Thursday, September 30, 2010

Do you CSA? I do!

For the past 16 weeks, I have been very fortunate to be part of an exclusive, possibly limited edition, Community Supported Agriculture program (CSA) via Sterling College here in Craftsbury, Vermont.

Having started and managed a CSA for a local farmer a few years ago, I find the model to be a mutually beneficial relationship between consumer and farm. Yes, it has some challenges (a person can only cook/eat/store kohlrabi so many ways before being brought to tears), but it is more often an economical way to bring local food to local people while directly investing in the farming community. Beyond the practical, it also creates a valuable personal connection between consumers and farmers that industrialized farming has come close to obliterating.

Now, as I climb off my soapbox, you may be surprised to know that this is the first year I was on the consuming end of a CSA. Yes, you read that right. After leaving the farm, I grew much of my own food and was fortunate to run a small cafe before moving on to managing Sterling College's kitchen, both times bringing my farm connections with me and eating locally grown vegetables to my heart's content. Then, a year ago, I left Sterling College and began my position as the Program Director for a small agriculturally based non-profit, but it meant hanging out in an office, not a kitchen, and no longer having easy access to vegetables. I still had a garden, but now it was sorely neglected because of my inattention. Although I continued to pull food from the havoc of weeds, I heavily supplemented with regular trips to my local farmers' markets and stands.

Deciding that I just couldn't bring myself to put in another garden only to lose it to weeds by late July, I made the (almost) painful decision to forgo the garden beyond a bed of herbs. Looking to my local CSA options as a way to fill my summer produce needs, I found that Riverside Farm, Pete's Greens and a few of the smaller farms in the area gave me plenty to choose from at a range of prices. As I hemmed and hawed over my options, Corie Pierce, the garden manger for Sterling College, dropped the news. Sterling College was going do its first CSA. To say I was excited is an understatement. The idea is that the CSA would give real life farm-to-consumer experience to the summer agriculture students, but because education is the main focus, the CSA could take only 9 or 10 subscribers. As a supporter of local food, local agriculture and the education of young people in the joys of both (not to mention I have a soft spot for Sterling College), I jumped at the opportunity.

And what an opportunity! The first week, as I looked at the table set up in the foyer of Dunbar Hall, heavy with the weight of greens, cucumbers, herbs, and more, I breathed a sigh of relief. The students did a phenomenal job. A blackboard leaned against the wall, listing what to take and how much. A stack that contained the beautifully written newsletter with recipe ideas and thoughtful musings, sat on a corner of the table and a student, in muck boots, sat with a tub of water, scrubbing...something...clean for what I later learned, was bound for the college's kitchen. As I chatted with the student and gathered up my share, my head was spinning with ideas for dinner that night, not to mention the rest of the week. I made a mental note to bring an extra bag for the next week and loading up the car, I headed home to cook. With joy and appreciation.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Haiku in Five Parts

Part I:

A pond sits quiet

surrounded by autumn trees;

topped with shifting clouds.

Part II:

Sure-footed and bold

until the floating dock tips,

then cautious foot steps.

Part III:

Cast, then close the bale.

Spin the lure and trick the perch.

Lessons in fishing.

Part IV:

The woods hide treasure,

as the pond cloaks hungry fish.

Children laugh out loud.

Part V:

Walking down the road

he finds stones, metal and glass.

Precious bits for home.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Yoga Challenge - Week 2 and 3

I'm beginning to really dig yoga. Not just the idea of it, but the doing of it. It feels good. Blissfully, wonderfully, satisfyingly good.

Tonight, stretching and breathing, I coaxed my body further and deeper than past practices. I try not to push or force a pose, as I am apt to push and force in general, and just allow my muscles, bones, even my skin, to sink into the floor. This passive approach has surprised me with its effectiveness. It's good to be surprised.

I continue to work on Sun Salutations and hip openers as the potential to do them better, deeper and longer is an ever present challenge. My balance is steady, my reach is longer and my breathing is calmer.

I am looking forward to the last weeks of my yoga journey. I expect, that over the next 12 days, I will continue easing myself into what are now familiar positions. Who knows? I might even add a few new poses...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Coffee House

I miss the way words sound when spoken out loud.

I miss the camaraderie of strangers, in a room filled with a blue haze of cigarettes, listening and responding to a person's voice, body, smile, scowl. I miss the beat driven music, the low buzz of whispered conversations and the slap of hands against jean covered thighs. 

I miss watching him, as he sat in the corner, with legs crossed and hair standing on end, reading and writing furiously, unaware of my awareness until my shadow fell across his page and the mugs of fragrant black brew drew his eyes to mine. I miss the smile that lit up his face.

Yes. I miss the way words sound when spoken out loud.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Break Up

I am bone-numbing tired.

My feet hurt, my muscles ache, my jaw clenches, my eyes scratch the inside of my lids as I fight the need to curl into myself. 

I am mind-numbing tired.

My thoughts languish, my temper simmers, my patience shortens, my emotions feel raw against the knowledge of One splintering apart.

I am heart-numbing tired.

My love darkens, my hate deepens, my sadness overwhelms, my happiness loses the fight against too little sleep, too much talk and the shadows of moving boxes and empty drawers.

The Harvest Moon by Ted Hughes

The Harvest Moon by Ted Hughes
The flame-red moon, the harvest moon,
Rolls along the hills, gently bouncing,
A vast balloon,
Till it takes off, and sinks upward
To lie on the bottom of the sky, like a gold doubloon.
The harvest moon has come,
Booming softly through heaven, like a bassoon.
And the earth replies all night, like a deep drum.

So people can't sleep,
So they go out where elms and oak trees keep
A kneeling vigil, in a religious hush.
The harvest moon has come!

And all the moonlit cows and all the sheep
Stare up at her petrified, while she swells
Filling heaven, as if red hot, and sailing
Closer and closer like the end of the world.

Till the gold fields of stiff wheat
Cry `We are ripe, reap us!' and the rivers
Sweat from the melting hills.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

It's Been a Week of Yoga...

I practiced this morning for 40 minutes. Several rounds of Sun Salutation and the feel-good pain of hip openers. I ended with meditation (or at least my version of it) where I focused on my breathing and releasing the tension in my back.

I will admit to watching the clock today.

The week has been busy and next week will prove to be even more so. Saturday and Sunday is when I can focus on the house: cleaning it up, doing laundry, small repairs. On top of that, I need to organize my notes from a flurry of meetings last week and prepare for the onslaught of next. Giving in to what feels like a luxurious passage of time, is a hard one for me to embrace.

This morning, I slept later than I planned and woke up feeling tense and rushed. Although my body was stiff from a long, uphill run yesterday, the last thing I wanted to take time for was practice. That said, I made a somewhat public commitment to do this for 30 days and here I was, one week into it, trying to talk myself out of it. Shameful.

Dutifully, I unrolled my mat, stood in Mountain Pose and crept slowly into Forward Bend.

Oh gawd. This was going to be harder than I thought.

A few rounds later, I felt better, but discouraged. Where had my progress gone? I know I was doing better than this a couple of days ago and on top of that my knees hurt, my sciatica felt achy and my jaw couldn't possibly be tighter. So, reluctantly, seeing that all of 8 minutes had passed, I kept going.

I continued rounds of Sun Salutations while I formulated the rest of practice in my head: Two more rounds of this, 4 rounds of hip openers, 2 rounds of sitting poses with twists and ending in mediation. I worked through my ad hoc plan, feeling better that I had an end in sight, but noting that I was having trouble finding joy in my practice.

Forty minutes later, as I sat with legs folded and hands resting in my lap, I drew a breath through my nose and into my belly, expelling it slowly while trying to release the tight muscles in my lower back. As I reflected on my body, seeking out the pain and allowing it to dissipate, I felt better. I did the practice, and I did it well. I found little joy in the motions, but found joy in completing it. I can accept that.

Now, where the hell is my coffee? I've got shit to do.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


A waxing crescent

Rises west as the sun sets.

A time of rebirth.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Chinese Translation by M. Ward

Sounds like Johnny Cash, but isn't. "Chinese Translation" by M. Ward.


Yoga Challenge - Day 4 & 5

Still doing it. Still loving it.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Yoga Challenge - Day 3

After a sleepless night, I started the day late, rushing around waking kids, making breakfast and lunches, coaxing the littlest out of wearing her bunny ears to school and the oldest to brush her hair. Meanwhile the middle one lay on the floor playing with legos instead of putting on his shoes. Two hours later, with the breakfast dishes still scattered on the counter, I was on the way to Hardwick, sans a shower and wearing a semi-clean outfit. With my knees expertly handling the steering wheel, I gulped down a yogurt and reviewed notes for a potentially important funder meeting.

Needless to say, I did not get to my practice this morning.

Fifteen hours later, after a full day's work, dinner with friends, homework and bedtime with the kids, I sank into the couch, eyeballing my mat with some resentment. It leaned against the wall, ready for me, while all I wanted to do was pour myself a stiff whisky and surf the internet.

After a quick phone call to a friend and a couple of emails, I again tried to talk myself out of the practice. I was tired. I was stiff from the last practice. I was planning to get up early for a run. I really wanted that whisky.

Then, before I could think too much, I pulled on my pajama bottoms, unrolled my mat, stood gently at the edge and took a deep breath in to my belly.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Yoga Challenge-Day 2

Twenty-two minutes on my mat this morning. Sun Salutations, 2 rounds of hip openers and a few minutes of quiet mediation. I am still stiff and comically awkward, but I did it and I'm glad.

Monday, September 06, 2010

On Your Mark. Get Set....


Today, I began my morning with 4 rounds of Sun Salutations, a series of core yoga poses meant to be performed in a single, graceful flow, plus a series of hip openers. It's a new challenge I've given myself: To perform at least 20 minutes of yoga every day for the next 30 days. It will be relaxing and energizing, to stretch and breathe and push my body in a different way.

I love yoga.

Wait, let me re-phrase that. I love the IDEA of yoga.

The quiet serenity of breathing in and out as you twist and move your limbs into animal-like poses with fluid grace. The aesthetic of the women who look lean and feminine, while the men are strong and lithe. Welcoming the sun as it peeps over the tree tops in a back bend or ending the day with a relaxing series of poses under starlight and candles. Even the Sanskrit names are beautiful and song-like - Savasana, Bhujangasana, Balasana - you get the picture.

I am excited for this new challenge and meet it with enthusiasm. The children are warm and sleeping, the sun is just about to rise. I roll out my mat, feet bare, my mind a jumble of thoughts and my muscles cold and stiff. Working with the Sun Salutation to warm up, I stand in Mountain Pose, breathing in to my belly and breathing out through my nose. I quiet my mind with a low "ohm", spoken only to myself as I bend gently backwards, arms raised, hands together and pointing. I slowly bend forward and with much stiffness into Forward Bend, holding my calves and pressing my chest into my thighs. With pops and cracks, adjusting my shirt and re-positioning my hands, I then move into Plank, lower into Cobra and back up into Downward Facing Dog. From there, I continue to move awkwardly, as I shuffle, lumber through and fall until with shaking limbs and creaking ligaments, I end my practice with a quiet grunt and a sweaty brow.

Not exactly what I had in mind when I started all this.

Yet, in spite of cursing my way through the Pigeon Pose or having a moment of panic when I am sure my legs will get "stuck that way" forever, I end my practice, feeling accomplished and proud if not yet serene and strong. I squat to roll my mat up, fold my towel and carry both to a spot behind the door. Then, feeling alert and ready for the day, I step outside to feel the cool air on my face and sip a cup of strong coffee while I listen to the village wake up to the sounds of rumbling delivery trucks and crowing roosters.

Tomorrow, I'm going to add some lunges.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


A waning crescent;

time to let go of the past.

Bright moon fades to black.

Yin Yang

I seek balance.

I seek the day to day balance of juggling the demands of a young brood against the demands of an exciting, challenging job. The balance of living a life of ideals in a world of reality. The balance of nourishing my soul and nourishing my body. The balance of finding laughter in sadness; sun among the clouds; wildflowers among the weeds.

These past few years, life has been a jumble of challenges. During particularly difficult times, I found it necessary to find the good within the bad - a way to balance what at times felt like overwhelming odds against my self worth, my concept of love and trust in my ability to judge and discern.

As I looked for these "silver linings", I slowly and not without some suspicion, began to touch on the concept that balance is not only ideal, but necessary. That by living a life of balance, a person can find true contentment. This is not a new concept -- as my childhood was inundated with the Taoist yin yang, deeply rooted in the Confucius ideals my mother was raised with and consequently sought to raise her children with -- but it was a concept I fought just as I fought so much my mother tried to teach me.

Yet, I found comfort during difficult times and as a result, it became my "religion", for I have been without religion for many, many years. It became a rope-hold for my children, whose father declares God to be non-existent and whose mother struggled with the vagueness of being a non-believing Christian. It was a foundation I could build on, to give body to my decisions, to comfort my wounds and to give answers to the questions that inevitably come up.

To feel true happiness, you must feel deep sadness; to appreciate a meal, you must know gnawing hunger; to care for your health, you must experience illness; to savor love, you must nurse a broken heart; to embrace life, you must mourn the dead.

So, as I seek this balance, I do so with an understanding that it is a life-long journey of paths and bridges and pauses along the way. I seek balance with the hope that I am creating a life of harmony filled with love and laughter. I seek balance to help me accept the pain of loss and sorrow. I seek balance knowing that all of this is fleeting, even temporary, so I must be present and accepting in my happiness for eventually the sadness will come and when the sadness comes, I know that it is only a matter of time before the sun shines again.