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July 2011


My big feet
People try to get away from it all---to the country, to the beach, to the mountains. You always wish you could too. Which is idiotic: you can get away from it anytime you like. By going within. 

Nowhere you can go is more peaceful---more free of interruptions---than your own soul. Especially if you have other things to rely on. An instant's recollection and there it is: complete tranquility. And by tranquility I mean a kind of harmony. So keep going away from it all---like that. Renew yourself. But keep it brief and basic. A quick visit should be enough to ward off all...and send you back ready to face what awaits you. 

What's there to complain about? People's misbehavior? But take into consideration: that rational beings exist for one another; that doing what's right sometimes requires patience; that no one does the wrong thing deliberately; and the number of people who have feuded and envied and hated and fought and died and been buried; and then keep your mouth shut. 

So keep this refuge in mind: the back roads of yourself. Above all, no strain and no stress. Be straightforward. Look at things like a human being, like a citizen, like a mortal. And among the things you turn to, these thoughts: that things have no hold on the soul. They stand there unmoving, outside of it. That disturbance comes only from within---from our own perceptions That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist.

- Marcus Aurelius

{photo: me trying to get away from it all on the shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, MN a couple years ago...}

Have a ________________ day

Tomatoes and zinnias in July
Have a nice day. Have a memorable day.
Have (however unlikely) a life-changing day.
Have a day of soaking rain and lightning.
Have a confused day thinking about fate.

Have a day of wholes.
Have a day of poorly marked,
unrecognizable wholes you
cannot fathom.
Have a ferocious day, a bleak 
unbearable day. Have a 
riotously unproductive day;
a grim jaw-clenched, Clint Eastwood vengeful
law enforcement day.
Have a day of raging, hair-yanking
jealousy and meanness. Have a day
of almost grasping 
how whole you are; a finely tuned,
empty day.

Have a nice day of walking and circling;
a day of stalking and hunting,
of planting strange seeds and wandering in the woods.
Have a day of endearing nonsense,
of hopelessly combing your hair,
a day of yielding, of swallowing
hard, breathing more deeply,
a day of fondness for beetles
and macabre spectacles, or irreverence
about anything you want, of just
sitting and wondering.
Have a day of wondering if it's 
going to help, or if it just doesn't matter;
a day of dark winds
and torrents flowing though the valley,
of diving into cool water
and gasping for breath,
a day of sudden hunger for communion.

Have a day where the crusts you each
were given are lost and you stumble 
with your fellows
searching endlessly together.

- Louis Lipsitz, If This World Falls Apart



I have rediscovered this tiny "pasta" lately in my quest for quick-cooking summertime vegetable containers. It's a staple food in a lot of warm places like North and West Africa, Spain, Portugal, Brazil, Italy, Greece, the Middle East and India. It's quick-cooking even in the non-instant form we use.

I have a slightly fancy (and very tasty) recipe from a French cookbook below, but water and a little salt works fine. This week I made the whiteacre peas again and served them on couscous instead of the polenta. When it needed reheating, I sautéed a few onions in a little butter, added the peas, crumbled the couscous on top, followed by a little grated cheese. Hot pepper relish (like mine or the Grahams) added some spark. 


1 1/2 cups chicken stock (I used water)
1 1/2 cups couscous (non-instant)
2 tablespoons butter cut in small pieces
5 1/2 cups olive oil
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/4 cups minced, fresh mint
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Bring the stock (or water) to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Stir in the couscous, cover, and cook over very low heat for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the couscous stand, covered, until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 5 minutes. Add the butter to the couscous and fluff carefully with a fork to separate the grains. I use my fingers as well. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of the olive oil and fluff again. The idea is for each pellet to be separate  and fluffy. Let cool to room temperature. 

Boil lightly salted water, add an equal amount of couscous, fluff as above.

*From Potager: Fresh Garden Cooking in the French Style, by Georgeanne Brennan

"If God had a freezer, he would have your picture on it"

Facundo cabral 2
Yenny Otero's sweet translation of Facundo Cabral's Reflexiones. Cabral was murdered last week in Guatemala, RIP.

You are not depressed... just distracted, distracted of this 
life that populates in you. Distracted of the life that surrounds 
you, dolphins, forests, seas, mountains, rivers.

Don't fall on what your brother fell on, who suffers due to a human 
being when there is more than 6,400 millions (according to google''s
"world population"). Furthermore, it is not so bad to live alone. 
I have fun by deciding what I want to do at every moment and thanks 
to solitude, I know myself, which is constitutive for life.
Dont fall in what your father felt, feeling old when he is sixty but 
forgets that Moses lead off the Exodus when he was eighty and 
Rubinstein played Chopin like no other when he was ninety, just to
quote two renowned cases.

You are not depressed, you are just distracted. That is why you think 
you have lost something, which is impossible since everything has been 
given to you. You didn't even make a hair on your head, therefore you 
can be owner of nothing. Furthermore, life doesn't take things 

away from you but it relieves you....lightens you so you can fly higher
to achieve plenitude. It is a school from the cradle to the grave,
therefore, what you call problems are just lessons.

You didn't lose anybody, the ones who passed away
simply got ahead of us because we are just voyageurs headed in 
that direction. And, the best part of him, his love, will always stay 
in you heart.

Who could say that Jesus is dead? There is no dead.. there is 
"moving". And on the other side there is great marvelous people: 
Gandhi, Miguel Angel, Whitman, St Agustin, Mother Theresa your 
grandpa and my mom among them, who believed poorness is closer to 
love since money distracts us with plenty of things and draws us 
apart since it makes us grow distrusted.

Do whatever you love and you will be happy. Who does what
he loves is blessedly condemned to success, which will arrive in
the moment it must arrive since all that is to be will be, and will
arrive naturally. Avoid doing things for obligation or engagement 
but for love. Then, you will reach plenitude and among all that plenitude 
anything will be possible with no effort, because it is moved by the natural
force of life, the one that kept me going when 
the plane with my daughter and my wife felt down, the one that kept me 
alive when the doctors said I had only three or four months of life.

God gave you the task of taking care of one human being, yourself. 
Only you will be able to make yourself free and happy. Only then you 
will be able to fully share your life with others. Remember these
words: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

Reconcile with yourself, sit in front of a mirror and think that the
creature you see is a master piece of God, choose right now
to be happy because happiness is an acquisition. Furthermore, 
happiness is not a right, but a duty because if you are unhappy, 
you will make unhappy everyone else around you. One single man
without talent nor spunk to live, ordered the death of
six millions of his fellow Jews.

There are so many things to enjoy and our journey in this land is so short
that suffering is just a waste of time. We must learn to enjoy the coming snow, 
the spring flowers, the Perusa chocolate, the French baguette bread, the 
Mexican tacos, the Chilean wine, the Colombian coffee, the oceans, 
the rivers, the Brazilian football, the One Thousand and One Nights, books as 
the Divine Comedy, The Quixote or Pedro Paramo, romantic boleros by Manzanero, 
and for the intellectual poetry by Whitman, classical music by 
Mahler, Mozart, Chopin and Beethoven, paints by Rembrandt, 
Caravaggio, Velazquez, Picasso and Tamayo among other wonders.

If you happen to have HIV or cancer, there is two things that could 
happen and both of them are good. If it beats you, it will liberate 
you from the bothersome body (I am hungry, I am cold, I am 
sleepy, I feel like..., I am right, I have doubts)... and, if you beat it,
you will be humbler, more grateful...therefore you will be happy and
pleased easily, relieved from any guilt, responsibility and vanity, 
ready to live every moment profoundly as it should be.

You are not depressed, you are just unemployed.

Help that child that needs you, that child who will be partners with 
your son. Help the elders so the youngsters will help you when you
grow old. Remember that serving others is a certain happiness,
like when you care for nature for those to come. Give without limits
and you will receive much more than you expect. Love until you
become the most loved, even more, until you become the pure
essence of Love.

Do not be confused by those few homiciders and suiciders. Goodness
is bigger although you can see it because it is silent. A bomb makes
more noice than a caressing but there are millions of caressings feeding
life per each destroying bomb. Isn´t it worth it?

If God had a freezer, He would have your picture on it; if He had a
wallet, He would have your picture in it. He sends flowers to you every
spring. He sends you a sunrise every morning. He is ready to listen
every time you are willing to talk. He could live every place in the universe
He likes but He choose your heart. He is crazy about you!!
Face it up, my friend!! 

God never promised you days without pain; Laughter without sorrow,
sun without rain but He did promise strength for your every single day,
consolation to your tears and light in your way.

"When life gives you one thousand reasons for crying, show that you have
one thousand and one reasons to brake into a smile".

{photo credit: El Pueblo de Tierra}

Fathers - and everyone

Steve and Kelli

The obligation is very great and moves two ways. The old have an obligation to be exemplary, if they can–and since nobody can be completely exemplary, they also have an obligation to be intelligent about their failings. They’re going to be remembered in one way or another, so they have an obligation to see that they’re remembered not as a liability or a great burden, but as a help. And of course the young, the inheritors, have an obligation to remember these people and live up to them–be worthy of them. So it’s an obligation that goes both ways, and it’s inescapable. Once you become involved in this sequence of lives, there is no way to escape the responsibility. You inherit, and in turn you bequeath an inheritance of some kind. 

- Wendell Berry

Local Honey-Sweetened Blueberry Jam

Blueberry jam

While I love the idea of preserving berries and other local fruit by turning them into jam, I often find the taste way too sweet, due to the amount of sugar required to make the stuff gel. Except for the tartest fruit, the flavor is obscured by the sweetness. Now I think I have found the solution. 

"Pomona's Universal Pectin," like Certo and Sure-Jell, is made from citrus pectin, but it is "low-ester" - difference explained here - and requires calcium as an activating agent instead of a lot of sugar. There’s a little packet of calcium and instruction for its use in the box with the pectin. The instructions are simple and allow for much more variation than the high-ester pectin does – even making suggestions for coming up with your own recipes.  Because our blueberries were quite sweet, I used the lower range of local honey called for – ½ cup to four cups berries (sugar, agave, maple syrup, etc. could have also been used). The Sure-Jell recipe calls for a whopping 4 cups of sugar for the same amount of berries. 

The less-sweet Pomona version was quick and easy and turned out absolutely delicious. So much more of the actual taste of blueberries is present in the final product. And I love the fact that, except for the pectin, the jam is 100% local. 

In Gainesville, you can buy Pomona's Pectin at Ward's.

The Last Restaurant

Last cafe
Somewhere in Tuscany, Provence, Oaxaca,
a restaurant you’ve never seen calls you
all your life, its menu unrequited–
a restaurant so good no one knows it.

It opens for one dinner only;
the officious maître d’ leads you
through the dining room’s underwater light
to a good table by a window.

The sounds of metal on china are small, precise,
from the kitchen a mysterious clank and hiss,
an unparsable syntax of smells.
The waitress is young, tall, forgetful;
her red wine tastes like old books.

She drifts off, and the room slowly fills:
two former lovers gaze in each other’s eyes
as you once looked, separately, in theirs;
your parents, who don’t recognize you;

an African woman and man in crisp white,
fresh from their mass grave’s blank dignity;
your brother, the wounds that killed him
almost healed, sits with your dead wife,
her hair grown back, parted in a new place.

The room is small, but soon the familiar heads
of everyone you’ve hurt, lost, cared nothing for
bow over menus, look up to ask about specials,
ponder the great dualities: animal or vegetable,
wine or water; later or now.

You eavesdrop and never hear your name,
but then someone’s eye meets yours
and he smiles; your mother asks your father
if you’re someone they know; he squints at you,
turns to her and shrugs, complains about the prices.

This is as far as you ever get.
But someday the waitress will remember
and return with her plate of bread and oil
to ask one of three riddles:

Do you know what you want?
Would you like more time?
Are you ready?

- Richard Lehnert, in A Short History of the Usual