9.4.13 Back to the Future

Crab 790 xxx
iphotos by gluttonforlife
September has arrived and with it that bittersweet feeling full of nostalgia for the sweetness of summer, charged with anticipation for the fresh start that is fall. How I've missed you! This post will probably be a bit longer than usual because, in my month off, I have stored up so much to tell you.

I had many plans for the month of August, a long list of projects and goals. I wanted to make natural dyes. I was going to send out a survey to my readers. I had every intention of uploading all the content for the launch of my redesigned professional website. And guess what I did? None of that. Instead, I coped with having 5 herpes outbreaks in 6 weeks: a glaring sign from my body that all is not right. But your life is so perfect! you say. Country living, fresh food, walks in the woods—what could possibly be wrong? Actually, I am grateful for this wakeup call. I have clearly been pushing myself too hard, not taking the time to nurture myself and not really listening to my inner voice. You know the one. It tells us when we have reached our limit, when it is time for change.
Claw 790 xxx
clawing my way
I have had herpes for 28 years. It really put a cramp in my style when I got it at 22, but it turned out to be very valuable because it made me much more attuned to my body. For anyone not familiar with this virus (about 1 in 5 people in the country have it, although 85% are unaware they do), those of us who suffer recurrent outbreaks must know our triggers, including stress, excessive sunlight, certain foods (chocolate, nuts) and hormonal changes, among others. Over the years, the virus has been more active in me at certain times, though my outbreaks have become limited to a single small sore at the base of my spine.

I hope this is not making you uncomfortable. Sexually transmitted diseases still carry such a heavy stigma that, even though so many people suffer from this particular one, it's rarely talked about openly. Most people who know me are aware that I have it but I do feel a little exposed with such a public declaration. Anyway, it's part of my story and I really do think it's relevant here.

Ultimately, the successive, recurrent outbreaks of the last couple of months were like a slap in the face. I had thought I was fine, handling the heavy load of responsibilities I have accrued, but when I really slowed things down and took a good look, I realized that I was not fine at all. I was doing too much. I was moving too fast. A perfect example is the way I was planning to spend my month "off"—accomplishing a long list of tasks. That is not resting. That is not recharging.

And so I took a giant step back, inhaled a rich, deep breath and...cried my eyes out. I was on a walk in the woods when the sobs erupted and they stopped me in my tracks. I actually went over to a huge pine tree and wrapped my arms around it for support. Its solidity comforted me. Eventually, I dried my tears and resumed my walk. I allowed myself to think about what I really need to be happy, what success means to me now and how I want to live going forward.

Here's what I discovered: I want to do less. And I want to do more of what brings me joy. (I was thrilled to confirm to myself that this blog is one of those things!)

I read an interview recently with Mandy Patinkin, in which he said "Comparison leads to violence," and this resonated with me. I will keep trying not to compare myself to others but forge my own path with grace and compassion.
Crab apples1 790 xxx
found objects
Although I was coping with pain and grief, and deeply immersed in thinking about my situation, I had a real vacation. I didn't do any of those things on my list. But I did gather many pounds of gorgeous, rosy crabapples from a friend's tree.
Rose hips 790 xxx
comely hips
And I picked tons of juicy, ripe rosehips when I was on Cape Cod. I took long walks on the dunes in misty, grey weather with my husband. One morning we went to Provincetown for breakfast, then came home to our beautiful cottage and stayed in bed reading under the covers and napping for the rest of the day. Heaven.
Fox grapes 790 xxx
dark beauties
I gathered fox grapes and wild marjoram flowers on our lake property in Forestburgh.

I made crabapple and rose hip jelly—the most gorgeous scarlet color on earth! I made sweet corn ice cream with a swirl of blackberries. I pickled okra with smoky pimentón. I made endless pitchers of cold cucumber soup and gazpacho. I made apricot jam with their almondy kernels. I froze bag after bag of fresh berries. I dried heaps of herbs from the garden—mint, anise hyssop, wild bergamot, lemon balm, verbena, lavender.
Reishi 790 xxx
natural medicine
And I began what I hope will be an excellent mushroom-foraging season with these beautiful reishi, which I plan to dry and use for their medicinal properties. These and other wild mushrooms are excellent antivirals used in the treatment of herpes.
Tomato sauce 790 xxx
I have returned to cranial-sacral therapy, a wonderfully subtle and powerful modality that helped me tremendously when I herniated a disc in my neck 6 years ago. And I signed up for a course in MBSR - Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction; for 8 weeks, I will attend class every Thursday night in Manhattan. It's a big commitment but I'm excited at the prospect of giving myself what I need: time, support, healing, love, peace.

A dear friend recently sent me something I want to share with you. I hope you have the time to read it; if not, try to come back when you do as I think it will make an impact on you.

When a woman in certain African tribes knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together they pray and meditate until they hear the song of the child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration to express its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone else. 

When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child's song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child's song. When the child passes through the initiation into adulthood, the people again come together and sing. At the time of marriage, the person hears his or her song. Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the person's bed, just as they did at their birth, and they sing the person on to the next life.

There is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around him or her. Then they sing their song.

The tribe recognizes that the correction for antisocial behavior is not punishment; it is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another.

A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty; and your purpose when you are confused.

You may not have grown up in an African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transitions, but life is always reminding you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn't. Just keep singing and you'll find your way home. 

Elderberries 790 xxx
home grown

So don’t roll your eyes with mock disgust or feel inadequate when I tell you about the jelly I made from my foraged crabapples and rose hips. Don't use my life as a reason to disparage your own. Remember your song and sing it out. Add your precious melody to the great beautiful cacophony we all create together. 

What can I tell you? The earth moves and we must constantly make little adjustments to keep up. If we are lucky, growth and change never end. The pain of digging down deep into yourself is rewarded with the sweet nectar of truth. 

And speaking of sweet nectar, look what I made from the elderberry trees growing in our garden...


Elderberry Syrup

makes about 4 cups

To use the elderberry syrup, give one to two teaspoons at the first sign of a cold, sore throat, flu or other viral illness. The dose can be repeated every two to three hours. Please note that honey should not be given to children under 2 years old.
  • — 3-4 pounds ripe elderberries
  • — 1 cup raw local honey, or more, to taste

As soon as possible after picking, gently remove elderberries from their stems, using a fork or your fingers. Discard any unripe, wrinkled, or moldy berries.
 Place berries in a colander and rinse thoroughly in cool water.

Place berries in a large stockpot over medium heat and crush with a potato masher to release juice, stirring occasionally. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.

Pour mixture into a jelly bag or cheesecloth-lined sieve, set over a large bowl. Allow juice to drip into bowl for several hours, or overnight, until the dripping stops completely. Press or squeeze very gently to release additional juice.

Measure 3 cups of juice into a large saucepan. Add up to 1/2 cup water if necessary to make the proper amount of juice. Bring to a gentle simmer and remove from heat. Stir in honey.

Cool slightly, then pour syrup into clean glass jars and store in refrigerator. Syrup will keep in the fridge through the winter.

Download recipe  Download Recipe


Another incredible post, Laura! You are an earth maven for us all. Thank you for seeking peace and beauty. I feel lucky to read your words!
Britt on September 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm —
Thanks for the support, Britt! xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 1:37 pm —
welcome back. i missed your blog. wonderful post....unbeknowst to me, i think i needed the story about the african tribe--perfect timing.
nikki on September 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm —
I think we all need that story, wherever we are, Nikki...xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 1:38 pm —
Glad to have you back--your realness is always refreshing, and what a bounty of inspiring fruit!
val on September 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm —
Yes, the fruit took some of the sting out of the month! xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm —
Contemplating all the same questions after two weeks away from a job that is taking more from me than it is giving. Ironically a job in mental health. What do I really want in my life, and for my life as I prepare to crest my 50th birthday -- and am I brave enough to hear it? About that time in my commute this morning, driving through GG Park, a coyote ran in front and across my way.... Not sure what that means...but since I have never seen one in the five years of driving the same route at the same time...I don't think I can just chalk it up to being a random event. Thanks for your post today. Thinking it's not a random event either. xo
Vennie Bobis on September 4, 2013 at 2:07 pm —
Hmmm...an important figure in Native American mythology, the coyote is most often a clever trickster - sometimes mean, sometimes heroic. He is engaged in changing the ways of rivers, the standing of mountains and creating new landscapes. Perhaps he is a harbinger of change for you. Get ready, 'cause here it comes. xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 2:22 pm —
Cheers to an honest and vulnerable blog. It is a reminder to me to be grateful for what I have and how we all have a personal struggle. xo Robert
Robert on September 4, 2013 at 3:39 pm —
Thanks, Robert, it's good to be among friends. xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm —
the glutton is back! and with such a beautiful post! thank you xo
stephanie on September 4, 2013 at 4:24 pm —
amazing, amazing post. feels like a gift. thank you.
Beth Kinder on September 4, 2013 at 5:11 pm —
Thank you, Beth. What a lovely thing to say!
laura on September 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm —
Welcome back Cousin and thank you for this post. Keep on singing.
Fred on September 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm —
So glad to know you're still out there, Cousin! xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm —
I, 2, am OUT about a strange Malaysian virus called HIV. You go, girlina.
Roy on September 4, 2013 at 6:54 pm —
Live long and prosper, Roy! xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm —
Beautiful, honest post. So glad the blog is one of the things you love and want to continue. Loved the story of the African tribe. Welcome back!
maria on September 4, 2013 at 6:56 pm —
Thanks, Maria! Great to have you here. xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 7:14 pm —
So good to have you back and what a great post. I agree about forging a life of compassion sans comparison. I try to do this everyday and some days my ego stays in check and I can hear my song rise above the noise. BTW, I'm writing this from the deck of a rental cabin over looking the Alsea River with the Siuslaw National Forest in the background. Watching heron, cormorant and others hunt the waters. Hoping to catch site of a beaver or two. A retreat is necessary to gain peace and perspective. SInce you mentioned Mandy Patinkin here is one of the best interviews I've ever heard from an actor! I was in tears and nodding my head in agreement with so much of what he said. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLc-qxF-Gxc Wishing yo all the best with your new plan of action! XO
Suzinn Weiss on September 4, 2013 at 7:13 pm —
I look forward to watching it - he'd got s lot of wisdom for a man named Mandy! Enjoy your retreat - it sounds wonderful. xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 7:17 pm —
Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post! Welcome back.
Emily Herrick on September 4, 2013 at 8:36 pm —
Thank YOU so much for being here, Emily!
laura on September 4, 2013 at 9:05 pm —
Once again, you are a true inspiration. Beautiful, beautiful! Welcome back.
Tanya on September 4, 2013 at 8:52 pm —
Thanks, T! xo
laura on September 4, 2013 at 9:05 pm —
Thanks for your openness, Laura..good for all of us to read..and love the combination—herpes and berries....it's all life! xo Julie
Julie Gross on September 4, 2013 at 9:35 pm —
Yes, it's all jumbled up together! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:50 pm —
Here's to finding the right note(s), at the right time(s). Sing your life! xo BB
Barbara on September 5, 2013 at 7:27 am —
Tra la la la la!! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm —
Aahh--everything back in place. Thank you for a grand re-entrance.
janet on September 5, 2013 at 8:34 am —
hello! missed you. so nice to hear your voice. thank you for sharing both stories. much love g
g on September 5, 2013 at 9:22 am —
G! Miss you xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm —
I never roll my eyes when I look at what I do sometimes perceive as your "perfect life" - but I have to confess the inadequacy part is right on! Thank you for stopping me in my tracks once again. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address it. Isn't it a wonder that so often grace, humor, beauty, genius, and the deepest love can all come from hidden and wounded places. And yet we (well, I) go on thinking that one has to arrange the ducks all in a row before starting to do one's best work. Gosh you're a damn good teacher, girl.
Mirena on September 5, 2013 at 11:40 am —
But I feel like a student!! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm —
Welcome back, Laura. What a lovely post! You are a continued source of inspiration - thanks, Rob
Rob on September 5, 2013 at 12:07 pm —
Thanks, Rob - hope you have been enjoying your summer! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:47 pm —
Oh, how I've missed your posts. I love this so much. Welcome back, and thank you.
Jennifer Hess on September 5, 2013 at 1:27 pm —
I love knowing you're out there! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:48 pm —
It is a blessing to be learning the notes to your melody. And as always, learning to sing any song only helps us to recognize our own.
Sara on September 5, 2013 at 1:56 pm —
Thanks for helping me find my way, Coach! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:49 pm —
Welcome back, Laura, your honesty and mindfulness are inspiring (in a non-comparing kind of way)! D. xo
David on September 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm —
Merci, David! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:48 pm —
LOVE! xoxoxo
Ann Enkoji on September 5, 2013 at 2:36 pm —
Back atcha, Ann! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:51 pm —
"I want to do less. And I want to do more of what brings me joy." I agree. I took on too much activity this summer and not enough relaxation. It was the opposite of replenishment, and I learned an important lesson from it. Thanks for your reflections.
licia on September 5, 2013 at 5:42 pm —
Sounds like your fall will be much more fun. xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:52 pm —
What a symphony this post is, thank you for your candor. It was like a bowl of comfort food. I too have found solice in the arms of a tree, feeling its strength and wisdom from its roots. I am now in the midst of finding my notes to sing my song and listening quietly so that I may hear others!
bonnie on September 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm —
So glad to hear you're on a good path, Bonnie!
laura on September 5, 2013 at 7:53 pm —
I hear you. I really hear you! Your sharing is so beautiful, personal, and speaks to the heart of so many of us, certainly those of us at a particular age. Thank you. I love the story of a personal song. We lose this in our culture, have to make our own along the way. I'm so blessed to know you even as little as I do. xo
tamika on September 5, 2013 at 8:03 pm —
In your comment, I hear a fragment of my song - thank you! xo
laura on September 5, 2013 at 8:08 pm —
Laura, I've enjoyed following your blog for a few months now, and really appreciate the vulnerability and reflection you bring into this posting. I also lost my spouse, less than two years ago, and deeply appreciate your journey. You nailed it with your site name...I can relate on many levels to what you are doing, experiencing and sharing. Warm regards.
Tom on September 6, 2013 at 1:12 am —
Thank you for the empathy, Tom. I wish you all the best on your healing journey. xo
laura on September 6, 2013 at 7:59 am —
Thanks Laura. A thoughtful and humbling post. Like many others, I'm glad to have you back.
Jim on September 6, 2013 at 3:22 am —
I'm glad we can connect on the virtual plane, Jim! xo
laura on September 6, 2013 at 8:00 am —
Welcome back! And thank you for a wonderful thought-provoking post. Lots to think about there. I feel very blessed indeed to have a crew of friends who know my song and bring me back to myself. Often I don't realize how untethered I'm feeling until they do. Aaahhh. Yes, my tasks for August remain undone as well. I was going to write a new piece in July and shoot it in August. Here it is September and I'm maybe half-way through a very rough first draft. Lots to learn. A bittersweet summer - taking care of my beloved Moji as she was dying. With the help of a wonderful holistic vet we had more, and better, time than I had expected. I treasured every day of it. Also, taking care of my mother, in ways she sometimes wasn't thrilled about - I took away her car, among other things, much to her fury and grief. Thank God for the garden, always a respite. I realized the other day that I hadn't been in the produce section of a supermarket all summer. So great. I love this time of year as well. I'm not Jewish, but I do kind of borrow the High Holy Days as a time of pondering and renewal. xoxoxo
Eliza on September 6, 2013 at 12:31 pm —
Thanks for sharing, Eliza. I'm so glad your garden has become a refuge! xo
laura on September 6, 2013 at 12:56 pm —
Thank you for the honesty of this post. I have a friend struggling with the shame of her recent diagnosis of herpes. Sing your song through the suffering. Sending you loving kindness.
sarah on September 9, 2013 at 11:27 am —
Thanks, Sarah! I'm sure your friend is lucky to have your support. xo
laura on September 10, 2013 at 12:38 am —
I've missed your lovely posts - so glad you are back!
Peggy on September 10, 2013 at 1:39 pm —
Thanks for being here with me, Peggy! xo
laura on September 10, 2013 at 2:59 pm —
Just read this post and it took my breath away. Those are mighty wise words, inspiring. Glad you are going to keep singing your song for all of us out here!
Alex on September 27, 2013 at 5:47 pm —
Laura, my childhood playmate, your blog is inspiring. I loved the story of the African Song. In our culture, we do not have our own song, however, I know when we heard certain songs they always remind us of someone in our life. I feel blessed to have "found" you. I am forwarding a link to your site to my mother who I know will enjoy it much as I am.
Celeste on September 29, 2013 at 1:52 pm —
So thrilled to reconnect with you, Celeste! And thank you for taking the time to visit me here. I hope Pat will, too! xo
laura on September 29, 2013 at 2:09 pm —