Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Wasting...

This is hard to write.

Painful.


Maybe, I shouldn't be writing it. But, nonetheless, I am...writing...an admittance of weakness through strength. This strength, this ability I posses to stick my head down like a work mule and bugger on.

Yes, I'll dig in my heels. I'll pull the plow.

I was always getting scolded at the conservatory. "You need to complain more...it's ok to complain. Say, this is too hard. Demand. Sometimes...give up." My hands are small; but, they were always given a man's fingering. They adapted, they chameleoned as male. They reached farther than they were created to, and today my left hand bears the stretch marks...longer fingers...and bent too.

But, if the men could play those lines that way, gosh darn it, I was going to play them that way too. I would reach 6 frets instead of playing the "easier" girl way. Even, if it hurt...and it did. My teacher would grow frustrated with me, would tell me that I needed to stop working so hard at hard things -- that I needed to take the easy and the comfortable road sometimes. Need I tell you that this is completely contrary to every ounce of my nature?

This ability to stick my head down and pull, metaphorically, very heavy things...was literally, very literally...almost the death of me. For the past few years, it really has felt like a war. And, I almost lost. Looking back I can see that now. I almost lost the fight, and I almost lost it while I thought I was fighting with all of my strength, utilizing all the weapons in my reserve...putting my head down and pulling as hard as I could.

As food was taken away from me, I limited it even more. It became the one thing in my life that was seemingly under control. The one thing that was stable, sure, planned...I hated it, but....it was there. And a lot of things weren't there; a lot of things in life were failing right then.

I did a lot of snowshoeing that year...alone. That "winter of my discontent" I call it. I walked through it, coldly. I lusted after the the snow. I lusted after its peace and its silence, as my thoughts loudly accused and condemned...I longed to lay down with it.....in it.....and cease. These thoughts scared me. But, just the same as animals go out alone to die, I see now, in hindsight, that this is what I was doing. I wanted to be taken, and the snow would never have me.

Now, I see that my semi-starvation, was almost a year-long "fast." It was me wearing sackcloth and ashes, you might say, to show that the state of my soul was not well.

Years have past.

It is well with my soul...

I haven't thought a lot about all this until recently I found a picture, hidden away in an un-named computer file. And, as a friend would say, it kind of stung me in the ass...





That was me. I believe at around 90 lbs. I got thinner. Another 10 lbs. thinner. Those years were dark. Very dark. Yes, I lost weight. And, I lost many other things along with the weight. A marriage, my breasts, any hopes of having hips...too much information? Sorry. It's true. I looked like an 8 year old boy. Menstruation stopped. I was too thin. My body couldn't function correctly. My brain couldn't either. I would run into the corners of walls, misjudge the distance from my hand to my cup, and just plain old couldn't think. I was wasting...away...

This will sound very macabre --- but, this wasting was interesting to me. Bones appeared out of my flesh that I never knew existed. It was like I was doing some twisted science experiment on myself. I couldn't sit on a hard-backed chair very long...my spine would bruise. My hip-bones stuck out like an emaciated milk-cow's. But, it was disturbingly interesting to see how far I could go.

People told me I was anorexic. But, I refused to believe them. Forget the fact that I was, at most, eating about 500 calories a day. Most of it was that my stomach was so soured with life, it couldn't eat. My appetite got lost trying to figure things out.

As I've gained weight back, I have felt vaguely prepubescent again. What are these? Breasts? hmmm. Slight curves here and there? Hips? Fat returning, behind? My body is doing strange things. Strange and interesting things. I wasn't sure I liked these things returning, at first. I am, you realize, the grown-up woman version of the little girl who cried her eyes dry when her mom took her to buy her first bra. This is usually a milestone, no? A "special" time for mother and daughter, one of those thresholds of life. I apologize to my mom now. That time was in no way "special." I remember standing in the dressing room, looking into the mirror with this new bra on, and crying. Loudly. This 'milestone' meant, to me, that I was becoming a girl. The final indicator that I was, in fact, female. I couldn't run around forest trails or build mudslides in the creek completely shirtless anymore. I was constrained. There was something, always, compressing...weighing me down. I didn't like it. No, I didn't like it...not one bit. I felt like a horse with saddle and cinch on for the very first time. I felt like bucking and kicking and biting it off.

Now why do I write all of this? Well, because, I'm beginning to realize that something beautiful can come out of ugliness. Because, all of that stuff, all of that ugly stuff, is why I started writing this blog. I had to dig my heels in, put my head down, and write about eating...to prove to my mom hundreds of miles away that I was, in fact, eating...that I wanted to stay...that I didn't want to waste. Really, it's why I started writing at all -- to work through the ugliness.

This is me now...as of 6:30 a.m. Tuesday December 28th...all 108 lbs. of Me.



I don't feel like I am wasting anything. There is still plenty of ugliness, plenty of mysterious grumbling of my insides, plenty of thoughts that scare, and plenty to write through...but, I'm living...

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Kitchen cupboards are the windows...


...to a person's soul? Forget that old adage about eyes.

Now while I do put stake in, and hold onto the belief, that truth is revealed at the unveiling, at the curious peering into draped rooms opened between lashes, it is also true that you really can tell a lot about a person by their kitchen. For starters, do they use it? Do dishes drip-dry sink side on the counter; or, do styrofoam take-outs get thoughtlessly trashed. Are cupboards stocked, goods bought in bulk when on sale? Or do they show smatterings of what is wanted, when it is wanted...price is no determining factor. The newest craving is the flavor of the day. What was planned, prepared, cooked and ready? Boring...that can wait.


So go ahead. Please. Judge me. Open the doors. Look through my cupboards...

And...tell me what you see.

Contents may be disheveled, dusty, and there might even be some black rice mouse droppings in the especially dark and out of the way back corners which take actually crawling inside on hands and knees to reach (yes, I can fit inside my cupboards; and yes, I have tried) -- those places are too deep, too dark, too nuanced. Really though, it just takes the willingness to get yourself a little dirty -- to work at reaching, and to stretch past where you thought you could. Even when it starts to hurt. Elbow grease, you know...it works on more than just car chrome. And there are interesting things to be discoverred, in these dim worlds where shadows dance. Things forgotten, for a season or maybe even years. Or, something never known, never missed...until it was found.

I like putting things in glass jars. Perhaps, this is indicative of a poor memory? In which container did I put the buckwheat groats? The last bit of cheese? Where is the leftover mushroom pilaf? I have the habit of putting leftovers, or half an onion or fennel bulb into an old yogurt container, and then forgetting about it. For months. In the back of the fridge, it's useful time ticks. I find the shriveled remnants like unearthing a grave -- exhuming vegetable fibers still clinging to a skeletal frond.

That was once something...

I always feel guilty, for forgetting...

I go through a lot of honey. And, as I choose my wines by the label, I choose my honey by the jar. Every week or so (I told you I use a lot of honey), my fingers thread the last sweetness from the opening, and then warm water washes the crystalline coating, and loosens the glued label. Some of these jars get reincarnated as watering cans, some sprout plant cuttings, some hold paint-brushes or stain, and some are filled with leftover soup to be sent home with a friend.

I like these jars. I like looking at the shelf filled with these old honey masons, and I empathetically take in their emptiness; and also, their possibilities...they fill, in my mind. I wonder to myself if this fascination with seeing in, also decorates my windows curtainless...

naked...

...as is my life, behind glassed walls, and with glass jars. Look. Dare. You can see what is inside, even when it is just dry grains...waiting for water.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Looking East.


I have been going to weekly acupuncture appointments for awhile now. With curiosity, I'm asked, what's it like? Ah now, I will tell you...read on.

A woman I work with started going to this acupuncturist for her rheumatoid arthritis, and she had a free referral -- did I want to give it a try?


Sure...

Now honestly, at that point, I was willing to give anything a try. If it had been a referral to go to a doctor who would tell me to only eat green beans, stir them only clockwise, stand on my head for 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at precisely midnight (alignment with the lunar cycles, or some such thing, you know), and pray to his dead father who was the founder of this healing methodology and practice, I would have done it. I would have been glad to do it; to do something about my pain of a mystery. I like to let nature take its course, don't get me wrong, but if there is something I can do, I want to do it. And I wasn't so sure that I had exhausted my possibilities. There must be something to do, I thought.

So, a man sticking needles into my body? Yeah, I'll give that a go.

I like the acupuncturist, Jack. He listens to me. He doesn't tell me I'm crazy. I like the logic of this treatment: my immune system is run-down, damaged, and my "belly-fire" has been put out. It needs a jump start, he says. Its re-set button pressed.

The needles, slowly, are doing this...resetting.

He remembers how I'm doing from week to week, and when he writes on my file, it isn't "difficult patient" -- I can see, he keeps the file out in the open when he writes. I have issues with most medical professionals. They tell me that the pain is in my head; or, that they have no idea what is wrong. They have never heard anything like this before. I appear perfectly healthy. Nothing is wrong. Pay your co-pay and go home -- please!

They don't like my questions.

My same nature that doesn't like just sitting by, also likes knowing why. Once I know why something is happening, I can deal with it...even something painful. I just need to know the cause of the effect.

At my last appointment, Jack took my wrist-pulse, on both arms. "Your qi is getting stronger...your blood is building." Good!, I think...and ask, "How can you tell?" I want to know.

"You are wiry today," he says. This is not the first time I've been called this, wiry; but usually it isn't a compliment. Jack goes on..."Your veins are getting larger, week by week, and today they feel like...umm...guitar strings!" Oh, how terribly appropriate. Eighteen years of guitar strings under my fingers and they have worked their way into my blood. In hindsight, I was callously pressing too hard. Like a two-year-old, I question his just-given-answer..."how so?"

"Your pulses are textured," he says, "like the ribbing of a guitar string. This means there is something moving...it's good. When we started, your pulses, your blood, was...like thread...thin and it wasn't moving...stagnant."

You wouldn't think that un-stagnated blood would make anyone's heart excitedly skip a beat, now would you? But, it did mine. I smiled. I sighed. I have been working hard...I have been eating hard. And something is happening...

I lie down and roll up my pant-legs -- pulling up my shirt, I uncover my stomach. Chatting nonchalantly about Christmas plans and my new therapeutic dog (yes, I have had thoughts of getting my dog a vest and taking him everywhere with me), Jack begins with my head, sticking one needle in my forehead and one right on top, digging it through my somewhat matted morning hair. Working his way down, four more surround my navel, and one goes slightly below that. These are the ones I feel. I asked him about this once too. There isn't pain, but apressure that I feel knocking against the needles, almost an electric current, swirling. "It's energy," he explained, "working itself lose...the good and the bad stuff." It feels like there is a lot of the bad stuff working lose, and the needles leave red dotted reminders...

One needle, he places into my right hand wrist; then, two into each leg along my shins and two into the top of each foot. This all varies with each visit, as he judges which points to use -- which buttons need pressed, based on how I tell him my digestive week went.

He wheels over a heat lamp, arranging it over my feet. I feel like a baby chick, as I remember how they would flock to the reassuring red-glow in the dark cold of our basement, or the make-shift starter pen in our farm's cinder block silo. Warming, their bodies would chirp with contentment. I remember this sound...their chirps...softer than their down...

The door closes and I am alone, hearing the timer on the heat lamp. Warmth slowly waxes, and then wanes as the hour passes. I'm cooking. I'm content. I would chirp, were I a chick.

Nature overlaid music plays in the background, you know the kind -- the kind with waterfalls and streams, wind and songbirds -- made for people to get "in touch with nature" without ever actually having to go out to touch. But, I get to the state of mind where the timer's tic and the music's measures of nature noises cease, and I hear only my thoughts knocking...I welcome them.

"I am proud of you" -- Jack says, as he comes in quietly to move the heat lamp from my feet to my belly. He says this every week, that he is proud of me. Ordinarily, this is the type of thing that I find uncomfortable and strange. Do I say, "thanks"? But, it feels good to hear. He noticed a few weeks ago, that there was a bit more flesh to put the needles into..."I'm proud of you."

And it feels good, laying there -- the pressure of digestion taken off my frame. I gravitate upward to a meditative world...not meditatively silent, though...my thoughts gets louder, they demand more, and I pay attention . This stay is one which I find both too short, and also a place I wish to leave.

At the hour's close, Jack comes back and takes out the needles, wiping the red-dotted exit wounds. "Take your time, my dear," he says. And it does take time, a few minutes, to come back to this world from that place...

Months ago, he recommended that I make bone-broths -- they "strengthen the blood." And so I am brewing bouillon...trying to keep these good things happening...

~ Olive oil, garlic, onion, salt & pepper, rosemary, thyme, bay leaves, carrots, celery, parsley, chicken ~


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Molasses & Cloves.


I have never been able to follow a recipe. Not exactly; not precisely. This is probably why many of my baking attempts fail. Damn this part of me that always has to be different. A soup recipe -- well, now that is made to be amended. But baked goods, gluten free baked goods, require the precisions of a scale (even though we all know, that yes, they lie).

I refuse to get a scale, and still use my mom's measuring cups she gave me when I went off to college. I think she got them at Goodwill. One is a little dented from all of my moving. This does not help precision, these dents. There is some small cubic part missing, which is why I compensate by heaping the top, just a bit.

Maybe I get this from my Grandma Ida. Watching her cook is like magic -- she, a sorceress who throws things in a pot, pinching ingredients as she feels, here and there, "add a scoch," she says...and it all turns out beautifully. I don't know if she has ever followed a recipe...exactly.

Cooking, I am learning, is an art. And, while art may imitate...it should not duplicate. By the same principle, I have always despised paint-by-numbers. I remember, even as a kid, thinking..."You want me to put that color where?" And then my independent streak would defiantly paint the apple orange.

I apparently haven't grown out of this. "It says 1 tsp. cinnamon?" Nah, not enough. I'll double that. Crème fraiche? Not on hand...I'll use yogurt....that's ok, right...?

It really makes cooking more exciting when you don't know it will turn out. It's more of an adventure, if cooking can be that -- adventurous. Which, is maybe why I didn't like it in the first place, this cooking thing. It's planned, it's too safe...and other people have made, and are making, the exact same thing. God forbid. And I don't like that feeling. When, you throw things in, mix & match, and it actually turns out edible -- that is satisfying. And, if it doesn't turn out, you have dark chocolate with afternoon coffee and popcorn for dinner. This is satisfying too.

My sister bought Molasses Clove Cookies a few weeks ago. Now, I'm not a huge cookie fan, but I couldn't stop thinking about molasses and cloves. I love molasses and cloves. And Erica loved these cookies. By the time I saw the package, half had been eaten. This was, I'm sure, one of the benefits of having a gluten-free house mate...you never have to share your cookies.

I learned several things in making these cookies today. First being, I am still not really a cookie person. I never have been, never will be. Followed by the fact that I seem unable roll the cookies into the same size and have no patience for sheet after sheet of this process.

But, the imitated recipe worked and the cookies were edible.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger
1 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar, for rolling the dough

I still will probably have some dark chocolate with my afternoon coffee though...

Friday, December 10, 2010

Heel - toe.

I am discovering that mountain people don't walk their dogs. What a silly thing to do, walk a dog. These animals walk themselves, don't you know, if only let free to roam. Like a daily spring break, they disappear to god knows where. But you don't really care, do you, Mountain Owner? You are the equivalent to parents who stick their kids in front of the TV. No interaction required. Phew. Close one, there...having to actually do something.

My family seems to hold a curse on unleashed animals. And I respect The Curse. I fear it. Other people let their dog off-leash, let them roam free, unattended, and they are safe and sound. But my family? We've had numerous dogs and cats hit by cars...the one time they were loose...while the neighbor dog, who is perpetually un-fenced, un-leashed, and un-loved, has a long loosely lived life.

Thus, I am careful.

Every morning and evening cars drive past me walking in the darkness; and they slow down. Waaay down. It is obvious that they are assessing the situation; their brake foot responding until their unstated question is answered.

What the hell is she doing? Stranded? Car broke down? Flat tire? Hitch-hiker?

Nah...dog walker.

Weirdo.

What is even weirder, is that I have a fence. And still, I walk...

The walk, I am realizing, is much more for me than my dog. Yes, if not walked, he may get to be more tightly wound than the circles he spins when he sees me put on my hat and grab the leash; but in equal part, while his legs move, so do my thoughts...digesting the day.

On the black as pitch mountain roads, my personal space is lost; I give it up...even, ask for it to be taken. My mom always told me, "let the darkness be your friend." Let your eyes acclimate, pupils dilate, and world widen to what is outside the light...

I feel like an animal on these walks. An outsider. Houses and their souls are windowed; and I see into light with uninvited eyes, remaining cloaked by my friend, darkness.

I walk the way my mother taught me, heel-toe...heel-toe...quietly.

I remember being a shirtless hooligan of a child, running down forested trails. Stopping for a string cheese snack out of my mom's backpack, she would say to my sister and I, "you guys are scaring away all the deer...being too noisy...walk quieter, like the Native Americans...heel to toe...like this." She demonstrated, as we strung along with our cheese.

And in that manner, heel-toe, I walked in the snow tonight. I heard flakes land on an electric fence to my left, and fry at their fall...an unexpected landing as they were eaten by evaporation.

On these walks, I circle and smell like an animal, learning the land and who lives and lays there. Sometimes, it's the smell of heating wood, breakfast bacon, or around the next corner green peppers and onions sautéing silently. In a low-lie of the road, in cooler air, I smell a fox's musk. He's been here recently.

Smells speak.

I took no pictures of my dinner tonight. I was still thinking about last night's...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Olfactory Orgasm.


"Did you smell his hat?"

My best friend, and old college house mate, Valerie, had -- indeed still has -- this theory: men are attracted to vanilla. I was skeptical at first, and still am a bit. The men I know? They think gas stations smell good. Gas stations and tire rubber and pot roasts. But Val had read an article...a scientific article...about what smells attract men. Vanilla topped the list. I'm not a huge vanilla fan myself. It always smells too girlie, too sweet. Ah! I guess maybe that is the point, eh? It smells like a woman.

I don't smell like vanilla; now where does that leave me?

But, she went on and on about it, about this vanilla theory. She seriously believed. And over the years, she has proven to be right about these sorts of things.

Back to the hat smelling...

I walked into her room one day, and she was sitting at her desk upon a blue swivel chair, smelling a baseball hat. In a completely platonic sense, I love this woman (No, I am not a lesbian, contrary to sometimes popular belief. However I do admit, later that school year, Val and I did hold hands and "play the part" to discourage a Strange Male stalking us on the streets of San Francisco...seconds away from resorting to kissing -- come on, dude, we aren't interested in men, can't you see? -- we realized that in San Francisco this kind of kinkiness would probably only encourage him. The foray abandoned, we both remain very interested in men. Only men.), and at that point, I was beginning to get used to walking in on Val doing strange things. But, this was the strangest yet. Neither one of us was, nor is, especially "girlie." We don't get boy-crazy. We don't lose our heads (or so we like to think). We keep logic and reason. Val can philosophize circles around any man or topic you throw at her. And, she wins the argument.

That is why this hat-sniffing thing startled me. Val was sitting there, giddily, yes giddily, smelling a guy's hat. "Pheromones," she said. Oh, ok...

She went on to explain, of course, that when you are attracted to someone, their sweat, their very essence, will smell good, will smell amazing...divine...delicious. She was testing it, this theory, right this very minute in her room, she said. She took another sniff. Eyes closed, she buried her face into this sweat-stained baseball hat and inhaled...

It was attraction, alright.

I was puzzled. Someone's sweat smelling good? A guy's sweat smelling good? I asked if I could smell this hat too. It just smelled like sweat to me. At that point, I had never dated...never been close enough to smell The Opposite Sex on this sweaty level. But I became a believer in pheromones that day. Val was older and wiser. And come on, if she could sit there, giddily enraptured by sweat, pheromones must exist. Right?

I just hadn't found the right hat yet.

Val continues to be a proponent of the smell-test. And I remember asking her, when she was first dating her now-husband, "Have you smelled his hat yet?" "Oh yes! And Erin, he smells so good!"

A match made in heaven...

Does love really just boil down to whose sweat smells good to you? Are we that animalistic? Perhaps.


I laughed. I've been making these pumpkin cornbread muffins as of late, you see. Eating them all by myself, should you want to know.

But oh, I chuckled...vanilla...pumpkin...pheromones...

~ Baked acorn squash, stuffed with pumpkin cornbread muffins & sautéed kale, broiled with goat cheese ~


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Enjoyment.


I am not sure why I love Christmastime so much. But, I do. I can't help myself. It has always bothered me, the people who grinch, because "no one is coming over." Is there not something to be said for personal enjoyment?

Personally, I am enjoying...


I chopped down a tree today. A tree off my own land. With my own saw. With my own hands.

I enjoyed this.

Even if no other soul comes over and sees this little transplanted living room tree of mine, I am enjoying it.

When I was a kid, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, my dad, sister and I always went to chop down a tree. We'd wander through the neatly tended rows at a tree farm by Glenwood, Iowa. It was tradition, this father/daughter bonding time. It was time for my dad to convince us that we needed a bigger tree...no, not that one, he'd say, pointing at a pine standing well over his head...BIGGER! And, we'd be egged on by his Tim-The-Tool-Man-Taylor style grunts. Erica and I would join in. This is probably why my mom didn't come with, all this grunting. One year in particular, this all got out of hand. "Yes, THAT one!", we grunted in unison. It would fit in our 100 year old farm house living room, no sweat.

My mom laughed at us.

We sweat.

We cut off a good bottom 4 feet of that tree. No exaggeration.

Lights were always my dad's job. "The man's job," three Block women chorused in agreement. There were always moments when I could see the frown of frustration. But every year he did it, he put the lights on the tree. This year, I was the man. Well, I was the only person, man or woman -- good thing too...no one saw my own frowns of frustration strung along, multi-colored -- but never mind about that.

I now sit, in enjoyment...of many things...

As I was trying to string my tree with lights, I also decided I would try to bake some muffins. Gluten free baking is a tricky thing. Hit or miss. Finicky. Especially, at altitude. I never expect baking to actually turn out. I've learned to go in to anything involving "alternative flours" with low -- very low -- expectations.

And since I have these expectations, I decided, that what the heck, I'd tweak this a bit. I used an all-purpose gluten free flour (I've never had that substitution actually work before), unsweetened fresh cranberries, and I decided to add in some Meyer lemon zest. I adore Meyer lemons. They are around for only a few weeks in the late fall or early winter, a month if I'm lucky, and then they are gone. Last week, across a Sunflower Market aisle, I saw the first Meyers of this season -- my pulse quickened...no joke.

I'm enjoying this...very much...