9.4.13 Back to the Future
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.