Monday, June 29, 2009
So I polished a broadsword or two and made something tasty without the appliance - Chinese Sesame Chicken. With extra red pepper. I think I need to read up before I call the appliance warranty people again. Apparently, they've read Sun Tzu's "The Art of War" and are following this advice.
"All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near. Hold out baits to entice the enemy. Feign disorder, and crush him."
- Sun Tzu, the Art of War
But despite their efforts, they haven't won the war. I'm eating quite well with alternative cooking means.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
On my days off, I'd prefer to do my living, now, quietly in the moment or like today, making a few things from the kitchen to share and then driving into the city to see friends.
We too often pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that we blow right by it. In the adult pursuit of bigger and better, we fail to stop and just look at what we have right here as we pass by it, things hidden by the layers of indifference casually tossed on us by others, dreams gathering dust while we toil to somehow make our world conform to what we are told it's expected to be. And everything in a hurry. Maybe it's the specter of mortality, maybe it's just this new generation of entitlement that's trying to nudge us out of the way, but people seem to want to have everything now. No one seems willing to consider that the time it takes to make it is what makes the final product taste so sweet.
I'm one of the few women I know that cooks. Almost everything is available at the store, prepackaged. People have forgotten how good simple, real food is; the chewy tang of sourdough, a pan seared steak, garlic and deep rose wine, and the snap of a green bean fresh from the garden. The depth of a cheese, the warmth of a swallow of rich liquid, the burst of juice from a single strawberry.
Maybe it's from the days of flying small airplanes that I learned to savor life, perhaps it's just the process of becoming slowly born that is coming into midlife. But flying certainly. You really learn to appreciate the slowness, the stillness of a day in a small taildragger. Moments in such a craft where you literally stand still aloft, sometimes a sense of where your craft is in relation to the earth, sometimes with a stiff enough headwind and a small enough engine, for real. The flight may be minutes or it may be hours, but in a tiny little two seat aircraft, with the steady drone of the dependable, little Lycoming guiding your way, you simply drift along in the clouds, within yourself. Up ahead is the horizon, and you know it's your destiny to reach it, you've planned the flight and loaded the gas, you've set your heart and soul upon its reaching. What you expect to greet you is up ahead of you in the blue, and it only remains for your little plane to follow.
In a small airplane, the sky will give you time, since the sky, although changing, is still eternal. There's no rush; you keep the horizon in your window but still look down, savoring the journey. The tumbled landscapes of glacier stone, and great pristine rivers, thin as a strand of pearls from up here. It's like the unhurried sense you get on a day-long road trip; time filled with the immaculate sameness of hours bathed in the sun's warm honey. Anything that really requires your mind, the engine setting, a scan for traffic, occurs in brief, unhurried intervals. Your vehicle continues on to your destination, carrying you with it, carrying your thoughts as you forge ahead, of tears, of laughter you've not known since youth, of love, of mechanical, rhythmic memories of the past that you carried with you as you started this journey.
Those memories are not always happy ones, which is part of the trip you will make. As the miles flow past, you realize that when you are young, no one really tells you the truth about love. About coming into your heart and what it means. And even harder, the memory long ago of the one person you were expected to share those things with, but could no longer. Especially in a vehicle on a rushed trip you didn't want to make. Talking matter of factly about how life has formed you as you've flown through the years, seemed banal, like proving a right angle or finding the equal distance between two lives. The two lane highway rose slowly into the foothills of the mountains as you tried to navigate through a silence that carried with it the weight of a dead end. Staring straight ahead, you saw the fields clutching onto the skeletons of flowers that long ago died, of bare, windswept trees, and clusters of burrs that stick to everything with a tiny pinprick of pain. Things were sticking to you. You didn't have a thing to say. Not that it mattered. For you had lost your voice years ago.
All that was left was the lack of words as you opened the window to carry the silence into the wind. Wind that would carry that moment to where it would simply bounce off the landscape like a piece of discarded trash, delicate, crumpled tissue best left to be disintegrated by time. Better left behind as the sun began to relax on what would be your renewed journey; the road pulling away from discarded thought, the highway lines breaking up like Morse Code as you moved forward. Moved away from that day, that particular road, til it is long behind you.
Soon nothing is left but the memories that you are making now, that you hold tight to you, moving on into new skies, open roads. Time ticks past as the diorama of your life unfolds in the window up ahead, the rush of the world, fast food, fast life, suspended for a few hours. The pace of your travels will drop you into an unhurried state of motion, where you won't get near any speed limits, but you'll feel as if you've lived twice as long and experienced twice as much.
It's been a few months since I've been up in a small airplane, but I remember it well, especially that moment when the day sky matured into dusk. It had been a hectic few months of work and the sameness of schedules, and I just needed to get out and feel the wind on my face, and watch the stars come out from their hiding spots. The point was not to get to anyplace fast. The point wasn't even really to get anyplace. I think Heraclitus, of whose writings are only left fragmentary remains, said it better than I, expressing the nature of reality as flux in words, the way I'd express them in flight tonight.
That night, I needed some quiet change, a break from my labors, a journey forward - back into myself. I'd taken off from a small town airport, with no agenda but to see my day translated before me in the small windshield of my plane. Soaring over fields of plenty, the landscape one of infinite calm, shadows deepening, blurring the margin of cornfield and sky, the rising moon popped out from an opening break in the clouds. The space that held the moon widened and I could see the beginnings of stars, close enough to clasp in my hand.
Mark Twain said in Huckleberry Finn "We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars, and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them and discuss about whether they was made or only just happened". But I know they were made. Made to serve as tiny points of light to guide a distant traveler back home. As the day set behind me, I slowed and turned back towards the strip while some light remained, utter silence now other than the song of the engine. Wind in my face from a little side window I popped ajar, I felt one with the air. It felt like all life, all my past, my future was contained in this sky and I'm not just passing through it but I'm part of it. It's one of the most contented, coherent moments one can experience,
The moon was halfway up the sky, as I got back to the airport, its light and the remaining daylight providing the guidance I needed to to land at the little country strip. As the wheels gently kissed the ground, the day changing into night, my breathing was slowed in true rest. As I secured my little red craft in the hangar for the night, I touched the cowling of the engine. It was warm, as was my soul. I took a big drink of water from the remaining bottle, felt it quench something in me. Realizing I was hungry, I took a small square of darkest chocolate from my pocket and placed it in my mouth, it melted on the heat of my tongue, as I stood still, my hand on the engine cowl, feeling it cool, wondering how I ever thought life was complicated. Wondering why I ever worried that I had to hurry to get where I was going, for where I was headed was within me all of the time. It's Sunday and I have to work early in the morning. Soon, like myself on that night, you too will have to return to work, to the sameness of life, to deadlines, but for tonight, there is no rush. We need those moments alone, those hours in the air, those miles of open road. Those times of solitude, for souls like us, are simple moments of inwardness. In our simple code of life, quietness and remoteness stand guard over courage heightened by change. This is our own compass north, the self in isolation, resolve, depth, emotion, thought and reason held in, until they are amplified within our being, becoming music to life's unhurried journey.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Have you any wool?
Yes Sir! Yes Sir!
Three bags full.
It's not much different than taking that first solo in an airplane. . You have been given the tools, you have the capabilities. But it's the fear of the what you don't know that holds you back, while upward something enticing but new beckons. You've learned through your lessons, that the sky is sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious. Flying can be just efficient transportation or something almost spiritual in it's quiet, divine in it's vastness. And frankly, you're just a little afraid of it at this point.
But you couldn't resist the siren call and now it's time for your first solo. So you gingerly taxi away from your instructor, who is probably as nervous as you are, and you turn your eyes upward, and drink the air and breath the light and and make that first leap. And the beauty and the vastness of possibility hits you and the exhilaration of all that awaits takes your breath away. And life is suddenly fuller because you can do something you never ever thought you could do. Anything new can be daunting. Reloading was for me at first. Now I stand in the shop in my garage/shop area, a vast cavern of a space with hot and cold water and lights and tools. The fan is blowing my hair and I concentrate, yet my mind is completely open to thought. The soft hush of my movement, the sounds of the press, stabilize into a gentle inaudible song with just the occasional background chorus of the the world far away, and I am lulled into a quietness of efficiency.
Some would say it's a dull way to spend an evening. I find it a totally relaxing way to spend some time. I'm not out in my little plane, but I'm just as relaxed. It's not that much different from that first solo in that little open cockpit plane. I have goggles over my eyes and my hands move in rhythmic efficiency while somewhere the person who taught me grins, knowing the craft continues.
It's a nice, cost effective way to wind down after a long day. As the light starts to dim, I simply bask in the brisk pace of creating something, clouds outside disbanding with the disinterest of late day and the view out my little shop door looking out to the trail of someones little airplane up above. A first flight for someone perhaps? The plane moves onward through the evening, vanishing upward like the smoke from an expended cartridge.
But I was tempted to get some of their nifty egg molds to make fried eggs that looked like guns.
But some mornings I have trouble making eggs that look like EGGS.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
A very long day. There are no words in me tonight. But there is room for grilled steak. :-)
No marinade, no special handling. Just the best quality locally grown range beef, grilled outside on a small, old-fashioned grill, with just a bit of salt.
Sometimes you don't want a meal that needs special handling, side dishes or a teleprompter, you just want honest substance.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
I also noticed the number of birdhouses that seem to have sprung up around the range. As well as the number of birds.. There's this number - purchased pre-made, then hand stenciled, to be occupied by a couple of sparrows.
Then there is the Habitat for Humanity birdhouse which was made by hand. Not luxurious perhaps, but out closer to the woods, providing a well built, albeit plain, home for someone that needs it.
But no matter what you provide, there are those that just loiter. Just hanging around the front porch to see who might give them a handout, or a vacant pond of water.
Of course, there are the squatters. There in my Southern Living planter on the front porch. (she hatched two eggs a few weeks ago). It's bird central around here now.
But like my friends, those freshly hatched or battle scarred, residing in new houses or just scraping by where it's warm, I look at what is central to them. Not the outward feathers, squawks or trappings, but what it is that drives them home, what it is that makes them unique, there beneath the sharp beak and defensive colorings. What makes them part of my daily life.
Birds fill my horizon, and surround my home Most of the birds I can recognize, sparrows, my favorite the Cardinal and the occasional dove. Birds vary in more ways than species and color. Study them long enough, and you'll see the different ways in which they eat, and what they won't eat. Look where they sleep, is it high up in a tree, or snuggled down in low covering, with the small tender plants pulled in around them like a blanket. You can study them by when they eat the most, a hearty breakfast or a quick bit of avian fast food and a late day buffet in a field. So many ways, the shape and size of the nest, if there is one, their connection to the nearest body of water, or a broad patch of open sky, if there is one, and to what degree that nearness is necessary for survival. To some the nearness is more important than we realize. Yet in all their differences they all fly on the same winds, that takes them to their desires. As do we all.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
If you're having one of THOSE weeks, I suggest you go look for that 8 x 8 pan now.
It's been a hectic week. I'm covering for someone in an advanced position for a few months, I guess we can call it a "temporary Grissom" position. Less field work, less travel, definitely less people going "hey, didn't I see you on TV last night?" which is a nice break, but a lot more stress at least for the next couple of months.
Add to that a few mornings of barfing dog (it appears the new brand of dog biscuit given before bed did not agree with him), all over light beige carpet (completely ignoring all the hardwood and tile floors of course). He's fine now, but I'll have to change his name to Barfley.
Some last minute travel this week, another flight to catch tonight, and time is short. However I can offer you this advice. If you are ever out and about and see this brand of chocolate chips., from the oldest family owned chocolate company in the U.S. . . . . BUY THEM. Make these - Brownies Fast and Easy. If you have one of those little disposable foil pans, a tiny stove and a tiny oven in your tiny hotel kitchen you can make these brownies in a little more than half an hour. They're harder to find, but Guittard also makes an extra dark chocolate chip that's great in cookies.
As the incomparable Jay G would say. That is all.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Man, his other traits notwithstanding, biologically considered, is simply the most formidable of all the beasts of prey, and, indeed, the only one that preys systematically on its own species. A thug or a professional criminal has disassociated himself from humanity and views us simply as a hawk views a sparrow. We are prey. A woman, with her smaller size and perceived timidity, is considered easy prey.
Birds can see from the side to help protect themselves, women can not. There must be a way to level the playing field and for me that is carrying concealed. The hawk does not know I have a 38 special in my holster, but he does sense the confidence in my stride, the firmness of my hand. I do not walk timidly, I walk with strength, even if it is of the hollowpoint variety.
I know women who say "I've had a self defense course (non weapon)" or "I know karate". I can tell you this, as someone with some basic training in tactical fighting and martial arts, I'm smart enough to know that in a case of extreme danger involving a person with a weapon, be it flat edged, a garrote or another gun, that's no guarantee I can protect myself. The young woman who was kidnapped from a Eastern National Park last year and later found murdered in the woods? Black Belt. Look, even with my training, most guys could mop the floor with me simply due to the disparity in size and upper body strength strength. Even size and strength may not help you if you are up against someone armed with a knife. But though women are often targets, they are not the only ones. Predators, when wounded, stoned or hungry will try and take anything. In numbers, or singularly, using whatever advantage they have, be it blindsiding or extreme aggression. Though women are considered easier, they are not alone in being prey.
Indiana Jones was no fool. Neither are my friends who carry.
Ladies, operating a gun doesn’t require upper body strength or special fighting agility, and you can learn to safely use one in a relatively short period of time.I recommend getting an instructor if you are brand new to shooting Many ranges have certified instructors available at a very reasonable cost, for one on one or group lessons and that might be more comfortable for you than having a family member or spouse teach you. Though a couple of very competent shooters I know had their husbands teach them and it was what worked best for them both. Your choice here again. Training is key though, and not just learning how to shoot. We fight with our minds first, and you need to be proficient on not just how to fight, but when. When you look for a trainer, find out as much as you can about where he/she got their training and if their area of expertise is compatible with what you want to learn. There are a number of courses and avenues for getting basic firearm safety, the principals of which I can't stress enough.
Frankly, many women have a real aptitude for target shooting, and it's the one physical activity where men and women can be truly equal. Remember, despite my saying above, "armed and safe", a gun is not a charm that will magically keep the criminals away, and you can't bluff your way out of a dangerous situation with a gun you are hesitant to use, either technically or morally. Criminals can sense fear and hesitation like any wild animal can. A gun will only protect you if you are honestly and demonstrably prepared to use it. That requires a mindset of confidence in it, in yourself, and regular practice. .
It's a choice of being proficient or being prey. Easy choice for me.
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
The sun was setting, leaving wisps of lavender ribbons across the sky; clouds moving up the mountains, strands through which I could see the last phase of the moon. The bobber moved slightly, a fish, or the wind? I had seen one huge fin slicing the surface of the water, it was either a big carp or Nessie. I was tempted to jerk the line, but I waited. This is what patience is all about, being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that's unfolding, rather than yanking the line to see what's at the other end. Patience is good. I've been going full tilt for so long that it's time.
Patience isn't stressed, rushed; its a steady strength we apply to life as we face it, be it staff to train, forms in quadruplicate or aging parents. As I waited, the call of a loon brought me back into the moment and I thought things happening back at home, rather then why I came here. And then the sound of it reminded me. "Can you hear that?" I whispered to Barkley sitting by my side, poised to strike in case I reeled in a pound of bacon. "That" being the sound of a small bass jumping on a small span of water on a planet spinning through space. This is what fishing is all about, not catching anything for supper, but simply a time with nature to be savored, when delight imbibes through every pore with the gossamer cast of a line. I really don't care if I catch anything tonight. I just enjoyed the communion of elemental waters.
This is why I hated the modern version of camping. Huge motor homes, where roughing it means doing without ESPN. Neighbor's closer than found in any subdivision. My camping was a fire built with magic and swear words, burned wienies and good beans, woodsmoke and bug spray, paper plates that fell apart. My camping was the sound of a hoot owl as the sun set, it's dying rays reflected in a cup of beer as a black lab snoozed happily by the fire. I'm here, for those times when I don't wish to sacrifice the wonder of the present moment to work, society or noise. A loner always, I want a broad margin to my life. I can sit in the faded sunlight of a doorway between two trees from dinner til dark fall, rapt in a revere in undisturbed stillness and solitude.
As dusk settles in, I wonder about the lapse of time, the evening seeming like a mere moment, time like a season in which I grew like flowers in the night. Philosophers talk about contemplation and the forsaking of work and out here I realize what they meant. The day advances as light comes into it, it's morning, and now it's evening, and nothing memorable is done. My days are not minced into deadlines of a ticking clock or the perusal of things no longer breathing. Let mornings be lazy, afternoons pass by in long walks or a flip of a fishing pole and if the day becomes wasted in the warm rapture of a sunset as nature sings its song in my ear - what's the harm?
Poets talk about "spots of time," but its only been flying and on the water where I've experienced eternity compressed into a moment. A moment where in an instant you can see your whole life and make a choice. No one can even explain to you what this "spot of time" is until your whole horizon is a fish and then the fish is gone. I thought of one large large fish up in Alaska. I shall remember that fish when I'm an old lady. When I brought him up and saw the sun glinting off his back, rainbow diamonds of light against the waves, I was so enamored of him I couldn't even take a breath and in that instant before he was gone time stopped. Only then did it hit me what I had lost.
I thought back to fly fishing in Montana, watching the fly fisherman standing, rod in hand, in the rushing water. His movement the languid strokes of a lover, making the most beautiful movements, a ballet of line and wind and hook. A ritual of the chase, the cast like a tease to the unsuspecting trout, content in their world, until he pulled them into his. As the trout took the bait, the man would smile, that quick knowing smile, and pull with a quick flick of his fingers and hands, like light strokes on a keyboard, touching yet pulling, desire planted, hook in place. Then after reeling the trout in, he ever so gently pulled the hook from the mouth of the trout, gently cradling her in his hand, a tender goodbye. Without a sound, just a quick unemotional tickle of her belly, he released her back downstream. He never looked back.
Catch and Release.
THIS was the outdoors. Splashes of daylight that recharged what you came here with. This was our outdoors. Unidentifiable sounds in the darkness that made you hold your breath at the bottom of your sleeping bag. A good book read with a dying flashlight, shadows dancing on the wall of a small canvas tent, and the musty smell of freedom and adventure. A time when growth may not be on the surface but may be internal, and the weekend quietly drifts by in the warm embrace of the woods. But even in the woods, any good day must end.
Catch and release.
As the last of the daylight seeped out of the sky, I thought back to work, but only briefly, for my mind now is rippled, not storm tossed. These small ripples of water raised by the evening's wind are the only hint of turmoil in the calm. As the day pulled out of the sky, taking the wind with it, I cast one last time out into the still center of the water. There, utter and complete stillness, holding my breath, because even inhaling and exhaling was like a cacophony. The animals of day were hunkering down for rest, and the night creatures not quite yet stirring, there was no breeze, no recognition of air even; it was the sound of nothing and everything. It felt like all my life past and present was contained in one space, and I was not just casting into it, I was part of it. Where for just a brief moment in the universe, the clock stopped ticking, and the world hushed.
This was my catch. Some nights in the woods, where I was able to pull the barb of civilization from my lips and swim rapidly to where the wild called to me. Where my heart is home
Thursday, June 4, 2009
When I saw my first Glock as a young woman back in the late 80's, the 1911 style .45 auto was THE defensive pistol to have things went south in a hurry. I still feel that way most days. Then some foreigner comes up with a plastic framed pistol, that holds lots of tiny bullets, and it's light and accurate. He's not a shooter, he's an engineer and well. . . .
It's PLASTIC. And frankly folks, it's the "Ugly Betty" of handguns. I love revolvers. I love 1911's. I take great pride in a well cared for Colt Commander. I love a gun with some character. I love old weapons, period. I love tools as well. Roberta X has some wood handled hand drills and other tools that just make me ache to craft something with them when I hold them. I love such things. Especially guns lovingly crafted with steel and rosewood, intricately machined forgings, polished flats and arcs cleanly intersecting, beautiful bluing and straw tempering, it is hard to find anything in a plastic pistol that speaks to me. Give me something made of fired steel and sweat, to be carried through generations, passed on from father to son, older brother to little sister, mother to daughter.
The history of personal weapons is one of honor, family, sacred duty, prestige and adornment. Warriors were buried with their swords, or they were handed down through generations. I have blades forged hundreds of years ago, as sharp as the day they were made. Somehow a personal weapon with the soul of toaster oven seems wrong. Besides, when you draw that 1911 , John Moses Browning is probably looking over your shoulder, smiling.
But a female friend, new to carrying for self defense, bought herself a Glock 27 and asked me to give her some pointers. I really wasn't excited about shooting that when I have bigger toys here, but I agreed. Helping a new concealed shooter or any shooter, of either gender, feel comfortable, offering support and encouragement, and sharing your own very real mistakes, is important.
With something like 1.6 million happy Glock owners, including the LEO community that uses them on duty, the least I could do was quell my reserve and show her some tips on her new purchase. And I analyzed the shooting as if I was in her shoes, new to smaller guns, with limited technical knowledge of the model and fairly modest hand and arm strength. And you know, it really was a good fit for her. Yes it was small, but you know, it shot easily and well. I could see her point about the size being good for for a woman as well as concealed. There are enough ladies (and gentlemen) who worry enough about our pants fitting comfortably without the benefit of another 2 and half pounds of steel inserted along the waistline.
I wanted to completely hate it, but I didn't, not for the purpose in which she was going to use it. Protection. Reliable self defense. The frame and slide were smooth and rounded. It fit well into her hand and it didn't have anything that could really catch on her clothes. For the money, a good balance of weight, concealability and accuracy.
If she watches her grip and doesn't use crap ammo, she should not have a mis-fire. It didn't seem to like the non-brass, CCI Blazer rounds someone offered her to use, but pretty much ate up everything else of quality. As a concealed pistol for someone with limited weapons knowledge, one that requires little attention and will be there for her if she needs it, this gun will work for her. It may not be pretty but it keeps going "bang". Simple to use and one that won't choke if she doesn't clean and maintain it herself as carefully as serious shooters do.
In any event, I was pleased for the progress she'd made and for making the choice to carry, even if I won't be buying one for personal use for carry. For her, for many people, it's the perfect choice. It may, in my opinion, have no character and likely isn't going to have people over oohing and awwing over your purchase like a fine revolver might. But you won't regret the experience. It's like that long time boyfriend in high school. You realized you were never going to love him madly, but he was strong, dependable, and there for your defense from bullies and bad buys.
For me though, I want something made out of real steel with a bigger hole in the barrel. I don't wear tiny little skirts and clingy little tank tops when I'm carrying. When I conceal, it's usually larger, and it usually comes with hollowpoints.
For I'm occasionally in places where I want some heavier fire power. Something that stirs the soul with steel and strength. A firm weight against my leg that's there if I need it.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
But why vodka? It's mostly tasteless, and colorless. Why not wine? Why not leave it out entirely?
There are flavor compounds in foods, especially in tomatoes, that are alcohol soluble. That means these flavors are not released unless they are mixed with alcohol. That is why we add alcohol to many dishes, knowing that the alcohol itself will "cook out", prior to serving, yet leaving something subtle and wonderful in its wake. In this case, the vodka adds a peppery complexity you wouldn't get with wine. Serve with a side of crushed red pepper flakes and grated Parmesan cheese and something magical happens.
Although I honestly don't care at ALL for the taste of vodka by itself or in a mixed drink, it added to a marvelous blend of flavors. With only a few ingredients and two pans it was just the "shot" I needed tonight.