of the northern islands of Japan believed the Bear was a mountain god. In India, bears are believed to prevent disease and the cave symbolizes the cave of  Brahma. And among the Finno-Ugric peoples, the bear was the god of heaven.

Many Native American peoples regard Bear as a Spirit helper. Here is an excerpt from the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson:

The strength of Bear medicine is the power of introspection. It lies in the West on the great Medicine Wheel of Life. Bear seeks honey, or the sweetness of truth, within the hollow of an old tree. In the winter, when the Ice Queen reigns and the face of death is upon the Earth, Bear enters the womb-cave to hibernate, to digest the year’s experience. It is said that our goals reside in the West also. To accomplish the goals and dreams that we carry, the art of introspection is necessary.

To become like Bear and enter the safety of the womb-like cave, we must attune ourselves to the energies of the Eternal Mother, and receive nourishment from the placenta of the Great Void. The Great Void is the place where all solutions and answers live in harmony with the questions that fill our realities. If we choose to believe that there are many questions to life, we must also believe that the answers to these questions reside within us. Each and every being has the capacity to quiet the mind, enter the silence, and know.

     -from the Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams & David Carson


Bear is the West, the intuitive side, the right brain. Bear invites us to calm the chatter and enter the silence. To hibernate, Bear travels to the Cave, seeks answers while dreaming, and is reborn in the Spring. In the Dream World, our Ancestors sit in council and advise us about alternative pathways leading to our goals. They open doors to inner-knowing where “the death of the illusion of physical reality overlays the expansiveness of Eternity.”

My Grandmother Elise’s birthday is on Winter Solstice. And I often think of her this time of year and call her Spirit into the Circle; I can feel her looking down on us. Solstice is a time of release, a time to consider what to leave behind in the dark, what seeds we wish to plant that may mature with the light of Spring.

Happy Winter Solstice to all. The dark New Moon signifies the beginning of a new cycle that will come to fruition at the next Full Moon. May you celebrate with open hearts. Merry meet, Merry part, and Merry meet again.

     Bear Breathing Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Bear Breathing Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Bear Breathing Fire, Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Winter Solstice, Sunday, December 21st, 2008

-related to posts: 8 Minutes, and 10 Things I Learned Last Weekend (Solstice x Number)

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My first and probably last food fight was a snowy Thanksgiving in Missoula, Montana. I was in my 20’s, and since my family lived half way across the country, due East, I formed community with other Montana transplants.

There was Bev from Ohio, K.D. from Los Angeles, Mary from Pennsylvania, Gail from Minnesota, Leslie from Iowa, Lynne from Idaho, to name only a few. Many of us came to Montana via college, the University of Montana, and loved it so much we decided to stay. Others followed friends out West. I had always dreamed of living in the West. One day I just did it; I picked up and moved.

The food fight was after a Thanksgiving feast:  big old Butterball turkey, smashed potatoes with skins, homemade gravy and biscuits, cranberries, cornbread stuffing, and pumpkin pies. Back then we all drank, so there was lots of alcohol around. I don’t drink much anymore, a glass of wine on occasion. But then it was different. I would return years later for a reunion of these same friends, and many had gone into recovery. It was good to visit with them sober and clean.

There were a few native Montanans in our group, friends who knew the lay of the land. Some grew up in eastern Montana, Billings, some in the western areas of Great Falls, Missoula, Bozeman, and Helena. I would end up visiting these places over the course of the time I lived there, skiing the valleys, hiking the mountains. I lived in a two-story yellow house on Orange Street near the tracks, when there were no strip malls on Reserve Street, just a series of grassy fields.

The food fight was a culmination of hours of planning, cooking, talking, eating, and playing live music. At the time, we had a drum set, McCartney-style bass, keyboard, and a whole array of random percussion instruments in a basket in the corner. We usually played music together on the Holidays, anything from Joni Mitchell to Neil Young to lots of bluegrass — it was Montana in the 70’s.

That Thanksgiving I ended up with mashed potatoes in my hair. Bev threw a biscuit that landed in a ladle of gravy and splashed up on to our shirts. There were cranberry stains on the table cloth that never came out. I remember those days in Montana as good times, even though we all had our problems. We acted, well, we acted like we had not lived as much life as we have lived now.

Food is a metaphor for substance, nutrition, community, family, and friendship. Food is used to show love and nurturing. Food is mother’s milk. Food is not to be wasted. But it’s not good to take oneself too seriously. A good food fight once in a while never hurt anyone. Still, in some places, food can be scarce.

I have often thought of working in community service over the Holidays, something like a soup kitchen or a food bank. I’ve never done it. But I’m keenly aware this time of year that there are people in this country who don’t have enough to eat. They can’t afford it. You don’t have to go to other parts of the world to see how people without enough money to afford food struggle to make ends meet. How people sometimes have to make choices between healthcare and food.

I know a woman, a single parent, who has five children, temps for work in a corporate office, and has no health insurance. It’s available to her through her temp agency, but by the time she purchases it for herself and her five kids, she doesn’t have a paycheck left. She told me she’s one of those people who falls between the cracks. She works hard but makes too much money to apply for additional support for health insurance.

When faced with hard choices, she chooses nutrition for her family. I guess that’s a different kind of fight — the fight for everyone in this country to have healthcare and plenty of food.

-posted on red Ravine, Saturday, December 20th, 2008

-related to Topic post:  WRITING TOPIC – COOKING FIASCOS

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…would have to be yesterday. Trader Joe’s frozen biscuits. I’m always looking for new ideas on what to make in the mornings, fast, that Dee especially can eat for breakfast. She usually has no more than ten minutes (at least for Em, I can scramble an egg and make toast).

I found these biscuits, six frozen cubes in a box. They look like raw clay or some sort of construction spackle. Directions say, Heat oven to 400°F, place the squares in the middle of a lightly buttered baking sheet, place sheet in the center of the oven for ten minutes, and wa-la, fresh hot biscuits.

I was in a hurry, didn’t let the oven heat fully. The biscuits after ten minutes had started to melt from the bottom up, but after 15 minutes they resembled molten cubes, the tops still half-preserved, like small buildings partially collapsed. They tasted OK but looked not at all like something a 13-year-old girl would find appetizing. I fed her slices of a Bartlett pear instead.

I don’t have many major cooking fiasco stories. My cooking errors add up in small immeasurable bits. They hardly make a sizable hill. I don’t like to cook generally, it’s more a chore than a pleasure, and when I get into a rhythm I’m not prone to making big mistakes.

I once heard someone say that if you never miss a plane, you’re spending too much time waiting in airports. I suppose if you never have a cooking fiasco, you’re spending too much time dabbling in the kitchen and not enough time creating feasts. I dabble, except for the occasional new recipe.

Recently I tried a garlic lemony coriander chicken recipe, from India, and it was lovely, a burst of flavor. Garlic breath for days. It wasn’t terribly hard, took about an hour, maybe two. I thought, I ought to do this more often, try new recipes, but when it’s 5:30 pm and Em is asking, What’s for dinner?, I don’t have the wherewithal (not to mention fresh cilantro) to make something different.

Jim’s been cooking since I got back from Vietnam. Tonight he made a roasted chicken. Seven nights without my even thinking about what’s for dinner, and I think, I ought to go away more often. He makes it seem easy, pulls something out of the freezer and wa-la, it’s 6ish and I hear his voice, Dinner’s ready.

But I know he’ll get tired. We all do. The rotation through a pretty dull repertoire—turkey cutlets, tacos (haven’t made those in a while), roasted chicken, buffalo burgers, spaghetti, pasta puttanesca, ribs. I mean, it’s not like they’re aren’t a good number of meals to choose from, but after 365 days even 20 choices seem small.

Nowadays the challenge is to try new things and plan ahead. Today on the exercise bike at the gym I saw a recipe for shells, those jumbo type, with Italian sausage and spinach and cheese filling. I thought, I should make those. Mom always made stuffed shells, she had her repertoire too, some of which I’ve adopted, but I forgot about shells.

Kids’ll love ’em, the article said, and I did love them as a kid. Not a lot that can bomb with giant shell pasta, ricotta cheese, and sauce.


-related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – COOKING FIASCOS

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sticks for legs, Rocky Mountain Sandhill Cranes stop in on their way south for winter, December 14, 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

The cranes are back. I don’t have my glasses on so at first I think they’re dogs. Big hump-backed dogs sitting in the middle of the field. Then I see their legs. Long spindly legs that don’t look like they could possibly support such big bodies.

This time there are six cranes. They seem to come in even numbers. Jim says they mate for life. Apparently they do, although if one of the pair dies, the survivor will find another mate. That’s only fair.

For the past 16 years, Sandhill Cranes and other migratory birds have been a part of our lives. Our town is on their migration path, next to the Rio Grande bosque just north of Albuquerque. We see cranes in fields that grew corn in the summer, and we sneak up on large groups of the birds during our fall walks along the river.

We’ve come to cherish their throaty prehistoric calls as they fly overhead on the way north or south, depending on the season. (And prehistoric they are; a ten-million-year-old crane fossil found in Nebraska had a bone structure identical to the modern Sandhill Crane.)

About two-and-a-half hours south of here is the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, which is a fall and winter migration spot for one of the largest concentrations of Sandhill Cranes in the world. We went there when Dee was young enough to ride in a  trailer hitched to the back of Jim’s bike. We bicycled all around the refuge, but we were in the off season and didn’t spot many cranes.

It’s almost the end of crane’s migration through this particular part of the Rio Grande Valley, at least for this year. Monday we had snow, and this week rain and threats of more snow. Soon it will be too cold for these skinny-legged birds and they’ll move on to southern New Mexico and Texas and northern Mexico.

I like to think the group of cranes from today includes the same four that were here this past weekend. That not only do they mate for life, but that they come back to the same places—even our field—again and again.

I suppose they do.

autumn: sticks for legs
then the first snowfall arrives
winter: sticks for arms

Resources on Sandhill Cranes

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Venus In Red, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Venus In Red, Minneapolis, Minnesota, shot December 1st, 2008 with a point-and-shoot Canon, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


On December 1st, the Moon aligned in a triad with the elusive beauty of Venus and the expansiveness of Jupiter. Born in the sign of Cancer, the Moon is my ruling planet. I was alerted that morning by my sister-in-law and brother in Pennsylvania. By the time night rolled around, the frigid winter sky offered a clear, firsthand view from my deck in Minnesota.

My sister-in-law also provided a link to an article in the comments on Frost Moon (Faux November) which gives an excellent synopsis of a night spectacle which will not be seen again until 2052. Here are a few more tidbits from Look to Sky for Spectacular Sight Monday by Joe Rao of Space.com:


  • the Moon was 15% illuminated in close proximity to the two brightest planets in our sky, Venus and Jupiter
  • Jupiter in this photograph is just above Venus and moving in the opposite direction. By the end of December, Jupiter will meet up with the planet Mercury, but will be descending deep into the glow of sunset.
  • Earth shines between 45 and 100 times more brightly than the Moon
  • the Moon is approximately 251,400 miles from Earth
  • Venus is nearly 371 times farther away than the Moon, 93.2 million miles from Earth
  • Jupiter is almost 2,150 times farther away than the Moon, 540.3 million miles from Earth
  • With the naked eye you could see the full globe of the Moon, with the darkened portion glowing bluish-gray between a sunlit crescent and not much darker sky. The vision is sometimes called “the Old Moon in the Young Moon’s arms.” Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was the first to recognize it as what we now call Earthshine.
  • Earthshine is sunlight which is reflected off Earth to the moon and then reflected back to Earth

Dancing On The Head Of A Pin, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Front & Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Moon Courts Venus & Jupiter, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Midrange, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Cradle, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

In addition to the December triangulation of the Moon, Venus, and Jupiter, last Friday, December 12th (12th month, 12th day, and the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe) was the Full December Cold Moon. It was the 13th Moon since Winter Solstice 2007 and a Blue Moon by the traditional definition. I had dinner with a friend and the night was again crystal clear for the Cold Moon with glowing rings illuminating nearby clouds.

There is a great article on the Blue Moon by Cayelin K Castell at Celestial Timings called Understanding the Blue Moon (with dates to 2040). In the article, she explains that although popular culture’s definition of Blue Moon is two full moons in a one-month period, Sky and Telescope Magazine states the original meaning of the Blue Moon is when there are four Full Moons in one season, creating 13 Full Moons from December Solstice to December Solstice.

It’s a rare event that only happens every two and half to three years. The New Moon Winter Solstice is this weekend. Bear awaits in the darkness.

-posted on red Ravine, Tuesday, December 16th, 2008

-related to posts: winter haiku trilogy, PRACTICE – Wolf Moon – 10min

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Get your Blue on, a beautiful blue building in Hoi An, Vietnam, December 2008, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Blue is one of my favorite colors. Calm, reflective. Blue is the color I painted my writing room. Blue (like green) reminds me of nature—the heavens and the seas.

(Some languages don’t differentiate between blue and green. In Vietnamese, for example, the word for both tree and sky is the same—xanh.)

In the ancient city of Hoi An, Vietnam, I saw shades of blue everywhere. There was the periwinkle blue of a wall that when I stopped in front of it to wait for traffic, held me in its depth. There was the bright blue-green interior of the restaurant where we ate that soothed, like turquoise water against white sand, in an almost illogical way (being as how the waves in the nearby South China Sea churned gray and the blue-green walls jolted my senses).

Blue doors, blue walls, blue windows. Blue against cheerful yellows and oranges. Blue against blue.

Blue on blue, heartache on heartache.

Something about Hoi An reminded me of towns I’ve been before. I think of Havana, Cuba, or Tonalá, México. People who use such bright color—color that fades over time and becomes all the more profound (as if it has seeped into the skin)—are vibrant people, I think. They are creators, artists, philosophers.

If you see a tree as blue, then make it blue.

~Paul Gauguin

Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven.

Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness. In heraldry, blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity.

Light blue is associated with health, healing, tranquility, understanding, and softness. Dark blue represents knowledge, power, integrity, and seriousness.

~from Color Wheel Pro

During the holidays I often feel blue. I have a friend who says it’s normal to be sad during Christmas; the Christmases of one’s adulthood will never measure up to those of one’s youth. Never the same sense of anticipation. Never the same thrill.

Many a holiday season I feel lethargic, overwhelmed by the thought of all things I could and should be doing. Cards, decorations, baking. I would love to make my own wreath this year, the kind that Martha Stewart and all those so-called Women’s magazines make seem so simple and so fulfilling.

I once saw a wreath in shades of cornflower blue in Taos. That would be pretty. Little berries. Not blueberries, but blue berries. For once, a wreath that shows my inside out.

Years ago I would have pushed myself to do it all. I even used to stamp my own Christmas wrapping paper with homemade potato cut stamps. BK. Before Kids.

The past several years I’ve taken the weight of those particular accomplishments off my shoulders. I doubt I’ll get out my cards this season, and while I feel a pang of guilt over the whole thing (and the concern that those who send me cards will eventually cross me off their lists), I also tell myself that it is OK. After all, I just came back from a trip abroad. Although, I don’t need an excuse, do I?

In New Mexico, as in other places, a blue window frame, door frame, or portal keeps evil spirits from entering a dwelling. The color is associated with Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary (her mantle is blue) and the moradas of the Penitentes.

The turquoise stone, important in many native cultures and Buddhism, is believed to assure safe journey. When worn in the ear, turquoise is said prevent reincarnation as a donkey, and when found, it brings good luck. (I’ll have to tell my girls, as they regularly pan for and discover turquoise in the Rio Grande.)

In some cultures, the blue bead wards off the evil eye. The blue bead can be seen hanging from a rear view mirror, around one’s neck, or like mistletoe in the doorway.

I’ll have a blue Christmas without you.

Blue signifieth divine contemplation. In moral virtues, it signifieth godliness of conversation, and is the colour of air, attributed to celestial persons, whose contemplations have been about divine things…

~Sylvanus Morgan, 1661

I beseech you, Blessed Medicine Guru,
Whose sky-colored, holy body of lapis lazuli
Signifies omniscient wisdom and compassion
As vast as limitless space,
Please grant me your blessings.

~from the Medicine Tantra

Today it snowed almost all day. A white out—low clouds and flurries that finally started to stick by dark. Not a speck of blue to be found, save for the small dot growing (ever so slowly, like ancient moss) inside my heart.

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Simsonized, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Simpsonized QM, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

I do kind of look like this photograph. That’s Kiev up on my shoulder. She’s upset that I’ve done three posts about Mr. StripeyPants (“Pants” for short) and have yet to upload one photograph of her sleek and furry self. (If it pleases the court, we’d like to submit the following items into evidence: Exhibits #1, #2, #3.) I’ll have to make restitution next year.

Liz was playing at the Simpsonize Me site one day and I leaned over her shoulder just in time to take a slow walk through Springfield. The website’s been around a while, but if you haven’t tried it yet you’ll need Flash Player and a clear shoulders-up photo crop.

ybonesy’s still a bit groggy from her trip to Vietnam, so I guess a little self-indulgent play won’t hurt. Here are a few of my favorite things. Strange as they may be — they are all mine.

1. Answering The Phone, “Dunder Mifflin this is Pants…” — any The Office fans out there? In last week’s Moroccan Christmas episode, Meredith’s hair caught on fire. And Dwight Schrute was selling bootleg dolls during the Holiday party. It’s a must see.

2. Porcelain Sinks — Not partial to stainless steel in sinks or tubs. I like the tactile, white brightness of something more organic, and would rather hear the thump of dishes on porcelain than the clank of a glass on stainless steel. I do like brushed steel in microwaves, refrigerators, and stoves.

3. Cool Eyeware — I didn’t wear glasses until I was 42. I try to make the best of it. This year I bought a pair of squarish red Ray-Bans. I also like the way people look in glasses. I wonder if that’s because they look more writerly to me.

4. Woofle Jelly Cake — Hmmm. Ran across the recipe Mom sent last year for Ada’s Jam Cake with homemade preserves. More to come on that one later.


5. John Coltrane Playing My Favorite Things, Circa 1961 — John Coltrane with his band in Baden-Baden, Germany gets a 5 star rating from me. To view in widescreen, click on the link and it will take you over to Astrotype’s YouTube page with John Coltrane, Sarah Vaughan, Thelonious Monk, and more.

John Coltrane – soprano sax, tenor sax
Eric Dolphy – flute, alto sax
McCoy Tyner – piano
Reggie Workman – bass
Elvin Jones – drums

You can read about the life of John Coltrane in his biography in Rolling Stone or at JAZZ, a Ken Burns film on PBS.

My Favorite Things, written by Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers, was first introduced by Mary Martin in the original 1959 Broadway musical production, and later sung by Julie Andrews in the 1965 film adaptation, The Sound Of Music. It has become popular around the Holidays for the winterish theme and upbeat tempo.

I can be found humming it around the house. And you might, too, after you hear Coltrane play it. Are there songs that get stuck in your head this time of year? What are some of your favorite things?


Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens;
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens;
Brown paper packages tied up with strings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels;
Doorbells and sleigh bells and schnitzel with noodles;
Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings;
These are a few of my favorite things.

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes;
Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes;
Silver-white winters that melt into springs;
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the dog bites,
When the bee stings,
When I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.

A Walk Through Springfield, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.A Walk Through Springfield, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.A Walk Through Springfield, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

A Walk Through Springfield, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-posted on red Ravine, Sunday, December 14th 2008

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circles on orange, a rusted gate in front of an orange building in Hoi An, Vietnam, taken December 7, 2008, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

Eyes rusty around the edges.
Hurts to look out the window.
Craving a vanilla-chocolate swirl TCBY.
Wonder if they have TCBY here.
Teeth jet-lagged, too.
Could use a good brushing.
I think I might have dandruff.
Not very attractive.


Mostly unable to speak in full sentences.
Not registering cohesive thought.
Good thing I am sitting near my gate.
Feel like human origami.
Even now, feet tucked under thighs.
I can’t seem to unfold.
Not interested in talking to a soul.
If one looks at me, I squint.

What are your tips, tricks, and remedies for jet lag?
What has worked for you?
What do you suggest I do over the next 24 hours?

(That’s all I can muster.)

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Mix-Up!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Mix-Up!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Mix-Up!, Minneapolis, Minnesota, December  2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Have you ever had a cooking or baking fiasco? These Holiday Rocks may look perfectly normal, but peer a bit closer — they are blonder than the delicious Rocks that Mom makes. And the taste buds don’t lie! They were bitter and a LOT drier. We made the mistake of using year-old nuts from the freezer, whole wheat flour from last year’s Holiday baking, and (the icing on the cake) we grabbed the baking powder when we should have added baking soda.

What’s the difference between baking soda and baking powder? Baking soda is bicarbonate of soda (NaHCO3) which when combined with an acidic ingredient, such as vinegar or the lactic acid in buttermilk (the sour milk in traditional Rocks), releases carbon dioxide which forms into bubbles in the food. Baking powder contains baking soda along with cream of tartar and a starch. The mixture of baking soda and an acid in powdered form, combine in liquid to create the same reaction.

According to Kitchen Savvy, baking soda, combined with an equal measure of cornstarch and twice as much cream of tartar, can be used to replace baking powder. However, baking powder generally should not be substituted for baking soda since this will leave excess acidic compounds in the food which may affect flavor, texture and color. Whoops!

Did I mention our Rocks were also bitter? Part of the bitterness was from the baking powder. The other part was because the pecans had been in the freezer for a year and had gone a bit rancid. We threw the first batch of Rocks out (the squirrels loved them!) and took a trip to the store for new ingredients.

It wasn’t until the second batch that we discovered we had used the baking powder instead of the baking soda. Round two tasted alright (and we did eat them all) but they were dry and crumbly and the dates were chewy.

On top of all that, we tried to make Frito Pie over Thanksgiving and, guess what, the pinto beans never got soft. We soaked them overnight, then simmered them over 7 hours. When Liz mentioned it to her mom, she told us if beans are too old, they never get soft, no matter how much you cook them. Back to the store for fresh pintos!

Tis the season to spread a little Holiday food cheer and most people are cooking up a storm. We touched on cooking fiascos in the comments on one of our Thanksgiving posts. Care to share the times when your cooking or baking flopped, fell, melted, stiffened, or took a dive?

If you don’t have any culinary nightmares, when’s the last time you had a good food fight? (One of my favorites is from the movie Fried Green Tomatoes.)

Grab a line for a Writing Practice, then, 10 minutes, Go!

My first cooking fiasco…..

My first food fight….

The last time I bombed in the kitchen…

-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

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hi mom I just got yuor e-mail on monday night at 6:42 the e-mail hasent been working but evrey once in awhile I love you verry very very very very very very very very very very very vervy very very very evry very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very very  very very verry very very very very very veryvery very very very evry evry very very very very verry very very very  very very very evry very very very very very very very veyr very very very very very very very very very very very evry very very very very very ver very very very very very very very very very evry very evry vervy ervy very very very evry very ed very very very much and even more then that

This is an e-mail from nine-year-old Em, copied verbatim—exactly what I needed after a whirlwind trip to central and northern Vietnam, then back to Saigon. (Hanoi is gorgeous! I must go back and spend more than 24 hours there.)

It’s almost 11p, my ears are plugged from the plane ride, and my day starts first thing tomorrow. This is it for me tonight. I just wanted to say, kids have a way of making everything OK. How do they do that?

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         Centering, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2007, photo © 2007-2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

        Centering, Minneapolis, Minnesota, March 2007, photo © 2007-2008
        by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

success or failure
all our lives right here, right now
under Buddha’s tree

     Walking Buddha, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Walking Buddha, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Walking Buddha, 13th Century, Thailand, Late Sukhothai period, Minneapolis
Institute of Arts, Minneapolis, Minnesota, June 2008, photo © 2008 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The Buddha depicted walking with the left hand raised in the gesture of granting protection was popularized during the 13th and 14th centuries by Sukhothai sculpture. The figure displays the supernatural anatomy of the Buddha as described in ancient texts. Some of these features include projecting heels, long fingers, smooth skin the color of gold, and elongated arms. The walking Buddha type represents an episode from the Buddha legends, wherein he descends from heaven by walking down a ladder.

  —Minneapolis Institute of Arts

-posted on red Ravine, Rohatsu, Monday, December 8th, 2008

-to read more about Rohatsu, visit:  Sitting In Solidarity

-related to posts:  The Last Time I Was in Taos – The Great Mantra, State Of The Arts (haiku for Kuan-yin), The Goddess Inside My Heart haiku (one-a-day)

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Local Color — My Favorite Shots From Hoi An, Hoi An, Vietnam, December 2008, all photos in Collection © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.

I find out on the way to Da Nang that this is rainy season on the narrow coast of central Vietnam. The woman in the seat next to me on the plane tells me in broken English that it rains all day, and she combs her fingers through the air to show me how the water comes down in sheets. “I stay inside this time of year,” she says.

The descent is bumpy and tortuous. We fly through violent rain, and the lights from the plane’s wings flash against the clouds like an electrical storm. At night in bed, the wind’s howl is unrelenting out my balcony window. I pull the comforter to my chin and try not to cry.

This morning, on the way to the ancient city of Hoi An, less than an hour’s drive from Da Nang, there is a patch of light blue. I leave the umbrella from the hotel in the back of the taxi and wander around the town. Last week, I’m told, Hoi An flooded with a foot of rain. By noon I take off the extra shirts I piled on while the sky was still a dreary gray back in Da Nang.

Now it is bedtime. My cheeks are flushed from the sun. Hoi An is one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of beautiful towns), and I am ready to start another work week in Vietnam.

Postscript: I took these photos with a camera loaned by a work colleague. I tinkered (to the best of my ability, which is not much) with the images using a public domain photo editing software, and although I amped the saturation in all cases, the colors and tones seem consistent with my already fading memory of Hoi An.

-Related to posts Love Of Maps (December In Vietnam) and Local Color — My Favorite Shots From The Mekong Delta

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