Trapeze and Elderberry Jelly

Goodness, what a couple of days can bring. Yesterday, I began the day with an aerial class that a good friend is offering at her studio. I was enchanted to learn silks and trapeze not only for the beauty of the art form, but also for the fun... and to build some core strength.

I was not sure of what to expect or how I would do, but after getting up on that trapeze, I felt my confidence grow. It reminded me of when I used to do gymnastics, and my years of martial arts training also helped me with balance and coordination. When I STOOD UP on that bar, I felt my soul soar!! I cannot wait until next week; I found that I was actually much stronger than I had anticipated, and my muscles didn't even ache later in the day. In fact, my abs felt so great today, a good kind of sore. Yippee.

The rest of the afternoon I was happy to spend with one of my best friends, a big sister type who really gets me and offers so much wisdom and humor. I love that she calls me on my shit in a fun and friendly way. Her motivation is always fully fixated on helping me to grow by seeing my reality as well as the perspectives of others ever so clearly. She's incredibly perceptive. I love that woman.

Today I finally made the elderberry jelly! It came out AWESOME!! Guess what everyone's getting for holiday gifts this year? Yup. Elderjelly. nom. Here's a tip: I used Pomona's Universal Natural Pectin for my jelly. Great stuff!

{{I utterly failed at the beach plum jam using the regular pectin from the grocery store... it just wouldn't gel, plus I was really unhappy about the other ingredients in that stuff. I don't want to imagine those lovely plums are ruined. I suppose that sweet, saucy stuff will have to become mead or something.}}

I had a short-lived snafu when my food mill became gooped up with the sticky, snot-like residue that squished elderberries leave behind, but it seems that a small amount of Citra-solve cleaner on a sponge will take care of that in short order. So, there's another tip.

This evening I attended a town meeting where citizens were invited to give their opinions about a proposed zone change for a gorgeous piece of land from residential to industrial. Hundreds showed up! The land in question includes the top of the gorge known as "Satan's Kingdom" and has rare geological features, offers a corridor for wildlife between two refuge hubs, several rare plant species and unique diversity. The developer wants to take the top of the ledge off and the rest of his plans are vague at best. People were passionate, intelligent and eloquent. I was really proud of my community. It doesn't look good for the developer and I am happy about that. Maybe some jelly will cheer him up and sweeten that nature-hating disposition.


As the day winds down, I realize that I didn't get nearly as much accomplished as I wanted to, but it was a good day nonetheless. My belly is full of homemade soup and grilled cheese with garden tomatoes and my spicy fermented dilly beans. My gods, the dilly beans are BEYOND.

My friend Margaret harvested elderberries for me this year and put them in her freezer, so today I took the hour drive out to her to pick them up. Such treasure!! She had not only a bumper crop from this year, but also from last year, as well as juice the she had put up. It took me a while to clean the stems out of the frozen berries, but I now have a very full pot of elderberries on the stove awaiting my further attention. I'm thinking jam. I'm thinking tomorrow.

Margaret also had a 5 gallon Crown crock that I took off her hands for a reasonable price. It's in good shape and that gives me a total of five crocks to work with: 10, 8 and 5 gallon Crowns as well as a fancy 7.5 litre German crock and a cast off 1 gallon crock from a broken slow cooker. Currently all but the 8 gal and the new one are in use. I'm making white wine in the largest crock, and as for the smaller ones, I'm infusing my friend Siro's red wine vinegar with beach plums in one and black raspberries in another.

With all the driving around, scrubbing the new crock and cleaning frozen elderberries, I never got out into the woods today... or all the other things on my list for that matter. Feeling pretty done though. whew.

At the end of the month I'll be teaching a workshop that I outrageously titled, "The Gestalt of Chinese Energetic Systems: Two Polarities, Three Burners and Five Phases." Tonight I'm going to work on that presentation. Honestly though, I really just want to create a platform for discussion so that we can all share ideas and I can guide the conversation. I feel it's important for us to get a sense of where we are oriented in time/space in order to manage and balance our individual constitutions with diet, herbs and lifestyle. It should be interesting to see how it fleshes out.

On that note...

Seasonal Shift

It seems far too soon for the nip of Autumn to be in the air, but here it is. There's suddenly so much to do and it's rattling my cage after months of lazy summertime energy that every year feels as though it will last forever. One day I will learn.

The most pertinent thing on my mind, of course, is securing my fire wood for the winter. Someone at the farmer's market told me yesterday that there's a shortage and I'd better get right on that. I look out at trees everywhere and wonder how that can be true, but I gathered a few phone numbers and today I will begin making calls. I have about a cord of seasoned, yet unsplit wood taking up space where I'd like another 5 cords delivered, so that needs to be dealt with first and foremost. I am fortunate that I have a couple of great friends willing to come up with a splitter and take care of that for me, but it won't be for another week. I reckon it would be best to put those thoughts on the shelf for now.

The sound of the dehydrator running is bothering me too... it's a beautiful morning: dry, sunny and moderately cool, yet the rosehips just weren't drying out there; I am disappointed, but I think that may be a bust. Wondering if there's anything I can do to salvage the situation.

Yesterday I was fairly productive, after the farmer's market, I made a beautiful chicken and root soup, did a little housework and got in a good walk in the woods. I was gifted with a perfect birch polypore that must have just hatched; it was perfectly white underneath with nary a single bug. (that's right, I said nary.)
The white wine I'm attempting to make from Ruth's prized grapes is foaming far too slowly and I wonder if it will come out alright. I just keep pushing down the mash and hoping for the best. It smells fantastic, but still tastes like juice. Siro suggested that I go pick up some grapes from the vendor that he and his father use for their wine production, and although this week is a bit too crazy to take that on, I'm relieved to know that they will be offering them for another month.

Today, I'm off to Enfield to pick up some elderberries that a lovely woman picked and stored in her freezer for me. I am not entirely sure what they will be used for because I've already done infused vinegar (delicious), an elixir and some syrup... well, what's wrong with more syrup? I could do wine, but meh. I think I'll reserve that project for the grapes.

Alrighty then. Time to fix myself some breakfast and get motivated.
"Soup of the morning, beautiful soup!"

Aggressive Tendencies In Beavers?

There's this secluded little swimming hole that I discovered about a ten minute drive from my house. A small pull off on the side of the road and a short hike will take you to a large pond used as a nature conservation area.

I have rarely seen anyone there, even on the fourth of July when it was 90+ degrees, although there is evidence that kids come and hang out around a bonfire at night. I feel very comfortable skinny dipping there, it is so completely private.

The surface is always warm from the sun and about three feet below it becomes refreshingly cool... almost cold in spots. After a swim there, my hair feels so clean and wonderful that I won't wash it again for days.

One hot afternoon, I made my way out there for a pleasant and relaxing day of laps in the spring fed water. I dove in and swam out to the middle and began to scan around the shore. A fair distance away I saw a brown head poking out of the water, obviously looking at me. As I observed the observer observing me, I realized that this creature was getting larger and the distance between us was getting smaller.

It occurred to me then that this critter was far more adept at moving through the water than I was, in spite of the fact that I am a fair swimmer. Wild animals have teeth and claws, and I understood at once that this was likely to be a beaver making a direct bee-line for me. Beavers have big teeth.

I swam as efficiently as I could for shore, in a little bit of a hurried panic. The head matched my trajectory and the gap closed further. I pulled myself out of the water and watched as the beaver arrived at my previous locale, changed its heading and swam to the opposite shore.

This pond is narrow and long, so the opposite shore was not far enough away for me to feel entirely comfortable with resuming my swim. I guess I don't need to mention that I was feeling a little less relaxed at this point. Several minutes went by and my furry friend remained on the other side, diving and hunting, so I finally grew a set and jumped back in.

Not a minute after I had, Ms. Beev turned her attention back toward me and began to rapidly approach. Once again I raced to my rock and leaped out of the water. This was getting ridiculous, I thought beavers were friendly, but this one clearly had decided that she didn't want me in her pond (at least this was my perception).

I resigned myself to simply enjoying the peace and tranquility from dry land and decided to take out my camera and photograph the beautiful scenery. After snapping several shots and attempting to set up the self timer for a few personal portraits, I heard a loud snort behind me. I turned to see the large mama right next to my rock checking me out!

Camera in hand, I started capturing the moment. She paced back and forth in front of my stone landing, snorting, splashing and well, laughing. She got the better of me for sure. This lady beaver was at least 3 and a half feet from stem to stern, and easily 50 pounds. If she wanted to, she could have taught me a lesson I would never forget.

I chose not to swim again there that day, and returned home to google "aggressive tendencies in beavers." I learned that they are quite gregarious and only tend to be territorial when their yearlings are ready to leave the lodge... in late summer. Aha.

Worm's Turmoil

This morning I awoke and decided that instead of rushing around juicing carrots, making homemade broth and miso for my mother who was still recovering from surgery in the nursing home, I would take some time for me. I lolled in bed leisurely, trying to ignore that guilt-inspired need to hurry. After checking email and goofing around on Facebook for a while, I laced up my trainers and went out for my 5 mile loop. After 2 days of rain and being shut up visiting Mom, I was ready to enjoy the warm, clear spring morning.

I didn’t make it very far before I started to notice several worms on the wet pavement beginning to writhe in the warm sun. I picked them up, one at a time and tossed them into the grass; however, this didn’t seem sufficient to save their little lives. As I continued along, stooping every couple of feet to pick up another suffering worm, I began to notice that their numbers were increasing. In the shade of a wet leaf I would find thirty or more huddled together trying to maintain moisture. 

I scooped up handful after handful of wriggling earthworms and laid them carefully in shallow trenches I scraped out with a stone, covering them with clods of cool moist soil. Some struggled to escape from my cupped palm, while others were very reluctant to have me pick them up at all, despite the fact that they were facing certain death. A few worms actually began to move toward me after I had liberated their compatriots from the rapidly warming tarmac; I felt that they sensed on a psychic level that I was there to help. 

My walk had to be abbreviated to a mere 2 miles that day, rescuing worms took precedence over working off last night’s pizza. The sun was high by the time I made my way back along the road where the worms had been; their dried up dead bodies littered the pavement. It made me sad to see the clumps -mass graves of worms- that I hadn’t reached in time. Next time the sun comes up after a long, soaking rain, I intend to get out earlier and collect as many as I can rescue and relocate them to my garden or compost pile.

Hawaiian Soul-Journ part VII: Navigating the Path

On my second day at the sacred beach called Polihale, I made another pilgrimage to the enormous pali’s at the end of the earth. I so much desired to be free of my pain, my heartache, my confusion, and all of my baggage. (Yes. All of it. At once. Let’s get this done already!) I located a good writing stick and began a personal ceremony to “name it,” “claim it,” and then purge it.

I started by drawing Reiki symbols in the sand and meditating, then I got up and began to write in the sand all that I wished to let go of, one at a time. I consciously felt into each item on the list before I inscribed the word upon the sand: my former fiancĂ© who had so deeply wounded my heart this year, my former business partner and best friend whose path and mine had so recently separated, my ex-husband who was with me at this very spot the last time I visited more than a decade earlier… and that was just the beginning of the people I needed to release! 

After I cleansed my psyche of the names and their immediate emotional associations, I got to work on taking ownership of my own personally perceived flaws. I pulled up everything I could, resonating with every dark thought, every bullying internal voice, every insecurity; one by one I allowed the ocean to erase the words while again and again I forgave myself for not being perfect. This took a long time.

Once I felt fairly emptied out, I sent my psychic roots out of my soles and deep into Mother Earth, receiving love and offering gratitude, filling myself with light. I felt a lot of weight come off that morning, but knew that there was still more work to do. I went to sleep that night anticipating the powerful ceremonies yet to come; the solstice was in two days, followed by a full lunar eclipse.

The rain began to fall that night while I slept, and I knew that the dirt road to this remote spot would quickly become impassible. I awoke to light drizzle and decided to explore the other end of the long beach anyway; I walked for a couple of hours, scanning for special shells and feeling the rain clouds thickening. The waves were getting bigger and soon there was quite a population of surfers arriving on the beach in their monster trucks, then the rain came in earnest.

It was not going to be clearing up, this much was now evident; I had only enough food and water for about 3 more days, and the ice in my cooler was all but completely melted. My Honda Accord was no “Grave Digger” and it wasn’t SUNDAY SUNDAY SUNDAY!!! So needless to say, I had a decision to make: either stay, biding my time in the tent until the way out was drivable again (but I had no idea how long that might be), or take my chances on the already flooded roads -that would only continue to get worse- in order to git while the gittin’ was good.

Frustrated, I broke camp in the rain, cursing loudly; I wanted so much to be at this place for a powerful solstice ceremony, I had been planning it for months. I felt like the spirits of Polihale were kicking me out and it made me feel like a failure, but I could see no other way; I would not have made it another week. I finally got my wet, sandy tent packed up and all my gear stowed back in the car; bedraggled and dejected, I started the car and headed out toward the access road.

This five mile, heavily rutted and uneven thoroughfare is really just a farm road that runs along the edge of a sugar cane plantation; even under the most ideal, dry conditions it takes more than 20 minutes to get from one end to the other. When I got to the dirt road, my jaw dropped; it was much worse than I had imagined it would be. The road was almost completely washed out; enormous stretches of deep muddy puddles sprawled over the entire width of the road, some several car lengths long. There was no telling just how deep they were, or where the best place to drive through would be; I was screwed.

Picking my way carefully around the edge of the first “pond” I saw a souped-up Toyota Tacoma coming up on my rear. “I’d better let him pass,” I thought. “He doesn’t want to get stuck behind me!” I navigated the puddle and pulled way over to give him room to get around me and my little Honda. To my surprise, this mini-monster truck –with a chassis 3 feet high and big dirt-eating tires- didn’t go blasting through the mucky playground leaving me to eat his mud-pies. Instead, this Ambassador of Aloha carefully navigated the shallowest aspect of each wet trench and waited for me to follow suit.

White-knuckled, I followed the Toyota through every slippery mud-hole, navigated flooded trenches and rejoiced every time I made it. I was remembering the last time I had been on this road in similar conditions and all the abandoned, stranded vehicles that littered the road. With each soggy ditch I left behind however, my confidence grew and I began to shout “YEE HAW!” My tires sprayed sticky sludge in my wake and I spun the wheel and did hole-shots like a true country hick. When the furrows were especially long and deep, my rescuer drove fast right down the center and telepathically I knew to get right up on his bumper and ride in his wake where his truck had displaced the water.

Filth splashed all over my little car, and the windshield was getting very difficult to see out of, but I knew better than to run the wipers while the path ahead was still so treacherous; it would only make a bigger mess. Finally, there was a decent stretch of road without a puddle for about 50 yards, so I hit the washer/wipers and prayed that there was enough fluid in the reservoir to do the job before I got to the next grimy gully ahead. Did I mention that the windshield wipers have a trick to shut them off? It requires a Zen-like patience to get the lever into just the right spot while the wiper arms are positioned correctly. I nailed it on the first try; I was in the zone.

Eventually, I saw the end of the road approaching and was filled with ecstatic joy at what I had just accomplished. I woot-wooted a few times, nailed it and oversteered for one last thrill. My champion in the Tacoma celebrated by taking an even more off-road route parallel to the path I was on and racing me to the end, then he detoured for a little more fun. I got to the end, pulled over and ran my wipers again while waiting for his truck to emerge. When the Toyota appeared, I enthusiastically gave him a “hang loose” and beeped my horn; I got a merry high sign in return.

My car was filthy, (and my driver-side window was down the whole time), I was shaking from adrenaline and realized that my diminished feelings of failure had been banished by the wonderful adventure made possible by the angel in the truck that had been sent to guide me to safety. The phone rang and on the other end of the line was my new friend asking me if I wanted to take a break from camping and crash out on his fold out couch. “Hell YES!” I replied; Kauai was letting me know that I was still in divine flow and I was so grateful for the message.

Hawaiian Soul-Journ part VI: Spirit Elder & Whale

I headed out the next day to camp at the most sacred place in the world to me: Polihale. This place dredges something up in even the stoniest heart; it literally feels like the end of the world. In fact, in Hawaiian legend, this is the place where the spirits of the dead leave the island. Since I came here in 1998 and 1999, I have retreated here in my heart and mind; I have visualized this place when going on shamanic journeys to the lower world; I have met many spirit guides here when I have soul traveled. To me, this is one of the Earth’s power centers and I intended to do ceremony here for the solstice and the full lunar eclipse, something I had been planning for months.

My first night was sublime. The nearly full moon illuminated the beach in shades of platinum and the rumble of the waves was deep resonant backdrop to the more than majestic mountains that framed the beach. I slept peacefully feeling embraced by the cliffs behind me and the ocean in front of me, warm and dry. I awoke before dawn and strolled the length of the shoreline all the way to the base of the pali’s where the sea, the lava rocks and the mountains all merge. I sat down to meditate, feeling overcome by the slenderness of the veil between worlds.

I was distracted by a young man I had just passed on way to this spot; he wore his long dark hair in a topknot and was clearly also doing ceremony only a few hundred yards from where I was. He was a beautiful person, not simply on a physical plane; his energy exuded outward in peaceful waves and I wondered if he was a Kahuna. I have been wanting so much to connect with a Kahuna to help me heal, that I was sure he was someone I needed to meet, however I was far too overcome to approach him so I asked my guides to tell him if I was someone he needed to speak to, then I let go.

I could feel that he knew I wanted to talk to him, but that the time was not yet right, so again I attempted to quiet my mind and meditate. This time I slipped right over to the other realm, so thin was the curtain that separated the lower and middle kingdoms. Immediately I became aware of the Council of Elders, a group of wizened, ascended shamans that always seem to be gathered here at the Spirit-plane Polihale. I asked for guidance and felt the immediate presence of my main guide: one I call simply “Grandfather.”

“Grandfather” seemed rather disinterested in my questions, my confusion and my desire for guidance and enlightenment. Every time I asked him for advice, I’d hear in my head “Relax.” I was really in my head, trying to understand my lessons, release what I needed to let go of and to figure out how best to proceed on my path of personal healing. Intellectually, I knew I had to let go of trying to mentally process it, and was amused by the irony of that. ARGH! 

At that moment, I felt Grandfather tap me on one shoulder from behind and the he pointed out to the ocean over my other shoulder. “Open your eyes,” he said. “Look.” Obediently, I did as instructed and saw two boats near where he had directed my gaze. “Two boats,” I said. “One is coming in, the other is going out. What does that mean?” “Shh. Keep looking.” At that moment a whale breached completely out of the water and came down with a huge splash right where he had indicated. I leapt to my feet, shouting and cheering!!

I was so thrilled, I couldn’t contain myself; Whale Spirit had been a big part of my last shamanic journey by taking me to my guides. Seeing this whale as it had been pointed out to me by my Spirit Guide validated to me that I really am in contact with something outside of myself, that is to say if anything really is outside ourselves… that includes all of us and all of everything. What a great sign! My inner child came out and I really understood that I could really relax and play, not try to figure it all out.

As I made my way back toward my campsite, I felt elated, but my turmoil still existed beneath it all. I had to walk past the young Kahuna who was now facing inland toward the cliffs, deep in prayer. I didn’t want him to feel my sticky energy, so I opened my heart to love and grace as widely as I could, knowing that some shadows remained. As I approached his field, I felt a beautiful reverence, innocence and joy vibrating all around him. It added to my whale-happy feelings of bliss and I simply began to run, not like a racer, nor a therapeutic jog; I ran like a 10 year old: for fun without a reason. Just because.