Sunday, January 25, 2009

Days Four & Five

Day Four

I have no idea what the prez did today. I no longer have television, and the headlines on the internet(s) were all about various disgusting murders. (What a strange adjective to use: as though some murders are not disgusting.)

It was cold outside. And cloudy. I would lay odds I was not stepping a foot outside this house today.

I got up and did the Kum Nye massage again. I first learned about Kum Nye yoga from one of my teachers, Vicki Noble. It is very slow and deliberate. You perform one movement and then you sit and “expand” the feeling. Often as I am “expanding” the feeling, my mind wanders and finds interesting subjects to daydream about. I am not very good at sitting still, yet sitting still is something that is very good for me. I benefit from routines. I benefit from a quiet, serene life. I thought everyone was like this and I discovered this is not so. Some people do better when they are very active and run here and run there.

I would like to be a world traveller. I used to be. I would like to flit from here to there. But my psyche and my bodacious body want some down time. Major down time. “Be still and be quiet!” they cry. Ahhhh, there now.

I ate a fabulous breakfast of one basted egg, a grated baked sweet potato (like hash browned potatoes only supposedly healthier), and steamed vegetables.

And then I became a cooking queen. I put my laptop on the kitchen table with an episode of Numb3rs playing. I tried to find an epi that wasn’t about killers or psychos. I like the mathematical part of the show. I don’t always understand it, but I like the intellectual exercise. And I like the characters. I want to learn to stop multi-tasking, but I decided to give myself a break today. I was going to do what made me comfortable and happy. And I wanted to listen to a story while I worked.

I had soaked aduki beans and black beans (separately), so I drained and rinsed them. Then I put the black beans in one large soup pot and the aduki beans in another. I added a piece of kombu to each and poured in enough water to cover the beans and then some and I put them on to boil.

While they cooked, I put water into another pot. I dropped in two cups of butternut squash. (Mario had cut one up for me last night.) Then I cubed (sort of) one carrot, one daikon radish, and one parsnip and added them to the brew. Then I chopped up an onion and dropped that into the soup. I talked to the ingredients as I put them in, as always. “Oh you beautiful carrot! You are the best carrot in the world. A daikon radish. Wow! You are very firm! And onion, you’re so amazing, you make me cry!” I added a piece of kombu to the mix, and then I merrily turned up the burner. I had three different dishes cooking.

Then I grabbed my computer and went into the living room and curled up on the couch under one of my dad’s quilts. I started reading Creole: The History and Legacy of Louisiana’s Free People of Color. It’s research for the novel I just wrote in Arizona, The Old Mermaid. I was particularly interested in the article on plaçage. This was where mixed-race women became mistresses of French or Spanish men in Louisiana in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They could not legally marry. These liaisons often called left-handed marriages. Some of the women involved in these relationships were known as Les Sirènes.

Interestingly enough, I didn’t know they were called Les Sirènes when I was writing The Old Mermaid. It was one of those many synchronicities that happens when I’m writing.

From most accounts, these relationships seemed to suit the needs of both partners given the restrictions of the society they lived in. I’m not saying these relationships were equal. I’m saying as far as I can tell from the research, the women were not coerced into these “marriage.“ Of course the big ol’ elephant in the room caveat is that mixed-race and black women didn’t have many choices about what they could do with their lives. And by definition, whatever a slave did at the behest of a master was coercion and not a result of free will. That said, most often the women in these left-handed marriages were freed (if they were not already free) and their offspring were freed. Most often the men took care of the women all of their lives, even after they married a white woman. (Sometimes the relationships continued after marriage; sometimes they didn’t.) This seems to especially be the case if the men were French. The children were often educated and set up in businesses.

Makes me tired thinking about it. If I actually had a choice between being a field slave or being a mistress to a white man who would take care of me the rest of my life, I would chose being a mistress. I don’t think I would have to think about it twice. What a Sophia’s choice.

As far as I can tell, many of these relationships were loving. I depicted such a relationship in my book. Although it is definitely not a relationship of people who are equals socially or economically, they do love each other--as far as it goes. Can it ever be “true” love if one person has so much power over another person?

When it was time, I went and looked at my stews. After a couple of hours, I pulled the kombu out of the black beans. The water was now just a bit over the beans. When I lifted out a spoon of the beans and blew on them, the skin curled, and they tasted done. I grated a couple of teaspoons of gorgeous fresh yellow ginger. I tapped the grater over the black brew and the yellow dropped into the beans and liquid, reminding me for a moment of tiny suns against an indigo night. I cooked that a little longer, but it was essentially finished. Gingered black beans. Mmmm!

I added a couple of cups of cubed butternut squash to the aduki beans. In the last year of her life, my friend Linda couldn’t eat much. I would desperately try to find something she could stand. I read in one cookbook that aduki beans were good for people who were recovering from illness. So I made this aduki bean and butternut squash soup. Four ingredients: aduki beans, kombu seaweed, butternut squash, and water. (In the end you can add soy sauce or salt if you like.) For Linda, I pureed the soup. She didn’t have any back teeth by then, so she couldn’t chew much. She loved this soup. It was practically all she would eat for months. Every time I made it, I infused it with songs and my love and my hopes for her healing. I think it did keep her alive during those months. She rallied a bit and was able to eat other foods for a few months until she died.

But she would rave about “Kim’s soup.”

I still miss her so much.

I looked at the butternut squash/daikon radish/parsnip soup. I make this kind of soup when I feel like I need to get my mind and body right. Usually I would add some burdock root but I had forgotten to get any. I took the kombu out of the soup and cut it up into little pieces and then put it back. The soup was so beautiful! The butternut squash seemed golden yellow now and filled the pot with sunshine.

I love soup.

Mario usually doesn’t like this particular soup, so I decided to add some Navy beans from a can of Eden beans we gad leftover from our trip. They are organic and soaked in water and kombu (instead of salt), so they’re actually pretty good. I put a can of these beans into the soup. I tasted it. It was very sweet. I wasn’t surprised. Daikon radish and butternut squash are sweet. I didn’t mind the sweetness, but I wanted to see if I could get the seasoning right so that Mario could enjoy it, too. I ground a bunch of black pepper into it. Tasted it. Still a bit sweet. I ground some sea salt into it. Tasted it. Better. Some soy sauce at the table would help deepen the flavors and take the edge of the sweetness, too.

So that was that.

I felt very satisfied. I got myself a bowl of the aduki bean soup and took it into the living room. I got under my quilt again and began eating. The soup was so rich. I could taste the healing! I thought of Linda. She would have put more salt in it. But she craved salt and always salted all her food. I wondered how her daughter was doing.

After lunch, I sat down and did some writing. Outside it began to snow.

Later, Mario and I had dinner. He put brown rice into the butternut squash soup. I put in rice pasta, which made it like minestrone, only without the tomatoes. It was delicious.

I wrote more words. Eventually we went to bed. I read a little from A History of Last Night’s Dreams by Rodger Kamenentz.

And then I fell to sleep and dreamed.

Day Five

I dreamed and dreamed and dreamed. It was as if when I opened Kamenentz’s book, I gave myself permission to dream again. I have very vivid dreams and have since I was a little girl. Sometimes I can have half a dozen or more a night. They can be terrifying or mystical. In 2001, I decided (again, again) to figure out my life. I looked through my journals and typed up about one third of the dreams I had written down over the years. By the time I was finished I had 60,000 words or more. And then I read what I had typed. My dreams were so filled with violence: war, murder, apocalypse, rape, incest, and more murder. I knew this because I had dreamed them, but to read them all at once was quite disturbing.

I put them away and haven’t looked at them since. And over the last year or so, I haven’t dreamed as much as I used to. Kamenetz postulates that by interpreting our dreams we are missing the true value of them--we are dampening their power. What does that actually mean? I’m not sure yet. I heard him on the radio and when he talked about particular dreams, he seemed to be interpreting them. It may be a semantic thing.

I’ll let you know when I know.

In any case, I dreamed and dreamed. I was a wandering, traveling from one place to the next, in the dark, in the light, in the rain, in the snow. In one dream I had a foster child who began varnishing the bathroom, and so I had to call in help because of the fumes. The most startling dream happened when a tall dark man I knew leaned over me and breathed in my ear. He just breathed. It was very sensual. Not sexual, but sensual, if that makes any sense. I wasn’t frightened because I knew and liked him. But I couldn’t move for a time. I tried to speak but I couldn’t. He kept breathing. Eventually he moved away and disappeared.

Very odd.

It was one of those mornings where neither Mario or I wanted to get up. We’d awaken and curl up around each other and then fall to sleep again. And I would dream. Then we’d wake up and shift and fall to sleep again. A wonderful dreamy morning.

For breakfast, I peeled and then cut up two parsnips into quarters lengthwise. (So they looked like French fries.) I put a few drops of olive oil in my palms and then I rubbed each little fry between my palms. I put them in a glass roasting pan. I ground a little pepper over them and added a dash of sea salt. Then I put them in the oven at 375.

While they baked, I did my Kum Nye massage.

I must seem obsessed with the minutiae of my life lately. It’s true, I suppose. I am trying to fit back into my life. For eight years much of my focus was on what was happening countrywide and worldwide. Of course I still care about all of those things, but I need some parochial perspective.

Starting with my own life.

When the parsnips were ready, I basted a couple of eggs. Mario came down and set the table. He put vegetables on our plates and cut up an avocado and apple.

The parsnips were a hit. It must be nice for Mario to have me doing some of the cooking again. Too often, he’s the one making all the meals. That just gets tiresome.

I read a little of Conscious Eating by Gabriel Cousens, M.D. after breakfast. At first I was excited by it. He said that he’d figured out that there is no “average” person and so telling everyone to be on the same diet or take the same supplements was ridiculous. This was something I had been saying for years, but I didn’t know if I was right or not. As I kept reading I learned about something called lectin which is in most foods but is very high in grains and legumes and many of the vegetables we eat regularly. This substance apparently causes an immune response (allergies and other inflammatory responses) in most people. It’s similar to the response some people have to gluten.

I read this and thought, “What the hell can I eat?”

Some of it rang true to me, however. I do soak beans and grains for 24 to 48 hours before I cook them. Before I started doing that, I had a lot of trouble with beans. But even now, I often feel lethargic and little sick to my stomach after eating beans. According to one article I read, this nausea could be caused by the toxins in legumes. I am trying to rid myself of asthma and other allergies. Maybe I’ll try to reduce some of the foods that I eat that are high in lectin.


Midday, I bundled up as much as I could and Mario and I went for a walk. The sun was out, but it was cold, windy, and icy. Snow covered the gorge cliffs, and if I could have seen much of it, I probably would have thought it was beautiful. Mario said I reminded him of Iron Man, except I was in black. I said, “Only if it was a Cold Iron Man.”

We walked down by the creek. We hadn’t been there since we returned. Rocks were still filling up the bed from the slide. It hardly looked like a river any more, just an accumulation of rocks with a bit of water running through it.

It was my first time out of the house since I went to acupuncture on Friday. Brrrr.

I looked at the empty lot across the street where the boys had been riding their trail bikes a few days ago. I could see a path. They had obviously been riding a lot while we were away. I stood on top of the hill and sang a little song that will hopefully scare away any more trouble in this place. I don't want to deal with this.

But I will.

Once I got inside my warm house, I decided to look at the news. Many businesses will deliver their quarterly reports tomorrow. They are expected to be the worse quarterly reports in a decade. Nothing I could do about that. I listened to President Obama’s weekly address. He said more people applied for unemployment last week than any time in the last twenty-six years. (I just noticed he looks a little like Tuvok from Star Trek Voyager, and he sounds a lot like him.)

Man. This week should be interesting. (And not because Prez Obama looks like Tim Russ and sounds like Tuvok.)

I looked at the White House website. It was nice going there and not seeing Bush. I went to the page of all the presidents and I scrolled through their pictures. I noticed two things: (1) Most of them are dead. So for all the Sturm und Drang that accompanies any life, even a president’s, everyone ends up in the same place. (2) They’re all men. At least half of those puppies should be women. Come on.

Do you think the world would be a better place if more women were in power?

I used to have an answer to that question, but not any more. At least not tonight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mmmmmmm. Think I'll go soak some beans or peas. Happy 4-5.

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