Friday, January 30, 2009

The Undoing

Dampness penetrates the bones. Dirt refuses to wash away. At night memory explores my skin, roaming about while I sleep. The sea comes to take me for its own, the roaring thunder deafening my thoughts. I wake, face down in a swamp, lungs burning with the smell of earth. I can't escape. Nothing releases me...not death in dreaming, not waking. This is how I become undone by a smell, a word, a place, a thought...

Monday, January 19, 2009


February 1897
(Herman is the one in the top right hand corner)

Seldom is there encountered a more distressing experience of accident, exposure and suffering than is reported in the case of Herman Lund, a young Norwegian freighter, who was found lying in the road 20 miles from Cold Harbor, McLean county, with one leg and one arm broken, both legs and arms frozen stiff, having lain there crippled and helpless from Saturday night until Tuesday morning without food or shelter, and not having once slept or lost consciousness. Lund is a young ranchman who lives at Coal Harbor, and he has been freighting between Coal Harbor and Velva, the nearest railroad point. On Saturday night he started for home with a load weighing 6000 pounds on his wagon, and while walking beside the wagon to keep warm, slipped and fell under the wheels of the wagon, which passed over him, breaking a leg and arm and badly crushing them. The team walked on a few steps and stopped, and Lund lay there helpless, unable to move, the thermometer nearly at zero point, his broken leg and arm swelling rapidly and causing him intense pain, while his extremities began to freeze and added to his agony. For three nights and two days he lay there, suffering excruciating pain the entire time. The accident happened but three miles from the ranch, but he lay in a little hollow which could not been seen from the ranch. The horses remained a few feet from him, but he was too badly injured to reach the wagon and was not found until 60 hours after the accident. After Lund was found, it was necessary to drive him 75 miles to this city (Bismark) for medical treatment, and an examination by local physicians discloses the fact that it will probably be necessary to amputate both legs and arms so badly are they frozen. Lund says that never once in the 62 hours he lay there did he lose consciousness. His worst pain was when his extremities were first attacked by the cold and began to freeze. After they had frozen, they were numb, and it was this fact that prevented his going insane from the agony. The unfortunate man is but 23 years of age, and it is doubtful if he survives the operations which will be necessary.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Twinkle, Twinkle

Sometimes Christmas comes a little early and sometimes it arrives a little late, but happy surprises are always welcome no matter when they arrive. Yesterday Rupert arrived on my doorstep. He apologized for not making it in time for Christmas, but explained that like me, he has the travel bug. When he knew he was making the trek all the way here, he decided to stop a few places along the way. I can't really blame him, I probably would have done the same, especially since holiday travel can be so grueling if one needs to get somewhere fast.

" Besides," he said, "the weather was just dreadful there for a little bit." But to make up for his tardiness, he brought me a little treat: a sweet tin full of gummi bears... "oops, they're not really bears," he said, " it would be odd a bear bringing bears as a treat, don't you think? "

"Of course," I replied. So in actual fact, they are sheep. Just as well, I can count them as I fall asleep.

Rupert is getting along fabulously well with the crew and we have brilliant conversations. I'm sure we'll be bestest of friends as we pop gummi sheep while he intimately whispers me all his secrets. And of course he gives the bestest of best bear hugs.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lost Generation

This really is quite brilliant and gives us all reason to hope. We can put faith in those who will come after us.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Perspective is Everything

Clod and Pebble

"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell's despair."

So sung a little clod of clay,
Trodden with the cattle's feet;
But a pebble of the brook
Warbled out these meters meet:

"Love seeketh only Self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."


Thursday, January 08, 2009

Laughter, the Best Medicine?

I recently read an interesting article on happiness. It seems that researchers have devoted a fair amount of time and money to this subject. So what did they find? Well, pretty obvious stuff. We don't get there by working like a dog or spending a ton of money. But the answer really has been there all along. It's wisdom that we've probably heard numerous times throughout our lifetime...things like: look on the bright side, laughter is the best medicine, smile and the world smiles with you. In terms of what we should do: smile, laugh, sing, dance, spend time with friends, family and children, make time for fun, exercise, get sunshine, get involved in the community, celebrate. All these things elevate our mood and strengthen our immune system. They also possibly lengthen our lives.

In terms of the pursuit of happiness? Scientific research indicates that we should actually be pursuing joy over happiness. So many of us are looking for that "magic bullet" that will make us happy. The thing is, how do we measure happiness? It's a rather vague concept. Joy, on the other hand, is quite quantifiable.

MRI scanners have tremendously increased our understanding of the functioning of the brain. And one of the amazing things that scientists have discovered is how much of the brain is dedicated to positive emotion, or rather joy.

Joy is easily measured by looking at hormone changes, endorphin levels, blood oxygen and watching human connections. Joy, experienced through all those things mentioned previously (singing, dancing, laughing, smiling) rewards its users with health, improved immunity and many times a sense of purpose.

Other things we should be aware of? Having fun is good for you! It's a powerful de-stressor. Stress is a major factor in most illnesses and diseases, in fact, I once heard one figure that claimed as much as 90%. How do we have fun? Any child can easily tell you the answer to that With play comes laughter, bonding, smiling and humour. All good.

According to Chinese medicine, worry sits in the stomach. Perhaps that's why when we're stressed or worried we say that we have knots in our stomach. The remedy for this? Singing. Seriously, I had a Chinese doctor who explained that worry can go so far as to physically affect us with a prolapsed stomach and the remedy is to sing. I even had this proven to me, which I couldn't possibly properly explain here. Let's just say that it's something you have to experience. But if you know what's good for you, you will now all immediately break out into song. Well, at least hum a tune.

Laughter is next on the list. It is so important. In fact, it might just be the secret fountain of youth. Don't people who really truly laugh a lot seem more youthful? Nothing makes us look older than we are than a sour face. And even better, laughter is contagious. Think back to a time where you just couldn't quit laughing. Probably you weren't alone. Perhaps when you would just about have it under control, you would glance over at that other person and just lose it. The cycle would start all over again, laughter bouncing off the walls, tears in your eyes and your sides aching from so much giddiness. Do you remember how good that felt? It's something that we should all make an effort to do more often.

The next thing that science is starting to confirm that will make you all want to immediately "lighten up," is that seriousness is a manifestation of permanent stress. Seriousness is signalled by the promotion of stress, lack of sense of humour and a resentment of fun. Now who wants to be that guy? Some cardiologists even believe that a serious attitude leads to heart disease and science is now coming very close to proving this. The reality is that seriousness mimics a stress reaction. It causes blood vessels to tighten and raised levels of cortisol can be measured in the bloodstream. Is it possible that seriousness might be a low level form of permanent stress?

Finally, the last thing that we should be making an effort to do, is to act happy. You know, fake it 'til you make it. It's long been established that thinking positive thoughts can change our perspective on the world. New research suggests that meditation, and a positive outlook can fight depression and elevate mood. Other research has shown that the mere act of smiling, even if we don't initially feel happy, actually triggers changes in our brain chemistry that boost those hormones that do make us feel happy. It's kind of like going through the motions until we authentically feel it. Yes, indeed, we can actually practice being happy and in the process become much better at it.

Monday, January 05, 2009


Any foodie on Canada's west coast is probably addicted to Leslie Stowe's "Raincoast Crisps." So imagine my delight, when, while visiting a friend, she serves up what I am convinced are none other than the Raincoast crisps with an assortment of cheese and I discover that she has made them herself. Of course I just had to have the recipe and make them as soon as possible. These little bites are chalked full of goodness and absolutely amazing with raw goat cheese, brie or even just on their own. The raisins, or whatever dried fruit you use, add just a hint of sweetness and I love the nutty flavour. My tastbuds are still dancing.

2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 C buttermilk
1/4 C brown sugar
1/4 C honey
1 C raisins (or other dried fruit...try cranberries, orange peel, or a mixture)
1/2 C chopped nuts (I used almonds, but you could also use pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, etc)
1/2 C roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
1/4 C sesame seeds
1/4 C flax seed, ground
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 350 F

In large bowl stir together flour, baking soda, salt. Add buttermilk, brown sugar and honey. Stir a few times. Add dried fruit, nuts, seeds and rosemary and stir until just blended.

Pour batter into two 4 x8 greased loaf pans. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until golden and springy to touch. Remove from pans and cool on a wire rack.

Next you must slice very thin. This step is easier the cooler the loaf. Leave until the next day, or pop in the freezer to cool. Slice as thin as you can and place the slices in a single layer on an ungreased cookie sheet. Reduce oven to 300 F and bake for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 10 minutes until crisp and a deep golden.

Guaranteed to become an addictive habit.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

For Strong Women

A strong woman is a woman who is straining.
A strong woman is a woman standing
on tiptoe and lifting a barbell
while trying to sing Boris Godunov.
A strong woman is a woman at work
cleaning out the cesspool of the ages,
and while she shovels, she talks about
how she doesn't mind crying, it opens
the ducts of the eyes, and throwing up
develops the stomach muscles, and
she goes on shoveling with tears
in her nose.

A strong woman is a woman in whose head
a voice is repeating, I told you so,
ugly, bad girl, bitch, nag, shrill, witch,
ballbuster, nobody will ever love you back,
why aren't you feminine, why aren't
you soft, why aren't you quiet, why
aren't you dead?

A strong woman is a woman determined
to do something others are determined
not be done. She is pushing up on the bottom
of a lead coffin lid. She is trying to raise
a manhole cover with her head, she is trying
to butt her way through a steel wall.
Her head hurts. People waiting for the hole
to be made say, hurry, you're so strong.

A strong woman is a woman bleeding
inside. A strong woman is a woman making
herself strong every morning while her teeth
loosen and her back throbs. every baby,
tooth, midwives used to say, and now
every battle a scar. A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.

A strong woman is a woman who craves love
like oxygen or she turns blue choking.
A strong woman is a woman who loves
strongly and weeps strongly and is strongly
terrified and has strong needs. A strong woman is strong
in words, in action, in connection, in feeling;
she is not strong as a stone but as a wolf
suckling her young. Strength is not in her, but she
enacts it as the wind fills a sail.

What comforts her is others loving
her equally for the strength and for the weakness
from which it issues, lightning from a cloud.
Lightning stuns. In rain, the clouds disperse.
Only water of connection remains,
flowing through us. Strong is what we make
each other. Until we are all strong together,
a strong woman is a woman strongly afraid.

By: Marge Piercy

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Shades of Grey

Think of me on a snowy day when the north wind hastily exhales her frigid breath in your direction. When you're inside, warm, protected and have almost forgotten our once bold memories, I pray you the window to open a crack. Allow me to return. In sacred slumber our past lies riding lightly on the wave of a dream. I have replaced my heartbeat with your name.

Friday, January 02, 2009

California Rolls

For those of you still wondering how I use my pickled ginger, I usually serve them with these: California rolls. For years I bought California rolls as they are such a healthy snack, easily transportable and a good alternative for those trying to avoid wheat. Eventually I tried making them with not the best success, but then had a friend share the secret. Truth is that these are so easy I now make them quite often. They are showy for entertaining and quite popular here in the west.

California Rolls:

1 C rice (use either sushi rice or alternatively another sort of short grain rice. It is stickier and holds together better)
1/4 C rice vinegar
1 - 2 tsp sugar (depending on taste...more if you have difficulty with your rice sticking)
1 tsp salt
1 ripe avocado (peeled and cut into long thin slices)
1 English cucumber (peeled and cut into long thin slices)
1 carrot (julienne sliced)
toasted sesame seeds
sheets of nori seaweed

Cook the rice according to directions. Once the rice is cooked, stir in the sugar and rice vinegar and salt (the sugar and vinegar help the rice to stick more...problems start to occur if the rice does not stick). Let the rice cool completely.

Lay a bamboo sushi mat on the counter with the slats running horizontally (you can find these at most kitchen stores for a dollar or two. You can make the rolls without this, but it certainly facilitates the process). Place a sheet of nori on the mat. Spread rice on the sheet leaving a 1 inch border across the top edge. Arrange the avocado slices in a horizontal line across the middle of the rice. Add cucumber and carrot in the same manner. Sprinkle the sesame seeds. Put a light layer of mayonnaise on the top border of the seaweed that you left free. Grab the edge of the mat closest to you and roll the nori away from you as tightly as you can pressing the roll as you go. Seal by pressing the edge with the mayonnaise against the roll.

Use a sharp serrated knife to slice the rolls. I often wrap the rolls and refrigerate them for an hour before slicing them. Serve with soy or tamari sauce for dipping along with wasabi. Top with pickled ginger.

You can be quite creative in what you put inside the rolls. Avocado is always a favorite for me, but you could do things like smoked salmon and cream cheese, crab meat, eggs, sprouts or a varity of other vegetables. Enjoy.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year

As we venture into the new year, many of us get reflective. We ponder our life thus far, think about where we want to go, create resolutions, decide what we will no longer do, what we will do from hereon in. I'm perfectly okay with goal setting, but have never really been one for making a large set of resolutions. I am more of a free spirit who cherishes her freedom to follow at will whatever opportunities present themselves. I have difficulty being strictly regimented. I find it a kill joy that stifles creativity. But that being said, I do respect those of you who do go the resolution route. Life would be so utterly boring if we all did things the same way and I've always been of the opinion that what works for one does not always work for another. That being said, I really like the idea that Chani presented over at "Finding My Way Home," to chose a word for the new year: the idea being to "create a theme for the year...a central concept that will change the way we look at things." The lens with which we look at life may not change our circumstances, but it can change how we react to events that come our way and I think that this makes all the difference. If you had to choose a word, what word or words would you chose?

As many of us are looking inward and being reflective, I thought you might enjoy this short animation by Lasse Gjertsen as he ponders the age old question, "who am I?"

Happy New Year everyone. I wish you all joy, happiness, peace and lots of love in the coming year.