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Reflections in the Silver Cup


Found on an acequia wall in the North Valley

With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez


People are noticing that emotions might be riding higher than usual right now. True for me, too. I don't easily feel anger. I'm much more in touch with sorrow generally, with feeling hurt. But Monday I got two emails that I responded to (internally) in a high dudgeon of anger. At another time, I would possibly have been somewhat angry, but not like this. I let the anger be there all day—doing none of the work I had planned, not going outside even once, taking two naps, reading in bed—sulking if the truth be known. Indulging my anger.


Or maybe I was doing something else. In the past couple of days I've seen two memes advising us in the time of COVID-19 not to pay attention to those other memes that are advocating self-improvement in the face of devastation. Instead, they say, Be extra tender with yourself. We are in a time of collective grief. It's all right to be sad, angry, even despondent (though I hope none of us gets stuck there). It's a time for accepting what we're feeling, a time for gentleness with self and others. When I think about self- acceptance, I so often remember the simple, profound prayer of memoirist Patricia Hampl, in Virgin Time: In Search of the Contemplative Life: "This is how I am." That's all. This is how I am. It is all right to be how and who I am. In fact, it is probably a duty.


Perhaps the recommendation itself sounds like self-improvement. I guess if you tend to be harsh with yourself, being gentle would be an improvement. Accepting myself exactly as I am—also an improvement because I'm often not there. Nevertheless, in trying to show the face of love here in the time of Corona, in revealing a silver lining or two, I hope I haven't been guilty of advocating self-improvement. If I have you may chastise me. But gently, in love, please.


When the thumb of fear lifts, we are so alive.

                                  ~ Mary Oliver,

from "May," White Pine

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With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez



Some Things I've Learned about Cooking


Even, or maybe especially life's trials, even something as horrific as this pandemic, can have its uses–in this case, lessons that can be learned. I loved to cook—way back when—before I had a child whose Like-repertoire was extremely limited, and cooking became more of a Have To than it ever had been before. I got into the habit, or maybe I always was, of buying only what I thought I would need for the meals I planned to make. Then, a few weeks before I went into self-quarantine, I started stocking a few non-perishable food items at a time, figuring the time was coming. Suddenly I had overflowing cupboards. I had choices! I didn't have to make what I planned out before shopping. There wasn't a plan, and there were many things I could make. Suddenly my level of cooking expanded. I know a lot of people are cooking more because they're not going out to eat, and they're staying home more with more time on their hands. But that's not it for me. Except for errands I needed to run or walks or hikes, I pretty much was at home. For me, it's more cooking because: more choices. It probably means I'll shop somewhat differently when this is over.


I had a craving for cornbread but no cornmeal or flour or milk or baking powder. My brother and his wife did some shopping for me, and the shelves were empty of a lot of things—regular flour included. There was, however, coconut flour. "Sure," I said. How different could it be? Luckily, I took a look at the back of the bag before mixing everything and putting it in the oven. It said, "Coconut flour is highly absorbent. This means you need substantially more eggs than when baking with almond or wheat flour." Hmm. There was no hint as to what "substantially more" might mean. I use my mother's recipe, which calls for one egg. I've used two for years to yield cornbread that's lighter and also holds together better. So I decided on three for this recipe. I had to bake the bread about 2/3 of the time again as long as called for, possibly because I used my toaster oven and a smaller pan. It came out rich, held together nicely, was quite moist and dense, and had a coconut-y flavor that was okay but took a little getting used to. I also made lentils and added something I don't care for in salad dressings—balsamic vinegar, which made the dish superb.



Kindness. Just witnessing and receiving the kindness of others


• Cheyenne's friend's husband, who is predictably young, went to the homes of the elderly in their neighborhood to ask if there was anything he could do for them.


• A Sikh community in NYC cooked hot meals for more than 30,000 isolated people.


• Starbucks gives free coffee to healthcare workers.


• A friend's son's teacher wrote chalk messages of love on the sidewalks in front of her students' homes.


• A neighborhood message board suggested a "bear hunt" for children in the vicinity of an elementary school, asking people to put stuffed animals in windows for children to "find."


• The Columbia Sportswear CEO cut his salary by $10K, so retail employees could continue to receive their regular pay.


• People made music from their balconies, porches and windows, creating community in the process.


• We check in on each other by phone, Face Book, and emails, and suddenly it is with much greater frequency than before and perhaps with people we don't often reach out to.


And so it goes. There is kindness everywhere. I have seen more evidence of kindness than of anything else.

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With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez


The trees are greatly in flux, altering their appearance from one day to the next. One locust tree in the whole place, in one morning, put forth fat budding clusters of leaves. The other locusts all have bare branches still. Why is this one so far ahead of the others? Could it be because there are bushes around it putting out their new red leaves, reaching to the sky above the older green ones? Did the bushes tell the locust something? The old elms are in full, furry seed. The young elms are seeding and also beginning to sprout tiny, tender leaves. They live together in a grove of twelve. Why are their stages different? Could it be that the older trees are giving the saplings space, opportunity to flourish? Scientists have learned that trees and plants speak to each other. They nourish each other, and warn one another of imminent danger. One species even dies for its young, so the young may be graced by the sun, not shadowed by the mother. Trees are about forest, about community, not individuals. I see these things in the morning and am wonderstruck. Read The Overstory by Richard Powers if you want a book to strike you with the wonder of trees, of forests.

There are small pleasures, ones you perhaps don't think of as pleasures. Or maybe you do. Bringing order to my small space, moving one thing to where it belongs, brings me pleasure. Hand washing small items of clothing is purposeful and purpose brings satisfaction, and in the morning, when they are dry, I am ridiculously delighted by the miracle of evaporation. I sweep the dry pine needles off my porch, set up the little aluminum camp table, and unfold the two blue cloth chairs. Then I sit and smile at the plum tree's blossoms. Today I will repair some earrings, and I will remember the woman, the friend, who made them and lies beneath the ground now under an oak tree. I will remember the times we spent together laughing and telling stories and drinking coffee rich with Berkeley Farms cream, walking the paths of the marina.


These are times for remembering and pondering, letting the largeness of life be seen in the small, the ordinary, the not-so-ordinary. For trees and friends are miracle enough.


LOGOS by Mary Oliver from Why I Wake Early


Why wonder about the loaves and the fishes?
If you say the right words, the wine expands.
If you say them with love
and the felt ferocity of that love
and the felt necessity of that love,
the fish explode into many.
Imagine him, speaking,
and don't worry about what is reality,
or what is plain, or what is mysterious.
If you were there, it was all those things.
If you can imagine it, it is all those things.
Eat, drink, be happy.
Accept the miracle.
Accept, too, each spoken word
spoken with love.

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With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez


My youngest brother is fifteen, almost sixteen, years younger than I. When he was small, I spooned pablum into his little mouth, held up his hands to help him toddle, laughed when he made baby eyes at me. Last week he texted, "Going to the store. Do you need anything?" And he brought me bags of groceries, stood halfway down the stairs while I stayed above on my porch, and we chatted about his children.


Fred Rogers famously said, "When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, "Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping." I need the helpers now and at many other times. This morning I had my first walk at 6:30 when it was stil barely light. The garbage trucks rumbled and crashed through my complex, and I thought, This is another group of unsung helpers. I am grateful they are still working. The bins were overflowing yesterday. The birds helped me too–crazy with songs of joy at the dawn light.

When Margaret Mead was asked by a student what she considered to be the first sign of civilization in a culture, the student expected her to say something like, "Fishhooks" or "Clay pots." But she said the first indication of civilization in an ancient culture was a femur that had broken and healed. Animals that break a leg die because they can't get to water or food or defend themselves, but in humans, a broken femur "that has healed is evidence that someone has taken time to stay with the one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts," Mead said.
An excerpt from "Hum," by Mary Oliver, New and Selected Poems: Volume Two because we are perhaps more aware now than ever that to be alive is a blessing:



. …                                  The little

worker bee lives, I have read, about three weeks.

     Is that long? Long enough, I suppose, to understand

That life is a blessing. …

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