Grant me wings for this day to hold me gently and carry my spirit to a place of wisdom and hope.
Grant me wings for this day to hold me gently and carry my spirit to a place of wisdom and hope.
Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength. – Frances de Sales
However does she do it? Withstand the dangers of the forest floor? Paws trampling rough shod within inches. I cringe at how close they come to harming her. Little ones scampering the forest floor tearing at the leaf litter and digging for nourishment and treasure. Summer storms showering her with debris from the heights of the woodland canopy. She has brought joy to my path for three glorious days now. How blessed am I?! She will never see the ocean. She will never travel to far off lands. She has only one tiny place to tend to in this great big world. Whatever may come to her on this one day, she cares for it with a beauty and grace that staggers my imagination. She moves as gently with the breeze as she stands strong in her place. But how? How is it so? Has she something unseen deep within her petaled heart? yes, my love…always…my love…
I Love the way day and night, night and day, melt so softly into one another. A pure moment. Bold strength in the way everything is a silhouette as all colors fall away or are yet to be awakened. Mystery hidden in the shadows. Disguised hope of what may come next. Or a veil slipped over the glory of what has just been. If you’re not in the moment of the passing, if you see with your eyes just what I share, You are free to let go. Let your imagination fly with possibilities. Is it this one? Or that one? What has been? Or what will be? Your choice. Neither is wrong. Both are exquisite…There is only now. Whatever you choose, open your heart… don’t miss it…
“When I write of hunger, I’m really writing about love and the hunger for it, and the warmth and the love of it…and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied…and it is all one.” M.F.K. Fisher
I’m so so hungry this morning. For food? Yes and no. We hunger for so much more than sustenance. The foods we love and the foods we don’t love all have stories for us, about us. When we share a story about our food life, if you listen closely you’ll hear more than a recipe for the perfect turkey. Today I’m hungry for the food of childhood summers reminiscent of long lazy days. I want the foods that tell stories and satisfy with love even more than with calories. This week that means chocolate sheath cake!
In my family as in most there were fine cooks and simple cooks. People tell me that my Mother was a great cook. But as I remember her kitchen she didn’t cook very often and then it was food food because one should eat. She used to say – we’ll play like it’s done. By the time I was eight years old she was cooking for only the two of us. And after all, a little girl doesn’t eat that much. Once in a while she would conjure up a feast. Mostly though, we ate simple fare and spent our time on other pursuits. My Mother could tear the whole house apart when she was inspired by a project. She wasn’t afraid to try anything even if it made a horrible mess. Although Mother gave up cooking for the most part she loved food and miraculously never gained an ounce. I think she was too busy for weight. It just couldn’t get a grip on her. She moved too fast.
Later in life when I was grown and she moved more slowly, after taking her to the doctor I would ask – what would you like for lunch, Whataburger or Mexican? Mind you, we still had donuts left from our morning pre doctor stop. Without skipping a beat, she always answered – Both – and she meant it. I would make a few mild attempts at encouraging her to choose one or the other. Both, she insisted. And so, Both it was. First, we would have a sit down lunch of Mexican food where she cleaned her plate as I struggled with how full I felt. Then, I’d drive through Whataburger to pick her up a large burger, fries and coke which would be enjoyed and gone before the day was over. Mother loved food, all food. I’m not sure if it was sheer gusto for the enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life.
Or Perhaps she remembered what it was like to be without. There were times when I was a girl that work was hard for her to come by and the fridge was pretty bare. A few slices of cheese and a jar of pickles doesn’t offer a great many choices. She was so clever that she once made tomato soup from saved up ketchup packets! I assure you we never went hungry. And Mimi’s house wasn’t far away, with something always simmering on the stove. We’d leave her house with a full tummy and Tupperware laden with leftovers.
That is probably why I try to feed everything and everyone who comes near me. You think I’m kidding? Just ask anyone who’s been in my kitchen. Seriously. there’s bird seed for the wild birds. Nectar for the hummingbirds. Crumbs for the fish at the lake. Even my composted scraps are offered to the animals. They’ve been gobbled up by raccoons, opossums and coyotes now and then. Those animals, the wild ones, sneak up at night and drive the dogs crazy! Why are you at my house? Why?! Those egg shells belong to me!
Where was I…oh yes… So, although I have good strong food memories of my Mom, they aren’t so much to do with her actually cooking. For that I only have other people’s stories of her skill in the kitchen and a handful of treasured recipes. Yesterday, I baked her Chocolate Sheath Cake in the same silver pan that she always used. Ah, chocolate cake you say. That’s nice. I must have a dozen chocolate cake recipes. Wait, no, no, you don’t understand. As a girl I didn’t like chocolate. That’s right, I didn’t like chocolate. I can hear you gasping in horror. When you’re a kid chocolate is everywhere! It’s the thing! Chocolate cakes, chocolate frosting, chocolate ice cream, chocolate candy, hot chocolate, chocolate milk, chocolate is Everywhere. All I could think was – oh, chocolate, do you have anything in vanilla or maybe some refreshing lime sherbet. Why does everyone want chocolate? Are you still with me? Have you passed out and hit your head on the pavement? It was hard to be a kid who didn’t like chocolate. You’re instantly different in a rather odd sort of way. What do you mean you don’t like chocolate? Everyone likes chocolate. Not everyone. Not me. I learned not to share that part of myself, the part that other kids didn’t understand.
You will be pleased to know that I’ve grown to the point where I like chocolate fine now. A nice piece of dark chocolate after a meal is perfect and yes I can be satisfied with just one. That’s only because it’s not my be all, end all, go to food. That would be cookies! Did you hear my deep sigh of contentment. The world’s most perfect food – Cookies! No plate, fork, or napkin necessary. When things are bad and getting worse, keep a cookie in your purse! I am utterly convinced that if you slather on peanut butter and add a side of milk or maybe fruit you have a perfectly well balanced meal. When I’m having one of Those kind of days I even bake them warm for dinner. The veggies can wait until tomorrow. This terrible horrible no good very bad day will be redeemed by cookies for dinner. I’m off topic again…but seriously, cookies, I’m just saying. Now you know why one of the names I answer to is Cookie. I can live with that.
So… a Mother who didn’t cook much, creative meals now and then, a kid who doesn’t like chocolate, and cookies Rock. What does all of that have to do with my Mother’s chocolate cake? Why is It so special? Cookie, You don’t even like chocolate for goodness sakes. Chocolate Sheath Cake is one of only two cakes I recall my Mother baking. And, until I was rather grown it was the one and only form of chocolate that I liked. The only chocolatey food that made me sigh with ease and light up my face with joy. The only form of chocolate that made me like everyone else, my mother’s cake. Although these days my pantry is blessedly full and my choices are many, Mother’s Sheath cake still does that for me. Is it the chocolate? I doubt it. When it comes to chocolate I can take it or leave it. It’s my Mother, of course. She did something for me that no one else could. She loved me whether I liked chocolate or not. My first gift of unconditional irreversible love.
I don’t like chocolate. You don’t like broccoli. She doesn’t like soccer. And he doesn’t like football. Not everyone will love you unconditionally. But, we’re each lovable just as we are no matter what we don’t like to eat or to play. Jack is different from Huckleberry is different from Ellie is different than Bo. My Ellie girl loves cookies just like me! Huckleberry is crazy for cheese, all kinds, and pancakes. Bo is a bacon aficionado. And Jack j juice box, well, Jack likes a little taste of everything. Don’t you Jack? I love the ways they aren’t like each other. I love the silly things that only they can do. We needn’t hide that which makes us different. Rather, share it and see how much fun there is in another way. Bo doesn’t like rough play so he climbs up on the picnic table and watches instead. The other dogs like him just the same.
From time to time when I’m hungry for something more, for something undefined, then I bake Sheath cake. My Mother’s cake in my Mother’s pan. I love the way the lid slides on and off. It gives a satisfying click when it’s closed up all the way. I love the window that lets me peek through to see the goodness inside. I love to leave a fork in the pan so I can easily snag a bite every single time I walk through the kitchen. No, it doesn’t last very long that way. But yes, if you should arrive before I’ve polished it off I will share with you, from the opposite non fork side, of course. When the pan empties, I’m good. I’ll go months without making it or even thinking about it. Then all of a sudden I am missing something… hungry for something I cannot quite define. A secret anniversary of the heart perhaps.
There is food that fills our tummy. There is food that provides a well balanced diet. Then, there’s the food that speaks to your heart. Whatever yours is, eat it slowly, savor the taste of it, recall its story, and please, share it with someone you love.
Chocolate Sheath Cake
In a bowl mix
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
In a saucepan bring to a boil
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup shortening
4 Tablespoons cocoa
1 cup water
Pour over dry ingredients and mix
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
Mix well and pour into a greased 9×13 pan
Bake at 400 for 30 minutes
Five minutes before the cake is ready make the icing
In a saucepan melt
1/2 cup butter
4 Tablespoons cocoa
6 Tablespoons milk
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans
Pour the thin hot icing over the hot cake.
May your day be enchanted and ever so bright, filled with magical surprises meant to delight…
May you happen upon a tiny feast set just right, fit for the fairies and their sweet friends the sprites…
May you be touched by the whimsy of midsummer’s eve night, dance a jig neath the moon and its silvery light…
And whatever may come with the dawn of the day, may you always be loved as as you wander your way.
Spring turns to summer in Texas! Really? Are you sure? Because, I won’t fib, today mostly feels the same as yesterday. Ellie rules the roost. Period. No ifs ands or buts. Jack is going at his regular breakneck pace looking for our next big adventure. And Bo rests his head in my lap trying desperately to be adorable so I’ll share my last bite of buttered toast. He loves butter almost as much as cheetos. Even Dobby is getting along splendidly. He’s a very new story for another day. Sigh. How do they find me? Nevertheless seasons change and my daily life changes with them. There’s not much to see really. If the calendar doesn’t remind me that today is the day, how would I even know. Most of us are so far removed from the natural world these days that the changing seasons don’t mean as much as they once did. The turning itself is something though. Spring is new! We’ve waited and tended and worked. New is upon us! Spring is a time of flowers, Passover, Easter, and graduations of one kind and another. We look to each of these as transformative moments. None of them lasts very long. But each asks us to reflect on what has been, to celebrate it, often to let it go. Make way for what’s next.
When someone graduates do you honor their hard work and accomplishment or do you encourage them towards their dreams as they move forward. Honestly, you probably do both. Still, the celebrations and festivities we most associate with spring are at their core about profound transformation. How fascinating to me that a single ceremony, a single calendar day can pass quietly before us and yet we are supposed to feel that somehow Now things are different. I am no longer this. Instead…I am this…new, different. It’s an odd moment I think, and it takes me a while to catch up with the meaning of it. Sometimes all we can do is move through it, letting it be what it is. We instill such grand importance on what we deem to be the big things in life. A festival has taken place. Life is new! Isn’t it?
Towards the end of winter branches are bare and the world is rather gray. Suddenly the air warms up a tad and there are a dozen shades of green everywhere you look. The flower bud closed so tight against the world one day changes its mind and opens its heart in blossom. It’s true then I suppose that all things transform and renew in a moment that we may not even see. We are not misguided in our hopes for the future, our dreams of the new. But, we look too hard for the change itself. We want to see it and know it. We want to pencil it on a calendar with a date and time. We will arrive early to get a good seat. Our camera will be at hand to capture the perfect moment. The moment of change. We’ll be there with bells on. And we won’t miss anything.
We expect too much from the big moment. In the expecting we miss the beauty of what is real. Those things that change us the most usually arrive without fanfare. They can surprise us with either joy or sorrow and are almost never captured in a photograph. They are the unseen flowers that dwell in your heart. There are plenty of things I keep track of by calendar so as not to forget them. Others are so much a part of me I couldn’t forget them if I tried. Those are my own anniversaries of the heart. Mine alone. There are more of them with each passing year. My heart is tending a garden while I am otherwise occupied.
So, it’s rather fitting that as spring turns to summer there isn’t much to see. In fact, I almost missed it. Until, I headed out the door for a nice stretch of the legs. I walk partially because my sweet but energetic four legged companions demand it. Into the woods. Over the fallen log. A joyful splash through the creek. The sky open wide before me as I hit the field. No ceremonies. No festivals. No expectations. Just an unremarkable moment. The wind whispers through the trees telling me the story of the spring and its passing away. Clouds float overhead transforming as I watch. Shifting effortlessly from one form to another easily letting go of the last one to make way for the next knowing it will be different…but wonderful nevertheless.
I reflect on what has been. It’s the small things I recall. Early morning feedings of a tiny new life. Quietly starting wordpress on one of my own anniversaries of the heart. Being humbled and surprised when someone takes time to read my thoughts. Too many walks to count. Waiting. Simple adventures. Pie! Jack j juice box, as cute as a box of juice! Then like the seasons ask of me, I let go and turn forward to what summer may be. Hopefully an abundance of morning glories. Reading and writing amidst the daily necessities. Certainly there will be sorrow too but I’ll take that as it comes, as gently as I can.
As surely as there will be mosquitoes and poison ivy and very hot days, there will also be iced tea on the porch swing, lazy evenings listening to the frogs, and my annual reading of Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Tucked in among it all is a new anniversary of the heart waiting to be discovered. Perhaps I’ll know it when I see it. Probably not though. Moments like that are far more quiet than jack is when he begs to be noticed. When I’m not looking it will gently take root in the ever growing garden of my heart. And there it will be, waiting. One day it will flower before my eyes and I’ll wonder at the newness of it and how beautifully different everything is than it was just moments ago.
The sun. Our sun, is a star. A star is a star through and through, inside and out. It doesn’t have to decide what it will be. It doesn’t question what it is. A star just rests in its own innate starness. It does not shine for me or for the earth. It does not fret over what it will do today. It radiates warmth and nourishment because that is the nature of what it is, to only and always give from the center of itself. Or maybe, it does shine for both me and the earth and that is one more thing I just don’t know. What if the shining and the warmth and all the goodness of it is like a beacon reaching out across all that we cannot see as an act of love to its own love. What if the two each moved to close the distance between them in deep affection for one another. Would we be blinded by their oneness? Would they lose themselves sweetly in each other? What if they shine for each other, not us, and we simply benefit from their gift of love? We come into this earthly world where there are five senses, taste, touch, smell, vision and hearing. From start to finish in this life, we are called upon to let go, give up, give away. In this world, one can lose any of the five of the senses. We don’t much like to think about that. When you are faced with such a loss, do you reach out to understand it or do you turn away a bit fearfully? Then, there’s Love… I wonder, could love be a sense as taste and touch are senses? Could it? Perhaps, it is the one and only sense of our soul. The only thing needed for a soul to find its way. Soul, the unseen at the heart of who we are. We experience life through vision and hearing and such. But when we are born into this earthly way of being we bring love with us too. It is not something easily explained. It is more something indescribable deep within our nature. Love sits at the edges of all that we do waiting patiently for our hearts to open to the sweet truth it offers. Maybe we bring the only thing, the only sense, a soul can bring into this world, Love. And as the love of one awakens in the love of another it sparkles and bounces joyfully from here to there and back again. But, the more we grow into an earthly way of seeing and doing we forget what the oneness of love can be. Not do. Be. We are always like the star. Our shining is never outside of us. Our warmth is not in an other. It is forever inside of us. We simply forget that sometimes. It is in the forgetting that we suffer as we look outwardly for something to touch us and give us the gift of love. The rich blessing that we seek is deep within all along. You love another just because you do. You cannot help it. We mistakenly think we need something from them in return. But you don’t. Imagine anyone that you have ever loved. If time or space or circumstance kept you apart, would you stop loving them? We forget, I think, what love really is. We tend to think of love through the eyes of this world as something we can acquire and hold. Love isn’t like that. Love is like being a star inside and out. Through and through. We tell ourselves that we must see or touch someone to love them. We don’t though. Seeing and hearing are of this world and this body. Love is of the soul. Love is so much bigger than all of the five senses put together! A beautiful enormous invisibility that is hard to even imagine. So glorious in it’s brightness that like our star, the sun, it is impossible to look at it straight on. Simply close your eyes and feel the warmth of it. Be very still and quiet. Remember the only sense of the soul. Love. Love, that comes with us and stays with us even when we forget to know it. Waiting tenderly to be awakened. Learn to let go of the world, remember what you are at heart… soul created from love to love. Then… it is enough to know.