Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Soup's On!

Stormy weather, the first onslaught of the Autumn season, returned last night. With Wind battering the corners and windows of the house, driving huge raindrops along with its force, the time was right for Chicken Soup.

Rain running down the windows in rivulets left little tracks...showing me just how dusty the windows were! We have endured a long, dry spell with attendant hot, sunny weather. This Rain was long overdue...Tofino, B.C. closed its businesses due to lack of water, starting this Friday.

But so far, I still had all the freshest ingredients on hand to make this soup; we still had water. Chicken soup, more than any other, has always meant comfort to me...I fed it to my kids when they were in need of something "extra", or if they were suffering from one of the inumerable viruses that kids get.

And just last week, I had made fresh chicken was waiting for me in the freezer. To make the broth, I used a fresh chicken and a large pot; I added two carrots, a bay leaf, 2 celery stalks, a cut up red onion, a cup of parsley...a clove or two of garlic...and then added fresh water to cover all of it. I added salt and pepper, knowing these two would have to be adjusted. Oh, and parsley and chervil, too.

The broth is the understory of making good chicken soup. Chicken used to have a lot more fat on them, in earlier years. And they used to have much more would not be a bad idea, if the chickens are small, to place two in the pot, if you prefer a deep chicken flavor. Or, for a darker broth, sometimes I brown the chicken in a little olive oil and a dab of butter first.

I skimmed the broth, taking the froth off the top, as it came to a slight simmering boil, turned the heat down, covered it...and let it cook away on the stove. The scent that permeated this house was unbelievable...taking me right back to my youth, as my mother's soup simmered on the stove.

There is a certain difference in smell when the chicken has rendered enough goodness to the broth, and still retains enough taste and moisture for a great chicken salad. It is experience on my part that lets me know; however, checking the chicken after an hour or two, depending on size, for doneness is something I do, too. Fluids will run clear and the meat will be tender...just as if it was roasted chicken.

Once I have removed the chicken and the vegetables, I cool the broth to room temperature, and then place it in the fridge for further cooling, after which I placed this last batch in the freezer. And depending on how much fat collects on the top of the broth, I remove some of that, too. Some fat adds body to the broth, though, so judgement is called for.

But the scent of Chicken Soup was just a memory yesterday. I felt the need to bring it back, wanting to enjoy the steamy comfort, with toast on the side, for dinner.

Taking the frozen block of broth out of the freezer, I placed it once again in a large pot. I don't know about you, but my soup always turns into gigantic matter how much or how little broth I make. Hence the large pot.

And then I prepped all those wonderful vegetables I wanted to add to the broth. Tomatoes were ripe in the garden, beans, carrots, celery and green onion were all prepared and chopped roughly, into small bits. Most of the time, I prefer chunky bits of vegetables. The tomatoes were not added until the very end though; I still wanted them to keep their shape and fresh taste.

My secret to great Chicken soup is lots of dried chervil and fresh parsley. And I taste the broth constantly...what went into the pot as a frozen block of broth will change in taste once the vegetables are added. I also never boil the broth. A simmering broth will cook the vegetables just enough.

And then I added pasta, to my soup. Sometimes I use barley or rice or even a potato or two. But today, I needed the soft mouth feel of pasta. Pasta will take on a lot of the flavor and saltiness of the broth, so adjustments will be necessary. Sometimes, too, instead of a thin broth, I want something a little thicker, so I might add a small amount of a flour slurry (water and flour, mixed until the lumps of flour are incorporated).

Making Chicken Soup sometimes takes a whole day, fueling the taste buds with its ongoing scent that drifts through the house. One bowl of this soup is enough for me, especially after tasting it all day long!

Chicken soup brings back memories of my young children, who requested it when they felt under the weather, knowing each spoonful of soup brought a mother's love and comfort...

Inclement weather and Chicken Soup can't be beat.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Warbler

I spent the weekend trying to take a photo of what I believe is a warbler of some kind...I thought I had identified the bird; my book, however, shows some differences.

And then, reading further in the The Sibley Field Guide to birds, I discover that there are many hybrids out there...birds who are the offspring of parents of closely related species. These birds are often overlooked by birders. They are usually fertile, will mate with their parent species or another hybrid and will produce babies called backcrosses.

Hybrids can show unexpected characteristics which are not present on either parent. It is sometimes impossible to say with certainty what the lineage is. Birders use what features they can identify; then calling the bird an "apparent Hybrid".

Okay. On with the story. I was watering the hanging moss planter at my back door, when this little buff coloured bird flew right into the planter, getting a little splashed by the water I was pouring into it. Startled, almost dropping the water jug, I backed off a bit, watching what this bright eyed little visitor intended.

He had dark black stripes on his head, a large, longish beak, and a caramel coloured chest. His back was an olive taupe kind of colour. He burrowed his way into the planter; finding nothing worth eating, he flew onto the underside of the porch roof and sat there, watching me, as I watched him.

We were at a stalemate. My camera was in my study, on the other side of the house. ( I should have it glued to my hand...then when these animals visit, I might be able to get a photo or two!) I did not want to move suddenly as I was sure the bird would immediately fly away, so I stood still, just inches away from this little bird.

He was very curious about me and about the inside of the house. He hopped around, trying to get a closer look...I was afraid he would fly right past me into the house...where the dogs were. He was certainly not afraid of humans, but dogs may have been another matter.

Birds in the house have always meant transitions in store for my family. Just recently, a brown bird visited each room in my house, seemingly not afraid. The dogs ignored him, even though Brown Bird flying past the Big Chair in the living room was certainly unusual. He waited calmly at a window, finally, until I covered him with a dish towel and carried him outside. Brown Bird flew off to the power lines outside our home; chirped at me...and flew away. I haven't seen a bird like him since.

But the transitions are occurring...and I will tell about it here, when I can.

This little Warbler was unusual, too, by his very presence. According to Sibley's, he would be considered a rare visitor, on the West Coast, as his usual place of abode is Eastern North America. I think he might be a Worm-eating Warbler; my hat's off to birders who identify birds. It is an extremely long, drawn-out process; and then Sibley's informs me, birders must be prepared to defend their identification of the species. This means much research, photography, and recordings of bird song to back up the identity. I may be a long way off in my identification of this bird.

I tried to see into his eyes; when I attempted to use this contact, he stopped his examination of the laundry room, and each narrow ledge on the porch, became still... and stared back at me.

There was instant connection and recognition and the flow of energy I always receive when I make eye contact with a familiar being. Then he flew away. But he returned, bringing his mate, and allowed me to take that rather hazy photo of him at the bird feeder. I see them building a nest in Grandfather Tree. I don't know if their nesting habitat is unusual; what I do know is that it is late in the year for birds to go around building nests.

Perhaps, when he visited me at the hanging basket, he was checking out the neighbourhood, and the beings who inhabited this place where he wanted to bring up a family. It's late in year, I tell him now, when he flies in to nosh on some seeds, don't you think you should head off to where you're supposed to be for the winter? He doesn't seem concerned.

He and his mate have stayed behind the little flock he came in with...and since I know little about this species, perhaps he'll stay, long enough to bring up his family. I will make sure the bird feeder is full, just in case.

This friend of ours, if he is a Worm-eating Warbler, hails from Missouri and Arkansas. In Winona, Missouri is where Shaman Maggie is building the Life Healing Community. I find it wonderful that a bird that is native to Missouri chose to visit, going so far out of his way to do so. It was a direct how-do- you-do? from Maggie... and when Warbler leaves, I will send good intentions for the Life Healing Community and Maggie with him and his mate.

As an ally, Warbler can teach me how to sing my soul song in order to achieve what I require for survival. I have been interested in soul songs lately. Warbler's song of the heart will guide me, teaching me to raise my voice with confidence, tenacity and patience.

I find this type of thing so very interesting. The idea of taking an unusual natural event and finding some for the asking!...awes and amazes me.

And all I have to do is be aware of them.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The River

Shaman Maggie emailed me not so long ago, a letter in which she stated:

"I see myself floating down a river in my inner tube and letting things happen as they happen with light and love and joy. This part of the river is flowing swifter now and still requires insight and awareness, balance and impeccability and a strong intention of goodness and foresight to maneuver this swifter water."

One of the first lessons I learned from Shaman Maggie was what I call the River lesson. In it, she invites me to join her on the Raft, from my stance on the shore. She invited me to join the flow of life, without reservation and with strong faith that I would be guided through the rapids.

For me, it was a great analogy. I have taken my problems to the River as far back as I can remember. I grew up near a river...Stamp Falls Provincial Park was only a couple of miles away. I would take my problems there, throw them into the churning waters, and watch them float away on their way to the sea, calming my tears.

For me, River was already a safe haven. But I have also seen the waters of River angry, swollen with raging power. Years ago, when I stood on shore marveling at Nature's force, had I not already forged a relationship with River as a familiar cleansing tool, if I would have understood both sides of the River...the one where rage is sometimes foremost, along with the lilting, tinkling harmony of its Waters that induce meditation and peace.

And so it is with the River of Life. There are times of peace and joy, when the River runs smoothly and calmly, when obstacles are small and easily maneuvered. And then, when the pace of life and life's events pick up, when the Waters churn a little, and there is a taste of the rougher waters ahead, I invite close contact with my guides, asking for aid...and relief from fear and apprehension of what I do not yet know.

When the rapids begin...I am ready. I have prepared the best way I know how, me on my raft. I have picked my tools carefully, keeping them close. I feel the force...the urge to face whatever is ahead, without fear. I have strong, unshakable faith that my raft and I will withstand the pace, will not be drowned under the onslaught of Rock engaging with swift moving Water, that we will be guided through...emerging on the other side, once again.

There is exhilaration, too...when the waters of the River dash with huge abandon against age old ravines, shouting its exuberance to the skies, showing its unbridled power and joy! These times, when the heart feels absolutely full of joy it is hard to breathe...are the opposite of the dark, tumultuous midnight journeys also a part of River.

It is a long journey. A lot of the problems given to the River in my youth have a way of stirring the smooth waters...those problems that were given, and then never looked at again. They show up as jagged Rock sometimes. And then there are the seemingly impassable log will I and my raft circumvent those?

And yet...I would rather be part of this quixotic River, then standing on the shore, too afraid to join in, too afraid of consequences. I want to live my life to the fullest; I want to challenge what comes, floating out of the impossible rapids into smooth, peaceful Waters. Yes...over and over and over again, if that is what it takes to get to my goal.

I only gain more experience each time I traverse the rapids. I only receive more joy when I join in the River's exhilarating dance.

Shaman Maggie was right when she promised me journeying on the River would bring me serenity and acceptance, instead of fear and foreboding about what lies ahead. River forges on regardless of obstacles, real or imagined, sweeping me along with the current.

River has taught me there is always a way.

Monday, August 21, 2006


We spent most of Sunday reminiscing about the old days. Gray's uncle, who is only a few years older than Graham, arrived to spend a day with us before he returns to Scotland. I was reflecting on how, more and more these days, when old friends visit...there is never enough time to talk about the old memories that connect us, shared and apart.

Do you remember when the slogan amongst us was....never trust anybody over 30...? If you do, then you were there during the sixties and early seventies. At the time, living it, I didn't realize I was creating memories...I didn't realize that I would chuckle at myself in later years. In my late teens and early twenties, I thought I would always be the same, right where I was that moment.

But in later years, the angst that was surely present in my early years, is covered with a layer of gold dust. And through the golden mist of time, I see the lessons I was given; I see the work or lack of that I gave in return to learn those lessons. When I look back, during the steep learning curve of my twenties, I see a woman who was headstrong and frightened. I did not understand, then, the importance of balance.

So memories of who I was and who the people were that surrounded me are now tinged with tenderness. We were all struggling so hard to know who we were and what our roles in life were. But the drama played out all by itself...time marched on without us even being aware of it.

Children and responsibilities occurred for most of us; the idea that we were going to change the way the world was going was put on the back burner. But some of us kept the light burning...and the reminders are becoming prevalent.

The baby boomers now have the time to re-discover themselves. And when old friends arrive for visits, inevitably the talk returns to a time when we thought a different way. When we forged a new identity, both for ourselves and the world. Suddenly, then, if we put aside the way our elders thought and believed, we had the freedom to do things our way...never realizing those beliefs were deeply ingrained, and would require true work to temper them.

But we were all changed by an environment that screamed freedom. For Jim, the push was music, for Graham it was rock climbing. Both very spiritual pastimes. Both are well-travelled, experienced in different cultures, which gives one a broader perspective. During our visit, I mostly life during those years were so different in nature...mostly centred on a young family.

Inevitably, however, we all experienced big life-changing lessons, in different ways. Those lessons, however, have a common thread, I was thinking, as I listened to the reveries...

We have all learned acceptance.

Acceptance of the place we find ourselves in brings tender memories of the way we once were...there were no harsh self-recriminations. There was gentle laughter instead.

And thus, at peace with ourselves, we whiled away a golden Sunday afternoon.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Plumbers, Chiropractors, Massages and Granddaughers

The other morning, when I watched the moon set over the distant horizon, behind the dark outline of the trees, I asked for help in seeing the day through. There were many chores and things to do on my agenda; I needed to keep a clear head, and not sweat the little things. But Creator had his own agenda.

The plumbing was being re-done... the old is approx- imately 65 years of age, and was showing suspicious signs of senility. Enough so that Graham's building intuition took precedence, and the plumber was called. As the photo of the galvanized pipe shows, Gray's intuition was right on.

I had an appointment with Sherri, my massage therapist. My granddaughter was coming for a visit overnight. There were myriad time constraints in this day.

The plumber came, with his dog. Well-trained and gentle, his dog was recuperating from surgery, and lay quietly on the front lawn, watching his owner work. Not so Nate and Lucky. This was the most exciting thing that had happened in a long while. They ran from window to window, watcher the interloper just laying there...on their lawn. And the plumber came into their yard, without so much as a by your leave! So, there was a lot of barking and howling going on, everytime there was movement by either the plumber or his dog.

Eventually, they calmed down, tiredness overcame them, and they fell asleep with one eye open. Silence reigned, but not for long...the noise of old pipes being cut out of the house set my teeth on edge and my ears to ringing.

I looked forward to visiting Sherri, this time, just to get away from the con- struction zone. Sherri, however, decided it was time for a few more steps further on the path of rehabilitation. She suggested I visit a chiropractor immediately upon leaving her office, as my body would be ready then for his manipulations. I protested, but she convinced rather than heading home to get ready for Bree's visit, I found myself visiting Rob, who took me in at once.

It took about three minutes. It was the second or third time I had visited a chiropractor in my life, being deathly afraid of hearing crunching bone. Gosh. The sound of this treatment rivalled the construction noise going on in my home! It seemed like it, anyway.

I can't say I felt any different after the treatment; however, my posture has improved immeasurably, and I will now add chiropractic treatment to my arsenal of tools. I will get used to the cracking sounds, perhaps.

I came home, rather shaken...I had just visited a chiropractor, something I didn't think I would do. Now there was little time before Bree arrived. But I needed a bath with epsom salts, after a treatment. And there was no water. There would be no water for a couple of days.

The bath never did happen, and I felt the results of the lack the next day. But all those treatments are now showing promise, which is a great thing.

Life had tilted a little off balance lately for my grand- daughter, and she needed to come visit and let the world toil on without her for a bit. We did all the "old" things we used to do, when she was little. All the favourite foods and routines that have always been followed when Bree visits were firmly in place...and that included a night sleeping together, something that hasn't happened in a long while. Perhaps it was time for me, too, to connect that closely with her and realize how much she still looks and acts just as she always did, just at the present... in an eleven year old package.

But it was a night spent in a bed that doesn't agree with my bones. So, inevitably, there was little sleep for me, and the next day wasn't great...but today...the plumber is finished, leaving the screech of the saw behind, I had a good sleep last night, and I listened to a child's reasons and was able to reassure her...ease her mind.

It was one of those days, where the plans of a calm day were perhaps not totally realized. But the balance between the good and the not so good was there, on reflection. My body feels good, a child is happier, and Water is bubbling, without restriction, through brand new pipes.

What could be better?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Divination with Nature

One of the old traditional ways a Shaman or one walking the shaman's Path uses for divination is learning to decipher guidance and answers from natural and animal symbols.

The natural world is full of symbols that can be used to answer a question or warn of an event. According to Kristen Madden, author of The Book of Shamanic Healing, this gift is not something that can be taught in a book.

Indeed, I have not found much information on Shamanic divination, other than a description of what it entails.

However, I am used to having wildlife do odd things around me. So far the messages that arise from the birds and animals that continually visit are foretelling some event in the future. These animals don't usually just appear to me for no reason; consistently I am able to understand and connect with them if I can see into their eyes. This takes some getting used to; I was taught never to stare at any wild animal, as it might be taken as aggression.

And there is a completely different feeling if the animal means me harm. Then I listen to the fearful energy that surrounds me, protecting me. The energy signature of most of the wild animals I have seen in near proximity is familiar and is similar to the one my guides have imprinted in me. I recognize the creature. And I intuitively know it knows me, too.

But that is as far as I am able to go at this time. Some animals...Eagle, Raccoon, Bear and Cat I have written about here; as a consequence, I know what these animals mean, and what message they are sending. But should an unfamiliar animal visit me, I would not know what the message was, unless I looked it up. The animal, too, has to exhibit unusual Owl, when he visited...he flew into our yard only a few feet away, and sat staring at us for a long time, after which he flew directly towards us and over the fence. I hear him in the distance at night now; I haven't seen him since.

In practicing the old traditional ways, though, Shamans would know instantly by the animal's characteristics, what it was doing, which direction it was going, and countless other personal ways exactly what the message was.

A long time ago, an old man I knew would foretell the weather for the winter, and what the summer would bring, by the signs left by the animals and plants. It was intuitive for him. I was in awe of him; but he accepted his gifts as normal. In all the time I was close to him, he was never wrong.

From him, I learned to always find the directions in any place I was in. Watch the sun, he would say. I, in turn, asked what was I to do if it was cloudy? There are always shadows, he said...and I was left to ponder. On a deep, black cloudy day, I would be looking for shadows, in my youth...and I finally figured out what he meant. But it took a long while!

Divination is something like that. I find I have to be aware, constantly...and that can mean my attention is divided, between reality and the causal space. It is a hard fence to walk, sometimes. But since I am still learning to decipher the signs, I find it wildly fascinating. And relatively easy for me to do...I have used natural symbols for guidance since childhood.

When I lived on a rural property, it was a common occurrence for wildlife to wander through the yard. I accepted animals such as snakes, pheasants, bear, deer, elk, salmon and even a wolf or two as part of country living. I did not realize just because people lived in the country...all these animals didn't routinely show up at their door. But they did at mine.

It was one of the elements I mourned, when I moved. I was sure I would see no animals living in the middle of Qualicum Beach. I was sure I would lose that connection. Where were the trees and shrubbery that harboured so much wildlife? I knew I would have to create some, in my yard.

But even before the shrubs grew, animals, mostly birds, this time, found me. In the Spring, two mated Eagles flew very low over our heads, and I locked eyes with She Eagle for what seemed like a long moment. After that, it seemed the two were constantly visiting and now...just the other day, their two youngsters flew low overhead, carrying on their parents' routine.

Graham will tell you that large volumes of bird species fly over our yard, very low, with definitive intent. Eagle has shared his life with mine on many occasions. Crow, Woodpecker, Goose and many others share their glorious world on a regular basis. Raccoon recently visited. Cats abound, either in my dreams or the neighbour's visiting Cat. The ubiquitous Deer brings her babies to nibble on the fresh greenery that surrounds the outside of the fence. Rabbit loves the tender pond plants. My dogs give me infinite possibilities for reading animal behavior, and infinite practice!

Included in my awareness of animal behavior is also listening to the plant life that surrounds me. Each has his own story to tell, his own song to sing. There is a strong intuitive rightness
that comes over me, flooding me with energy, when I know I have placed a plant exactly where it needed to be, in the yard. It becomes intuitive gardening, and plants have rewarded my listening to them many times over. The next step is to learn how to listen to their guidance.

My physical body advises me of what is happening with the weather. But to divinate by cloud formations...signs from the sky...I have just recently become aware of them and have a long way to go before I find any degree of success with those. And there are many other, more personal ways, known only to himself, that a Shamanic believer can work with.

My favourite way is to receive guidance from my animal allies. What a profound gift if I could learn important information from such an awesome source!

Wouldn't it be something if my primary ally...Bear...should visit? Marching down Main. I guess that would be unusual behavior!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A Study in Progress

We are in the middle of completing the new study. I have decided to call it the 'study' because the word library gives off such feelings of grandeur, and this is only a small room. It is, however, packed with books, research papers, my writing and talismans.

We could have continued to call it 'Marion's office'. But I am not the only one who uses this room, and I cannot claim ownership...I do not even want to. But the word 'study' sounds good to's a fine word for what this room will be.

It has a personality that is forceful at times. Or else, as a result of opening up the closet space, we have also allowed closed-up energies freedom...and perhaps those energies aren't necessarily benign. I have written about the Hidden Closet. When Graham used the reciprocating saw to cut through the wall, I stayed out, being allergic to the dust created. And so, I was not in the room when the closet was opened once again.

But both Graham and I felt the pressure on our chests ease, when the interior of the closet became once more a part of this room. It is a well-constructed closet, small and efficient. It will hold cleaning supplies, family pictures and computer odds and ends. It will have a purpose once more.

As I work in here, facing North, where clarity is born...I can feel some one here with me. Graham, as he painted, felt the hair stand up on the back of his neck more than once. The spirit shows extreme interest in what is going on. This being, though, carries a familiar energy signature.

I wonder what guise the "man who walks with me" will take during this next, new phase in my life? I have been asked, by tea leaf and tarot psychics...who is the man who walks next to you? I don't know...he takes many different forms, at differing periods over the years...he's just always there.

So I recognize the energy signature of this being who is so interested in what we are doing in this new study, you see. And I feel a little apprehension...there is always so much work to be done when he appears, in spirit form.

The work is always productive towards my understanding of any given phase in my life; I am humbled and grateful for my guide's help and protection; all of these, yet change disrupts. And my guide is usually a harbinger of chaotic, drastic life changes. His interest, though, is just is the way he always is, when he appears to me. He's a little snoopy, actually.

Just changing office spaces is a huge change, although it is not why my guide is here. I now face the street, with all its attendant distractions. This morning, I watched an elderly gentleman in an electric scooter keep up with his two grandsons on their bicycles. I heard...way to go, Grandpa! I had to look, loving what I saw. And I hear a roofer, putting on a new garage roof next door, singing out at the top of his lungs at different hours of the day.

These amusements are great, if you're not supposed to be working. But I know, in time, they will fade into the background, becoming just part of the great hum of sound that surrounds me. It's getting used to them that is a bother. Even as I smile and enjoy these vignettes of life.

I am well protected in this room. All the furniture in the Study has been made by Graham. A computer desk was made out of a long, Fir table Gray made years ago. The china cabinet is one of his first pieces; all the Oak bookcases have Graham's stamp on them. Elder grows just outside my window, and Rowan has placed his roots deep into the rockery across from him. The floor is Oak. The keyboard shelf Gray made is made of Maple.

I have honoured all the Directions. This afternoon, I will smudge and cleanse the energies that are here, making sure the niggling feeling at the back of my neck is taken care of. The feeling that tells me it is time to do this cleanse...some thing is not in balance. And then I will send and release any negative, tense energies that are still here, back to the Source...

I look forward to the scent of Sage, Sweetgrass and Lavender. The crisp, clear afterscent of a smudge reminds me of the freshening breeze coming off the ocean, sending large whitecaps to pound the shore...releasing a sharp, briny scent. It is the most cleansing scent I know.

Just what this Study in progress...there are still organizational things to do, decorating touches to add...needs.

Then I can begin anew.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Market Day

Saturday, to me, is the most relaxing day of the week. It's usually a busy day; lots of chores and projects that get piled up during the week around here are given Saturday delegation. When I say the day is relaxing, I mean that these chores have no deadlines...they are just weekend jobs, some new and some routine.

One of Graham's and my favorite Saturday routines is to go to visit the Farmer's Market here in Qualicum Beach. Other plans sometimes intrude, but we go as often as we can. So this morning, I grabbed a quick half cup of coffee and dressed; we were among some of the first people there.

Produce, meats and other items for sale sell out quickly, probably within the first hour or two of the market opening. The last time we went, we were unable to obtain any eggs, and there was limited vegetable availability. But this morning, we picked up not only eggs, but bakery items, fresh field tomatoes, beans, salad fixin's (arugula and basil!), carrots and beets. We also bought pork chops and steaks from Sloping Hill Farm...the home of Happy Island free-range Pigs. We were told the taste is entirely different from commercially produced pork.

I am one of those wishy-washy wannabe Vegans you run into every so often. The ones who spend the majority of their grocery dollars on fresh, local, organic/natural vegetables and dairy products rather than the meat or the cut of it. Meat, to me, is used as a side to the main vegetable dishes. But it, too, is preferably fresh, local and again, organic/natural. I am being drawn, more and more, to tiny meat portions and gigantic vegetable portions.

And Jackie, at the Vegan Diet blog, has some great vegetable recipes. I'm going to try her Vegan Pesto recipe tonight, with that fresh Basil I bought with the field grown Tomatoes and pasta...mmm. This is really what summertime is all about...the harvest and fruit of these wonderfully fertile fields in the area.

I also bought the first Transparent Apples I've seen this season...they won't last long, as their fate lies between the blankets of pastry of an apple pie. Graham has planted a MacIntosh Apple tree in the backyard and is hoarding his crop...he has twelve apples on his tree, all developing nicely. I don't think they will be around long enough to be made into a pie!

I'm looking forward, too, to the fall and the different displays at the Farmer's Market that will herald the change in seasons. This weekend, Sunflower and Dahlia and Gladiolus graced the market with their was Lavender who perfumed the air at our last visit. Apples and other tree fruits will take more of the centre stage, along with the Squashes, Tomatoes and Corn. It will be a feast for the eyes...all of nature's colour palette displayed with such pure abandon.

We came home and had some of those ultra-fresh eggs for breakfast, with scones and tomatoes.

At my old home, I had a large vegetable garden, almost taking for granted the taste of fresh, organic produce. If I wanted raspberries for breakfast, it took only a minute to find a bucket and fill it with the berries. I never ran out of onions or lettuce, fresh oregano or basil...they were all just a short walk down to the garden area. Blackberries, cherries, grapes and plums...they were all there, just waiting to be picked. I miss the easy convenience of having such bounty so close at hand.

I still have a garden; it is nowhere near the size of my former one. But it is just Graham and I that live here now...just the two of us. I saw the stands at the Market which were filled with jewel-like jams and jellies, pickles and relishes; I remembered my kitchen counters being stacked with look-alike jars of the beautiful gathered rewards of the generosity of Mother Nature.

There is so much to be gathered, from a large produce plot, the size that I once tended...time marches on in its inexorable way. The children are gone...and at the moment, we are empty-nesters. I am finding I have to remind myself, as I shop and I plant, that I am no longer feeding hordes of people. That space is limited; rows of different, jewel-toned lettuces are beautiful...but that Graham and I in a month of Sundays will never be able to eat that amount.

Now, instead of harvesting my own, I go to Farmer's Markets where I try all the stalls, until I find one I like...then I get to know the owner, who will in turn know me. If I make a good impression on him, he will keep his best produce for me, one of his best customers. It is the old becomes personal, when you choose a person you are drawn to to grow your food. And, in some cases now, to bake it, too.

I want my sustenance to be at least as good as my own previously grown delights, when I shop. And to me, that means local, fresh and natural (organic as much as possible) produce and dairy products.

Just like the food grown for the colourful stalls at the Qualicum Beach Farmer's Market.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Generous Protector

For the last week or so, we have received the Raccoon family as a daytime visitor.

The first time the family appeared totally surprised us...the dogs went frantic over what they perceived as very challenging behavior from unblinking, unafraid beings. One of our neighbours asked me a few days later if one of our dogs had sustained an injury...Lucky howled the place down.

It was six AM. Not a good time for dogs to tree Raccoon, if you wanted to sleep.

I thought they would leave, with the dogs' yelling holy insults, me standing a couple of feet away...what self-respecting, shy, wild animal wouldn't immediately head for the hills? They were outside the fence, in Chestnut tree, looking down with great interest, knowing they were completely safe.

But a few moments before, one of the children had almost become breakfast for was the skirmish in the back, by the pond, that gave me a heads-up. But Lucky is not called a good fortune name for nothing...the baby went free and unhurt. It would not have been a good thing for Lucky, had he hurt a Raccoon baby. Raccoons are known for their ferocity.

There were only three that I could see on this particular day. The patriarch and I had a conversation, after I quieted the dogs. I suggested it was not his place, especially in the day time when the dogs were about. He told me they were only snacking on the blackberries ripening in the August sun, on the far side of the fence.

As he stared down at me, I felt I could drown in his black eyes. I told him to be careful...I could not always be there at the right moment to rescue any stray baby. I wished him good luck as I took both dogs into the house, marveling at what a gift I had received so early in the day.

They came back the next day...five of them, this time. I was working in the garden, near the fence, when once more the dogs raised a ruckus. I saw nothing, although I could hear the odd rustle of brush, in the blackberry bushes that crowd our fence.

I put the dogs into the house and closed the door and wandered back to the work I was doing. It took just a few minutes before one Raccoon, then two...and three, four climbed to the top of the fence, watching me silently. They were perfectly balanced.

This was extraordinary! All those deep, black eyes giving my soul a message sent long rivers of flowing energy through me. And then...the Patriarch. He jumped onto the fence with a chitter, nodding his head at the youngsters, who disappeared back the way they had come...melting silently into the blackberry bushes.

We weren't far apart, he and I. As he stared at me, I had the presence of mind to ask him what he wanted to tell me. I felt no fear, just a healthy awareness of any tools I had at my easy disposal. And Raccoon felt familiar and beloved...his energy signature was very easy to re-member.

But this was a wild animal, and so I stood with my shovel at hand. We looked at each other for a long while, it seemed...that warmed, black stare, bright and unblinking, burned its way deep into me. It was a moment unlike any I have experienced before.

I searched Raccoon and his message on the 'net after the Patriarch had sinuously turned and left, gathering his children, I supposed, for the trip back to where they had come. The dogs, after marking their 101 different territories, settled down with me as I tried to decipher what Raccoon's message was.

His totem medicine is that of the Protector of Underdogs. Raccoon is asking me to give generous protection to those in need...the young, the infirm, the elderly. He is reminding me to use my ability to assist others without allowing their dependence; and that benevolence and generosity always come full circle to reward the giver.

It may be time to share my energy with some less fortunate than I. But he is also reminding me to remain balanced in all my bodies...the spiritual, mental, emotional and physical bodies. He asks that I honour myself and my beliefs. So that I have enough power to give generously to others.

I have been reminded about balance a lot lately. Articles seem to jump out at me. I think it's time to take a really aware look at integrating all my bodies, using each as a resource in differing situations. And trusting that what I give is what I'll receive.

That's pretty good stuff for an afternoon visit with the Generous Visitor, I think.