Kickin’ Back

Snow day, January 2012.

Snow day, January 2012.

Excuse me while I take some time off from my blog.  Even though it hasn’t snowed much here this winter, this past January has been the coldest on record in twenty years.  I like to lay low in the winter, taking my time with everything … napping, cooking and enjoying soups, stews and braises.  There hasn’t been time for any of that this past month with the renovations we’ve undergone, so I’m hearby declaring the next week my hibernation week.  It can snow or do whatever it wants.  I’m staying put. I’ll cook a pot roast, and put away all the kitchen things that have been packed away in boxes over the past month. I can’t wait to see all my cookbooks lined up on the shelves that we had especially built just for them.  I’m also rearranging furniture all over the house and setting myself up for the newness of spring’s arrival next month.

I’ll be back next week with something useful or knowledgable to tell you about … or not.  In the meantime go sledding, bake cookies, read a good book, or clean out a closet. Let’s simply the enjoy the next week as it is … rain, sleet, snow, or sun.  It’s good for our health to just slow down and breathe deeply.

A Sure-To-Cure Remedy

Herbs for Medicine

Herbs for Medicine

Here we are in the middle of November. Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away and the big December gift day will follow on it’s heels.  Not being one who enjoys shopping for things that I imagine other people will like and then find them  never used once given, I’ve turned to other ways of giving.  I’m one of those health nuts who believe that food is medicine and that what is on most dinner plates and in many medicine cabinets these days is the cause of our dis-ease. This is the time of year I head to the kitchen to prepare a few gifts that a number of family members especially ask for and that actually work.

One of my favorite thing to make is what I call Sure-To-Cure Elderberry Elixir, originally known as Kiva’s Ultimate Elder Mother Elixir. I found the recipe on-line a number of years ago when I was studying and learning to use medicinal herbs. This one is a cure-all for colds and flu and I regretted not having some with me on my trip to London.  When I have plenty on hand I find myself taking a swig every day or so even when I’m feeling good, just to keep the bugs away. And it’s yummy on vanilla icecream as well.

I’m getting ready to order a few of the ingredients I’m out of  for this year’s gift giving.  I order most of my dried herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs, out in Oregon.  They have good prices and just about any herb you can imagine. They also carry premixed teas, and bottles for your herbal concoctions.

This tasty remedy is simple to make and oh, so appreciated when received as a gift.  Here is the recipe if you’d like to make some for yourself:

1 cup dried Elderberries
1/2 cup dried Elderflowers
1/4 cup fresh Rosehips or 2 Tbsp. dried
3 Tbsp. fresh ginger chopped or grated
1 Tbsp. Fresh orange zest or dried chunks
pinch of Osha (optional, dried or fresh)
A small handful of wild licorice
Raw honey
Brandy, dark rum or good whiskey

Mix all of the herbs together and place in a one quart jar.  Cover herbs with honey until all are fully coated.  Then fill the jar with the booze.  Let it sit for four to six weeks. I turn it occasionally to keep it mixed well.  Strain through several layers of cheesecloth and bottle it up.

For best results, 1/2 to 1 dropperful every couple of hours until cold/flu symptoms disappear.

Please note that the photo in the header of this blog and my website is of a small elderberry shrub that grew in my garden at the last place we lived before moving here.  I have started growing one here but it hasn’t yet produced berries.

The weatherman predicted snow showers for today.  So far only gray skies and a biting wind out of the north.  Brrrr!

Power Outage

DSC01557This past Wednesday when the power went out at 6 AM I started counting my blessings. I had firewood, a fireplace, a gas stove on which I could cook, and hot water.

The snow, ten inches in all, was not a problem.  It was heavy, wet and seemed to start melting as quickly as it hit the ground.  The roads were plowed in the late afternoon and it was easy to go out for a quick dinner in the evening, enjoying the warmth of good food and the Indian restaurant Bill and I chose.

Thursday morning, still with no power, it was more than difficult to get out from under several layers of blankets and a quilt. The fire had gone out overnight. Washing my face quickly enough to keep ice crystals from forming and sitting on the cold toilet seat made me a bit touchy.  I tried counting my blessings but it was hard. Mostly I complained and got whiny.

We decided that staying at home was nuts and reserved a room in a nearby Marriott where we had a comfy bed, a shower, TV and WiFi.  I started counting my blessings again, grateful that I was not lost in a sinkhole somewhere in Florida or fighting in a war somewhere in the Middle East. I’m cancer free and we are safe and warm.

We went home in the evening to feed the cat, sure the power would be back on. It wasn’t. Seeing the lights on in the houses on the street behind us, made me grouchy. One of the neighbors told me that he’d been told that power wouldn’t be restored until Saturday night. I started ranting. Where were my blessings?  Where was my gratefulness?

I got mad at myself for being a jerk. For complaining. For being a baby.  For not being grateful. For making a relatively easy situation into a mountain of goose poop. Where was my self-control? Because I didn’t stay at home and suffer through another day and night of being cold makes me a weakling … unfit for much and a nasty rat fleeing my frozen ship.

We checked in at home again on Friday morning.  No power and not a Dominion Virginia Power truck in sight.  I met a neighbor with a long face, leaving to visit relatives … to get out of what he called, “This hell hole.” I’m pissing and moaning too. But what good is it doing?

I decide to smile, start over again reciting my blessings, adding as many as I can come up with. I’m especially grateful to those now smelly long johns that helped to keep me warm all day Wednesday and through the night.

We go out to Charlottesville’s best breakfast place. Luscious food. Shrimp and Grits.  Fresh strawberries. The sun is shining. The snow is melting. Everyone is smiling. I’m still not liking myself much, decide I’m just a foolish human living in the “21st Century of Instant Gratification.” I promise to mend my ways.  I send thanks to whatever or whoever runs this place, assuring them that I’ll get over myself very soon.

When we check in again at five to feed the cat, the house is warm.  The lights work.  Everything in the frig and freezer made it! I’m saying thank you over and over again out loud … very loud.  I have power again!

Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, said, “There is no place like home.” And she was right. Regardless of where I’ve been it’s always a treat to return to my own special place.  Though my adventure over the last few days, was so much easier than Dorothy’s, I promise myself I’ll never rant again over a power outage no matter how long it lasts. But silly me knows all too well that I’m only human and will most likely have a hard time keeping that promise.

What happens when you meet up with a circumstance like a prolonged power outage? Do you get twisted up in ranting and raving or are you apt to stay cool and chill out?

Power, Loss, And Impermanence

Loss is a fact of life.  Impermanence is everywhere we look.  We are all going to suffer our losses.  How we deal these losses is what makes all the difference.  For it is not what happens to us that determines our character, our experience, our karma, and our destiny, but how we relate to what happens.    

Lama Surya Das

 A week ago last night, Central Virginia was hit with a Derecho, a wide-spread, straight line wind storm associated with a fast-moving line of showers and thunderstorms.  We were not alone.  Maryland, the DC area, and West Virginia also were hit hard.  Trees fell on houses and cars, killing two in our area and thirteen people statewide, leaving millions without electricity for days and days.  Some are still making do in their unlit homes.

My son, Mark, lives out in Ivy, a small community about seven miles west of here.  He finally got power back this morning.  He, his wife Jane, along with Max and Fergie, their two Scotties, stayed in a motel for a couple of nights and then went home to their cool basement.  Jane has since gone out-of-town to visit a friend.  We invited Mark to come and stay with us, but he just likes being home, even though he had to read by flashlight and couldn’t cook much except on the grill.  I understand.  I’m the same way.

Bill and I, on the other hand, were watching a movie when the storm hit.  The wind seemed rather wild, but not as terrible as it apparently was.  The lights and TV flickered on and off for about half an hour before we gave up and went to bed.  In the morning, we discovered that the power had been off for about an hour during the night. There were lots of leaves and branches down in the yard and one huge branch from a nearby Sycamore was blocking the road.  It was removed a couple of hours later by the City work crew, and we went about our lives, doing what we normally do, feeling extremely fortunate.

We’ve also been living through a heat wave for about two weeks, with temperatures in the high nineties or over the one hundred degree mark, with the heat index at one hundred and five to one hundred and nine degrees. It’s not comfortable to be out or indoors if you have no power.  People up and down the East Coast, as well as throughout the Midwest have been suffering.

While we were comfortable in our air conditioning, out in the county, acquaintances of ours hunkered down through the storm.  He was in the last stages of life because of cancer and Hospice would be arriving to help keep him comfortable as his body slowly shut itself down.

The storm had wreaked havoc in their area, blocking off their driveway and the roads to town.  They couldn’t get out and nobody could get in.  With no electricity and air conditioning, and with the situation being what it was, friends arrived and cleared a path so that they could get to town.  Our neighbors, good friends of theirs, and ours, away for the summer, gave them access to their home as long as they needed to be there.  On Thursday, the power at their home was finally restored and they went back.  Within a few hours, Jay died, peacefully in his own bed.

It’s interesting that we call the electricity that warms and cools our homes and lights the dark, Power.  Perhaps it is one of those things, along with bombs and rockets, that has made our country so powerful in the world.

But we really don’t have power or control over much.  We can make threats to take out those who wish to disrupt our way of life, but in the end everyone loses.  To me, the only real power exists in the forces of nature.  No matter how much wealth we have, nature will have its way with us, bringing destruction in the form of tornadoes, fires, and earthquakes.  It can also bring rebirth in a gentle, soothing rain that waters the crops that we depend on for food and sustenance.

In the end, the only power we possess is in the way we respond to the destruction and loss we all, in one way or another, experience. To step forward in a time of crisis and help those in need is power.  To fight the fires now burning throughout the west is power, whether there is loss of  life or not in the fight.  It is nature’s way.  We are all born into the blood and gore of life and we all die the same way, whether we have ten million dollars in our pockets or not.  A starving child in India is no different than Donald Trump.   The only difference is in the way they spend their time between birth and death.

I send blessings and thanks to all of those who have and will always help in times of need.   I live amidst a large group of heroes.