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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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With apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez


There has been evidence of greed and opportunism. This is not about that. This is about love. Signs of love, reminders to love, words of encouragement, stories of small pleasures, learnings, finding the loveable in the time of pandemic.


Though I am without doubt an introvert, having no face-to-face contact does affect me. I noticed it as minor depression when I realized, paradoxically, that I was isolating even further than necessary by not getting out and walking–holing up even more than I had to. Saturday I was determined, committed, to walking my 10K. I did it in 10-minute increments between 30-minute segments of writing. This system means I walk in the parking lots of my apartment complex.  And this is how it went:


Walk #1: Walking in my nearest surroundings (parking lots; a busy, noisy street; a neighborhood of cookie-cutter condos and ranch-style houses), does not delight me. I say I am happy to live here because I am close to trailheads in the Sandia Mountains and to a nearby openspace, but in the days of pandemic, I supect there are bunches of people in those places. Ten minutes barely gets me outside the parking lots. On my first walk of the day I realized, Oh, but I can look the whole time at the mountains–close enought to touch, the majesty of the Sandias; farther away, the Manzanos; on the horizon, the volcanoes, Mt. Taylor, Monte Negro. The blessed Mountains.


Walk #2: On Walk #1, it was mostly cloudy, or perhaps–glass half-full–partly sunny. In fact, quite sunny, the app on my phone to the contrary. And I reveled in that partial sun. The second walk testified to the changeable weather in New Mexico and took place under a monotone gray blanket. I reveled in the shadow, the melancholia, which I confess to loving.


Walk #3: Sunshine with glorious silvery white cumulus clouds.


Walk #4: Along came the After Lunch Slump, and the sky was again gray, the Ponderosa pine branches outside my window furiously swaying in the wind. I didn't want to walk, but I had told Irene I would make my 10K. Accountability is helpful. And the gray was not monochrome. It was full of life–massing, heavy clouds, bruised, filled with rain, though the app said there was 0% chance of it happening. I was glad I walked, after all.


Walk #5: I stepped onto my porch and saw it was sprinkling. By the time I reached the asphalt, it was truly raining but not pouring. The smell of rain on the dry desert earth, the wetness, speak to me of life.


Walk #6: The sun was out again in its golden evening splendor. I thought the rain had stopped. But it was doing its New Mexico thing–Rain In Sunlight. I looked forward to rainbows, and sure enough, faint bands of color rose up the closest foothills. Past the end of the last parking lot and onto the sidewalk, there is a bridge that crosses the Embudito Flood Control Arroyo–the terminus of my 10-minute walk. The rain had ended by then. I stopped, leaned on the bridge, and watched the water flowing downhill, creating small ponds below the spillway. These ponds are not beautiful. They are murky, surrounded by collected detritus. The little birds–sparrows perhaps or finches but too far away to tell–didn't mind. They flew down and dabbled and splashed in the water. Their comrades, in the tall trees, warbled joy.


Walk #7: The water was done flowing, and the birds were preparing to rest. A mourning dove on one of the apartment roofs moaned her deep sorrow. I had accumulated 10,575 steps.


Everything changes, and here, most especially the light.


Daily Quarantine Questions

1. What am I grateful for today?

2. Who am I checking in on or connecting with today?

3. What expectations of "normal" am I letting go of today?

4. How am I getting outside today?

5. How am I moving my body today?

6. What beauty am I creating, cultivating, or inviting in today?


INVITATION by Mary Oliver from Red Bird


Oh do you have time

   to linger

      for just a little while

         out of your busy


and very important day

   for the goldfinches

      that have gathered

         in a field of thistles


for a musical battle,

   to see who can sing

      the highest note,

         or the lowest,


or the most expressive of mirth,

   or the most tender?

      Their strong, blunt beaks

         drink the air


as they strive


      not for your sake

         and not for mine


and not for the sake of winning

   but for sheer delight and gratitude–

      believe us, they say,

         it is a serious thing


just to be alive

   on this fresh morning

      in this broken world.

         I beg of you,


do not walk by

   without pausing

      to attend to this

         rather ridiculous perormance.


It could mean something.

   It could mean everything.

      It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:

         You must change your life.






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