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LAB 2 2011-06-25 18.29.26 AUTO

Walking The Labyrinth, Droid Snapshots, Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, June 2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

The July Sun boils. Tomorrow may hit 100 degrees. It’s the heart of Summer in Minnesota, when deep Winter dwellers finally allow themselves to emerge from their cabin cocoons to frolic in the grass and spend intimate time with family and friends. The shadow of the July Thunder Moon will rise at 3:54am on July 1st. This New Moon Partial Solar Eclipse in the watery depths of Cancer offers an opportunity to enhance and transform relationships, and release outdated emotional patterns that might be holding us back. This is especially true of family relationships, since the sign of Cancer is rooted in home and family ties.

The partial eclipse also opposes the expansiveness of the planet Pluto, emphasizing the need for transformation of old patterns and routines. The Midsummer eclipse is a time of healing wounds, and setting intentions that allow us to work with old habits in new ways. There will be surprises that will jolt us awake and leave an opening for the clarity we need to move forward.

Be safe and have a good July 4th Holiday. Venus transits into the sign of Cancer on July 4th, calling out the feminine. Walk a labyrinth. Pay attention to the Sun, Stars, Moon, and Sky. The Earth will love you for it. Here’s an eclipse ritual I found in Llewellyn’s Sabbats Almanac. I thought it might be a good way to dive into the eclipse of a Midsummer night’s dream.



 ∞ Cancer Eclipse Ritual ∞



Think of a particular relationship or issue from the past that has been lingering or holding you back. Write a letter to the person (or people) involved that relays your honest feelings and emotions. Describe how you would like this situation or issue to change and what you need to feel better about it. Then, on the day of the New Moon, go to the ocean or find a stream, lake, or other body of water where you can be relatively private. Read your letter aloud to the spirit of the water and ask this spirit to help guide your message to the right place to allow you to heal, transform, and be free of these feelings that you have been holding on to.



-posted on red Ravine, Thursday, June 30th, 2011, Eve of a New Moon in Cancer Solar Eclipse

-related to posts: ode to a crab — haiku & mandala, Mandala For The 5th Element — The Role Of Ritual In Our Lives, World Labyrinth Day, Winter Solstice — Total Eclipse Of The Moon, winter haiku trilogy, November Frost BlackBerry Moon, Winding Down — July 4th Mandalas, Squaring The Circle — July Mandalas (Chakras & Color), The Shape Of July — Out Of Darkness Comes Light, Here’s To Rain On The 4th Of July

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By Teresa Williams




In the darkness
of this winter morning
I think of those
tortoises
on Santa Cruz island,
walking
their invisible pace
up from the grassy plains
thousands of feet
to the high meadows
and forests,
their ritual escape
from the dry heat
below.

They have travelled
these well worn paths
each season,
for centuries and
this pilgrimage, imperceptibly
moves
slower than the speed
of any dawn
they may wait for.
When you pass them by
these ancient living stones
from the sea,
you can almost hear
Time
laughing at you
and your rush
to arrive
at the top of a hill.
Once there, however,
you will believe
again
in miracles,
when you see
those tortoises
resting
in small pools
of water.



And there is a sense
of deep satisfaction
watching
those giant beings
as they rest in water,
as if everyone
has found
exactly
what they were
looking for.

It is still dark
and winter here;
I do not find
a well worn path
in front of me
nor a place of return
where
each year
I can find
a second home
high above the sea.
No, from this place
only a tangle
of paths
where
these animals
called humans
are moving
in all directions
at once.
Concealed
in this frenzy
of movement
is thirst,
looking moving looking
for higher ground
for a quiet place
to relax
and drink in
something clear
and
true, an element
of coolness.

So, for the moment
while the darkness
lasts
and the thirst
intensifies,
I will crawl away
from the tangle,
go deeper
inside this haven
I have found
of hexagons and
slowness,
and here, I will wait
for a light
for a path
for the place this
shell of waiting
may take me.




_________________________




About Teresa: Teresa Williams is a psychotherapist, poet and translator in Seattle, Washington. She has been writing and trying to live poetry for as long as she can remember. Her love for travel and the Spanish language has called her into translation work. She is also an active member of Grupo Cervantes, a bilingual writer’s group and literary community in Seattle.

Teresa’s poetry has been featured at births, weddings, funerals and several talent shows held by the closest of friends. Her first piece on red Ravine, Sound Falling From One World Into Another, was published in August 2010 and featured the poems: Swans, Two Coyotes at Dawn, and Tarot. Her last piece, The Devil’s Bridge, speaks to the legends and mythology surrounding bridges throughout the British Isles, Scandinavia, and continental Europe.

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Mandala For The 5th Element - 10/52

Mandala For The 5th Element – 10/52, BlackBerry 52 – WEEK 10, March 13th,
2011, photo © 2011 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Medium: Drawn by hand with a black Fine Line DecoColor Opaque Paint Marker on Canson Mix Media XL Series 98lb drawing paper. Collaged & colored with Faber Castell 6 PITT Artist Brush Pens, DecoColor Glossy Oil Base Paint Markers, Portfolio Water Soluble Oil Pastels, Caran D’Ache NeoColor II Water Soluble Wax Crayons, Sharpie Medium Point Oil-Based Opaque Paint Markers, Lineco Archival PVA Adhesive, yellow felt letters, metal fastener, archival card stock paper. Photo taken in streaming sunlight on a BlackBerry Tour.


At 6:20 CST on March 20th, 12 hours and 9 minutes of light welcomed Spring to the Midwest. Seasonal rituals are important to our spiritual health. Honoring cyclical changes in the seasons is one way to stay grounded. We delved into daily and superstitious rituals in one of the first Writing Topics on red Ravine. Animals engage in rituals to feed themselves and hibernate, to define and defend their territories; humans do, too. Rituals comfort me in times of loss and uncertainty — walking a labyrinth, creating a mandala, or celebrating the Spring Equinox.

My first response to Cityscape: Behind The Gray in the BlackBerry 52 collaboration with Lotus, was that it captured a late winter mood. The second time I viewed the photo was March 11th, after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Everything changed. I saw Every City, Every Town in her photograph — a skyline, a parking lot of white cars, minutes away from being tossed on the sea like toys. I felt helpless, sad for the collective suffering, for the families living through the devastation.

It was about that time that I learned about terma in Tibetan Buddhism — physical objects, texts, or ritual implements that are buried in the ground (Earth), hidden in a rock or crystal, secreted in an herb or tree, hidden in a lake (Water), or up in the sky (Air), elements that contain sacred teachings, accessible to all when we need them (Essence). Mandala For The 5th Element followed; the center is the symbol for Essence, also symbol for the Sun.

One night at the studio, while collaborating on Obsoletion Blues, an art project for Strange Attractors, I ran across an old article I had copied years ago at MCAD — The Art of Ritual. I read it, remembered the Akashic Records (akasha is a Sanskrit word meaning sky, space, or aether) — source of mystical knowledge, the collective unconscious, the history of the Cosmos. Perfectly in sync, readers began commenting on the same subjects in our daily haiku post. From annie:

I first came across termas when I read Thinley Norbu’s book ‘Magic Dance’. He describes, poetically, exotic tales of the ‘five wisdom dakinis’ (earth, air, fire, water and space/ether). These five dakinis manifest the feminine wisdom energy, bringing strength, power and transformation to our lives. They are known collectively as ‘Sky Dancers’ who dance in limitless space and are the writers of the termas, which they conceal until the time is right for them to be found. Their form of writing is ‘subtle and mysterious’ and the being who finds the terma must call on the five wisdom dakinis to help them interpret it (they also reside in the mind). I like the similarities of the elemental archetypes of Buddhism and Celtic Paganism. It brings it closer to home.



The Five Elements

______________


FIRE — SOUTH

Summer, Youth, Midday, Full Moon, Intuition

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Flames, Red, Point, Combustion, Energy, Passion, Desire, Inspiration, Beginning, Energy, Individual

OBJECTS:
fire, flame, candles, lamps, fireplaces, torches, matches, sparklers, fireworks, triangular shapes
Foods: hot-spiced foods, cayenne, salsa, Tabasco, curry, hot foods & drinks
Clothing: light and warm
Scents: sharp, tangy smells like cinnamon, odors from a fire

ACTIONS:
darting, rapid movements
lighting a fire or candle, burning or sacrificing

COLORS:
reds, oranges, yellows
bright, direct light, steady like the noon sun, or a flickering fire, or candle-light

SOUNDS:
arpeggios, staccato rhythms
the crackling of a fire, violins and other high-pitched strings, soprano instruments
inflaming speeches, stating an intention, invocations, appeals to the Spirit


______________


AIR (WIND) — EAST

Spring, Infancy, Dawn, Crescent Moon, Thinking

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Bell, Incense, Blue, Line, Gas, Mind, Communication, Study, Planning, Merging, Creation, Mental, Relationships

OBJECTS:
air, wind, round shapes, feathers, fans, incense, pinwheels, books, pens
Foods: light desserts, puff pastry, champagne, sparkling drinks
Clothing: light and free-fitting
Scents: clear and delicate scents

ACTIONS:
quick, light motions
lifting up or offering up
speaking or reading

COLORS:
sky blue, blues, whites
bright but indirect light, increasing in intensity, electric lighting
the morning sun

SOUNDS:
sound itself
clear, high-pitched tones; rapid, precise, light rhythms
the rushing wind, rustling sounds
wind chimes, flutes and woodwinds, rattles, bells or drums
speech and laughter, words that direct thoughts, appeals to reason and logic


______________


WATER — WEST

Autumn, Middle Age, Evening, Waning Moon, Feeling

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Cup, Silver, Plane, Liquid, Feeling Emotion, Integration, Process, Cycle, Deepening, Feeling, Family

OBJECTS: water, cups, liquid containers, crescent shapes, seashells, starfish, fish, dolphins
Foods: libations, clear broths
Clothing: smooth, flowing textures of materials such as silk
Scents: rain, sea air, water lilies

ACTIONS:
fluid, graceful, rhythmic motions
actions that denote giving and receiving aspects of water: pouring, drinking, washing
dancing, swaying

COLORS:
blues, blue-greens, silvers
filtered, indirect light, gently changing
twilight

SOUNDS:
melodious, flowing
rhythmic chanting, rushing water, waves, rain
vibraphone, harp, rhythm section, alto pitch
poetry or singing, speech that appeals to the emotions


______________


EARTH — NORTH

Winter, Old Age, Night, New Moon, Sensation

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Disc, Cube, Earth Tones, Solid, Body, Affection, Application, Product, Ending, Manifestation, Action, Group

OBJECTS: solid, sturdy objects of cubes, globes, squares, stones, metals, crystals, wood
Foods: breads, grains, meat, fruits, mushrooms
Clothing: coats, capes, rough mottled textures such as wool
Scents: heavy, musky odors, the smell of earth, forest floor, baking bread

ACTIONS:
stillness, slow, steady deliberate motions
lying, sitting, squatting
digging, planting harvesting
eating, ingestion, digestion
moving to each of the four quadrants of the circle

COLORS:
earth tones: browns, blacks, russets, olive greens, yellows
darkness or dim, steady light
nighttime

SOUNDS:
silence, the pause between sounds
low, deep tones; slow steady rhythms
bass instruments, drum, fiddle, oboe, tuba
speech that refers to body, the world, actions


______________


ESSENCE  — ALL AS ONE

Everything Is Connected, The Ethers, Life Force, Energy That Permeates All of Nature, Wholeness, Unity of Self, the World

ELEMENTAL CORRESPONDENCES: Circles, Mandalas, Altars, the Sun, Labyrinths, Centers, Balancing Points, the Bindu (point of origin and return)

OBJECTS: central altar, candle, lantern, lamp, cauldron, the ritual circle

ACTIONS:
standing in the center of a circle or labyrinth
holding hands in a circle, prayer chains
recognizing life force energy — prana, chi, ether, Akasha, Spirit, God, Tao (to name only a few)

COLORS:
brightness, light itself, the speed of light

SOUNDS:
sounds of pitch higher than human hearing
solitary clear soprano note, a choir’s single voice, monks chanting
instruments with a lingering echo, Tibetan bells
in speech, giving thanks for what has been received from Spirit through invocation


______________


I posted excerpts from that old MCAD library book (The Art Of Ritual) containing lists of objects, foods, actions, smells, and sounds to remind me to engage all of the senses, and in turn, each of the 5 Elements. Keep in mind that directional correlations and colors may vary from culture to culture, depending on what books you reference.

What rituals help you to heal or feel connected to the world at large? How do you integrate human suffering and pain into day-to-day life. What symbols help you to heal and grow, to come to terms with death and loss, to create balance in your life. For me, art and writing open doors to other worlds


The essence of ritual is that something done in the physical realm is related to the higher worlds. This may be a simple gesture of the hand or an elaborate ceremony. It can be working consciously in everyday life, so that quite mundane actions become full of meaning, or a carefully designed ritual acted out for a specific occasion…Ritual is the mode of formalizing action and giving it not only meaning, but creating a contact with other worlds.

—Halevi, School of Kabbalah

Mandala For The 5th Element (Detail)


-posted on red Ravine Monday, March 21st, 2011

-related to posts: Functioning Ego — August Mandalas (Goethe & Color), Flying Solo — Dragonfly In Yellow Rain

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By Judith Ford


My grandmother, who was Dutch, did an incredible job of spring cleaning, every March, every year she was alive. No object and no surface was spared a scrubbing. Rugs were taken out and beaten within an inch of their threaded lives; walls were washed with a hard brown scrub brush. Curtains taken down and washed. Every closet emptied, every sheet and towel bleached and washed. Everything dried outdoors on a clothesline. In March, Wisconsin is still cold so things froze out there, pillowcases transformed into wrinkled boards. Socks turned into twisted sculptures. She washed every dish and pot and spoon. Then when it was all done and everything set back in its proper place, she’d cover the sofa and chairs and lampshades in the living room with plastic covers. She’d lay a plastic path from doorway to living room couch and into the dining room. When I was around 11, I asked her, finally, who she was keeping everything so clean for and when would she remove the ugly plastic. (I didn’t say the word, ugly, I’m sure). “The plastic keeps everything ready for company,” she replied. “But, “I protested, “Aren’t I company?” I had never once seen her living room without plastic. “You,” she explained, “are family. Not company.” She didn’t need to add that I, being a rather messy child, was one of the reasons she protected her furniture.


My mother didn’t do spring cleaning. She did like to open up all the windows on the first day the temperature rose over 50–to air everything out. I always loved that, coming home from school for lunch and finding the windows all wide open, the house looking like a toothless, eyeless caricature of itself, the air sweet and chilly. My mother hated being a housewife and did not cotton to cooking or cleaning. She did the minimums and stuck to the 50’s schedule that most of her friends observed: Monday clean and do laundry; Tuesday iron; Wednesday, volunteer work; Thursday, groceries; Friday, light cleaning (a lick and a promise, is what she called it); Saturday was the night my dad cooked burgers and Sundays we went to my grandparent’s house for dinner. My mother did what she felt she must but mostly without joy and often with many sighs. She did seem to enjoy ironing (which I so don’t get) and would sing while she ironed, in a voice like Ella Fitzgerald. Singing over the ironing and walking in the mountains – those are the times I remember my mother at her happiest. Not cleaning. Never spring cleaning.


Well, it’s sort of spring now and I am sort of spring cleaning. I’ve been putting hours in every week to clean my attic. It has to be done. We’re selling the house and moving to the country.

I’ve lived in this house for 28 years, married husband #2 after living alone here with my daughter for 5 years, moved that husband and his daughter in, had another baby, raised these kids until each one grew their feathers and flew off. Also raised a cockatiel, a parrot, four dogs and numerous gerbils and hamsters in this house. Can you imagine the debris? My attic had become a combination museum, closet (huge closet), and file cabinet. Treasures and cast-offs that have trickled down to me from three generations and two family lines. The leftover objects include outgrown clothes, games, books, and life directions. My very first poem, written at age 10. A couple of Jessie’s baby teeth, nestled inside the newborn bracelet she wore in the nursery: “Baby girl, Marks-Szedziewski, 2-19-78.” An envelope containing a curling wisp of very blond baby hair, Nic’s first haircut, 1988, a battered and faded pink pair of tiny toe shoes (mine, from 1955, I think; although they might be my aunt Jeanne’s). A hair curling iron (great-grandmother Nettie’s, late 1800’s). Aunt Jeanne’s bracelets from the 30’s. So glad I didn’t throw those away. Hundreds of notes from Jessie and from Nic: I Love You, Mommy. Mommy don’t tell anyone but I love you best. Thank you for being my mommy, You are the best Mommy, Next time you go on a trip, take me too. Mommy, I hate camp. Come and get me out of here, please!please!please! Nic’s version of Jingle Bells, written at age 4 with a few backwards letters, words scrawled across the page, Jingle Bells Jingle Bells Jingle all the way, Oh What Fun on Al’s True Ride, On the One on Holken Slay. Jessie’s school trophies, soccer and swimming, her camp and sports t-shirts, Nic’s academic medals for top scores in the state on the ACT and SAT at age 9 and 10, his IQ testing done at Northwestern U when he was 5.

The way I wept when the tester called me and told me the test results.

I wish I had known more back then how to feed his ravenous brain, his wonderful mind. So much I wish I could do over for him.


I will be 63 in a month. The past is truly the past. There are no do-overs and no time left for holding on. Time, instead, for letting go. For boxing up, and throwing away, for going to UPS to send Jessie her soccer and swim team t-shirts, to send Nic his Pokemon card collection. Handing the keepsakes over to my grown-up kids, handing over to them the job of remembering.

In the process of this sorting and cleaning, I’ve had to remind myself again and again to let go not only of the objects but the feelings. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve longed to have my children back in my arms, on my lap, longed for one more night of reading in bed with Jessie at age 7, one more night of long conversation at bedtime with Nic when he was 10. One more chance to see each of them for one hour during each year of their growing-up – one more chance to drink in the sight of them, their wispy hair, freckled faces, braces and missing teeth, to listen to their piping little voices more intently, memorize each one of them even more completely.

I had expected that cleaning out all this old stuff would help me clear the decks for this next chapter of my life, and yes, I guess that’s happening. I had anticipated reminiscing. I hadn’t anticipated the wave upon wave of memories to be so visceral, so wrenching, so expanding and swooping and full of love. I am not only clearing the decks; I am also rejuvenating both myself and the attic. Am going through some kind of death and resurrection here. Turning myself inside out and right side out again. Right side out and I must admit, a little trembly.

Spring cleaning is a piece of cake compared to this.




About Judith: Judith Ford is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She was red Ravine’s very first guest writer, with the piece 25 Reasons I Write. Judith’s other pieces on red Ravine include lang•widge, Mystery E.R., I Write Because, and PRACTICE – Door – 20min. Spring Cleaning is based on a 15 minute Writing Practice on WRITING TOPIC — SPRING CLEANING.

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By Teri Blair

This spring I turn 50.

The cleaning on my mind these days is an internal one. 50 is a significant marker, one that won’t be ignored. I saw Bonnie Raitt in concert the year she turned 50. She was playing the Grandstand at the Minnesota State Fair. She called out to the women in the audience, “Don’t be afraid to turn 50! It’s great!” And I could see she meant it, too—not just trying to buoy herself or us up. That was 11 years ago, and I was still in my 30s. 50 seemed like ages away. But it stuck with me. Her attitude.

I went to a 50th birthday party once for a woman who had a ritual to drop everything in her life that had held her back. It was done with drumming and shouting and people. Powerful stuff. She was brave and she made an announcement to her herself that she was turning a corner. A big one.

I don’t feel bad about turn 50. Mainly. There are things in my life I’m not satisfied with, but I don’t suppose that will every change. There’s some sort of release happening inside. A knowing that I don’t have all the time in the world. And because I don’t, I think about spring cleaning, and what needs to go and what needs to be aired out or left behind or turned over to the garbage heap. I don’t have my internal spring cleaning list completed, but it’s formulating. I don’t turn 50 until May 5th, so I’ve got some time.

I’m not sad about youth being over. That sounds bold and so against the grain of our culture, doesn’t it? I want to be healthy and strong. I want to take care of myself. But I don’t want to be 20 or 30 anymore. Nor do I want to pretend that I am. Nor do I want to watch someone half my age for clues about how I should live my life.

I am watching older women now. Elderly women. They seem far more interesting to me. I met one this month named Gladys—an artist/writer who has made it in the art world. She moves quietly and humbly through life. She listens well. She always seems grounded. Clearly, she had done her spring cleaning.


-Related to Topic post: WRITING TOPIC – SPRING CLEANING (HOMEMADE CLEANING REMEDIES). Also related to posts: PRACTICE — Spring Cleaning — 10min by QuoinMonkey, PRACTICE — SPRING CLEANING — 10min by Bob Chrisman, WRITING TOPIC — CLEANLINESS, and Wanda Wooley — The Lean Green Clean Machine.

[NOTE: SPRING CLEANING was a Writing Topic on red Ravine. Frequent guest writer Teri Blair joined QuoinMonkey in doing a Writing Practice on the topic.]

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Northern Burr Oak - 333 Years Old - 192/365, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Northern Burr Oak – 333 Years Old – 192/365, Minneapolis, Minnesota, July 2010, photo © 2010 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


On Sunday I joined over 100 people in Riverside Park near the Franklin Avenue Bridge to pay tribute to the oldest known tree in Minneapolis. It is estimated that the Northern Burr Oak dates back to 1677. In the wake of the oak’s recent death, Minneapolis Parks and Recreation will be cutting it down in the Fall. We listened to sculptors, poets, neighborhood kids, and Cancer survivors who found solace in being near this tree. It felt to me like I was standing on hallowed ground. The tree has outlived all the humans who have ever set foot here. Imagine what she has seen.

In this photograph from 1941, the ancient Northern Burr Oak seems healthy and happy, her giant crown holding court over the Mississippi River Gorge.  Here is an excerpt from documentation at the site of the gathering:


IMG00354-20100711-1942.jpgTHE ANCIENT OAK TREE  — Perhaps the oldest living thing in Minneapolis is the huge Northern Burr Oak (Quercus macrocarpa var. olivaeformia) that graces the west bank of the Mississippi in Riverside Park, about two blocks above the Franklin Avenue bridge, an enduring sentinel at the point where River Road West descends down into a most picturesque stretch of river gorge. Estimated by various botanists to be all the way from 150 to 700 years old, this valiant aborigine stands 58 feet tall, with a branch spread of 66 feet and a trunk girth of 14 feet at a point two feet above the ground. Symmetrically beautiful, this “first citizen” of Minneapolis, surviving the storms, drought, and fires that during the years have scourged the area of others of its kind, still remains a picture of physical strength and majestic beauty. Many are those who periodically come to Franklin Terrace to admire this grand old tree and to marvel at its great antiquity. In his little book, Riverside Reveries, published in 1928, Dr. Otto F. Schussler paints a beautiful word picture of this beloved old tree that “with a quiet dignity unsurpassed, and a perseverance unfaltering through the years continued to grow in size, in strength and ever-increasing beauty.”

-from the book Minneapolis Park System, 1941, by Theodore Wirth


IMG00318-20100711-1831.jpg

As to the fate of the tree, opinions were mixed. Should it be cut down and turned into sculptures or pins? Should it remain as it stands, a living monument to all it has seen? Should the tree be felled and replaced with sapling Burr Oaks? What is the best way to honor the life and death of an ancient tree? Let it stand or let it fall.

After I returned home, I started to think about all the posts ybonesy and I have done about trees over the years. There is the giant cottonwood in the courtyard of the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, and the Lawrence Tree that Georgia O’Keeffe painted just outside of Taos, New Mexico. ybonesy has written about the cottonwood in her backyard and the carving of the Virgen de Guadalupe in a cottonwood in Albuquerque. She also wrote a piece about the art of Patrick Dougherty who uses the limbs, trunks, and canopies of trees to build his installations.

One year on my travels to Georgia, I visited a ginkgo in Augusta that was supposedly planted in 1791 for the visit of George Washington. And last year, for the first time, I stood under the giant pine where my paternal grandmother is buried. Our guest Linda Weissinger Lupowitz writes about New Mexico cottonwoods in What’s Happened To The Corrales Bosque? And in Fourteen Dozen Roses: The World As The Jungle It Is, Erin Robertson shares her poetry and explains how her tattoo of a ginkgo leaf makes her feel closer to her grandfather.

What do trees mean to you? Is there an oak you visit that brings you peace? Do you like to write under a grove of Ponderosa pines, sketch the bark of the ash in your front yard, run your fingers across the groove of a cottonwood’s skin. Have you lost a tree that was important to you. Are there trees that make you feel closer to home. Get out a fast writing pen and spiral notebook and get started on a Writing Practice My Favorite Tree. Ten minutes, Go!

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soy milk

Got (Soy) Milk?, morning fix of soymilk and coffee,
photo © 2010 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.





I picked up my milk habit in Granada, Spain, in 1986. There my morning ritual was to walk out the door, hop the narrow cobblestone road to the bar across the way, and order a tall glass of café-con-leche. Pepe, the bar owner, prepared it with hot milk and just a splash of strong coffee.

Milk became over the next 20-plus years my daily vice. In all respects it seemed to be a respectable habit. My nails grew strong, hair thick, bones firm. One would expect (and I do) that my two cups of milk-and-coffee a day kept osteoporosis away.

But there were downsides. The worst was at night as I lay on my back and drifted off to sleep. I’d wake up choking to what felt like a wet hairball in the back of my throat. Mucus was the culprit, and it wasn’t just at night. When I exercised I had to clear my throat like a smoker with a hack. I suffered from morning stuffiness and a drippy nose even when it wasn’t allergy season. And forget about allergy season! During those months I was a poster child for Kleenex.

But the worst of the milk side effects hit recently as I began to enter menopause. If you’ve gone through menopause, you know the symptoms. Sore boobs, hot flashes, mood swings (mine went from grumpiness to rage).

Women I knew told me that I ought to try soy milk. My sister-in-law said it had an instant calming effect on her. Soy beans contain isoflavones, which produce an estrogen-like effect on the body. Inspired, I gave it try.

At first I disliked it. The sweetened kind was too sweet; unsweetened tasted like liquid chalk. For a few months I tried almond milk, then coconut. Nothing stuck. I turned to green tea (since I drink black tea the way I drink coffee) but didn’t like that either. I fumbled through my mornings, lost. I lamented that I’d inadvertently dumped my coffee habit. I missed my ritual.

I don’t have all that many vices, and honestly, milk-and-coffee probably did more good for my health than bad. Maybe that’s why I kept trying to find the right non-dairy version of my old favorite beverage.

Persistence paid off—I have finally discovered the secret to making the kind of non-dairy leche-con-café that might even make ol’ Pepe proud.

I am now an avid soy milk drinker. The extra mucus is gone, as are a couple of extra pounds. I only rage once in a blue moon. But most importantly, I got myself a new morning ritual. Life is good.



Roma’s Menopause-B-Gone Soy Milk-and-Coffee Drink


Start with a good brand of unsweetened soy milk. Not all brands are the same. Soy milk is processed from soy beans, and as with other processed foods, the processing can take something that is healthy and make it unhealthy. So if you’re going to drink soy milk, you need to check out the soy scorecard.

Pour about a cup of soy milk into a glass saucepan (preferably with a pouring spout) and heat on low for about 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly. I add just enough local honey (no more than a teaspoon) to give the unsweetened soy milk a hint of sweetness. I’m not a fan of sweet coffee, and so I’m stingy with the honey. Just a bit. Helps with allergies, too.

Once the soy milk is good and hot yet not boiling, pour it into a curved mug that fits your hand just so. Add in enough strong coffee to top the drink. (I make the coffee beforehand in a French press.)

Walk into your writing room, sit down, take a few sips, and then write. A calm beginning to any day.



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