Tag Archives: Memoir

The Art of Slow Cooking

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The day my father retired he threw away every suit he owned save one basic blue.

He also shifted into low, easy gear. A sort of simmering Crock-Pot sense of being.

He walked no farther than the mailbox or the perimeter of his one-acre suburban ranch of weed-less green lawn.

He leisurely patrolled his tiny fiefdom in a new uniform:

  • a mesh baseball cap
  • polo shirt
  • high-waisted, flat-butt jeans
  • a pair of Thom McAn loafers .  .  . with ruptured toe boxes where bunion bouquets emerged.

His days were largely spent on the back porch in the rubber band rocking chair. Reading the local newspaper. Smoking cigarettes. Drinking cans of Old Milwaukee.

By afternoon, he was finished with printed words.

His eyes slightly glazed and dreamy, he’d sink into contemplative silence.

Thoughts simmering like a thin stew.

His body beginning to look like a portly little pot.

And after 8 to 10 hours of back-porch marinating, he’s be ready to uncork a vat of ancient memories and freshly-poached wisdom.

Dad spinning a yarn to my brother.

 

From him, I learned there are two forms of retirement:

  • The Outer: the pride of possessions earned and achievements polished for posterity.
  • The Inner: the reflective retiring.

This last one fascinated me.

Those methodically lazy days. The slow-cookery living. My dad perfected them and gifted them to me as the legacy for his firstborn.

The stride meant for my adoption .  .  . a bit like a monk with an imaginary monastery.

But honestly, I feel rather lost and lonely trying to step in his footprints. I long for the days of his endless stories and jokes, no matter how stale. They gave me a steady sense of place.

 

 

Killing Faith

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I set up my writing materials on the picnic table at Abó, one of New Mexico’s more obscure Pueblo ruins.

This had been my Sunday ritual for a year or more. I was both seduced and inspired by the crumbling red rocks of the former Spanish Mission church. The rocks that are as red as dried blood; as red as the passion of a savior.

I’d been so enthralled by the tumbling rocks, in fact, that I wandered well off the path several times and was caught, reprimanded, and placed on probation by Officer Lopez, who was protector of the sacred Indian ruins.

It was a humorously embarrassing moment. He wanted to restrict my presence there; I fought for compromise. Eventually we agreed that I must check in with him at the Visitor’s Center each Sunday before entering the grounds.

I wanted a solitary place to pray and seek peace. He wanted to enforce justice. We coexisted for a few weeks with the tension of warriors. But I softened one day and decided to attempt a truce of faith.

As he was making his rounds one Sunday morning, I inwardly willed Officer Lopez to come to the picnic area and talk with me.

I gathered up all the juju and prayer power I could, placed it in a mental bouquet, then set to work typing.  Within thirty minutes, I heard him call out, “Hello Jayni!”

He waved.  Asked how I was.  Faltered a bit.  I coaxed him on with conversation.

We talked for nearly half an hour.

I learned that he was a marine for five years.  Officer Lopez stated that when he was in the Marines, he and his buddies wanted to go to war…wanted to kill.

I have never met anyone who actually wanted to kill people.  Someone who was excited and eager to not just exercise his military training – but wanted to kill.  His body vibrated as he spoke those words.  His face animated.

I am awed.

I crave to crawl behind this man’s militant majesty and find out how it feels to want to kill.

What animal instinct inspires a person to be excited about killing?

What is the thrill within the kill?

Why am I intrigued enough to pursue the conversation further?

Why do I want to learn about raw emotion at this coarse level?

Because it is pure – clean – honest. Untangled from the bullshit psycho-spiritual labyrinth I’ve walked my entire life.

This man knows who he is, what he likes, what he wants, and takes it without apology.

I’ve spent a lifetime apologizing for myself and trying to understand why I exist.

Of course his surefootedness grabs me.

It’s simple and solid.

It offers stability and a point to rebel against.  And rebellion has always empowered me.  I was my father’s little anti-soldier.

 

But now I want to be neutral and understand the operations of my former enemies.

I don’t want enemy lines drawn.  I want lines erased.  But I also want my own truth to emerge.

I listened to Officer Lopez speak with such strong conviction.

I wonder if I will ever be able to stand even half as self-assured and state my beliefs.

I may not agree with his faith, but I admire and envy his rootedness.

His rootedness reminds me of rocks.  Of the rocks he protects.  Of the rock I want to be protected by.  Of some rocks I’ve known and wanted to live under or on the edge of.

He’ll live long in my memory .  .  . as I keep practicing the art of crawling into the light and exposing my lies and my truth.

Diagonal Sleeping

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Whenever I sleep alone, I love to sleep diagonally in large beds.

That slanted position fills the emptiness and stretches the soul in new directions. It’s no longer womb-like, fetal sleeping. It’s an assertive position that enters the world as a vector.

Bold and fearful.

It wants to travel alone.

But needs to fill the hole of motherlessness.

The dark kind of solitude that can haunt when the world is dreary.

And after awakening, I can dress in costume to comfort my panic.

Young beautiful retro lady drinking coffee

 

Pretend I’m young and fearless again.

 

Dance with my fantasies of fear and desire.

 

Try to lock them into balance  and steady myself for a new day.

She

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She walked through the finger-smudged glass door on a sunny day. A day strangely warm for February.

The air was gritty and the sun rusted-out by the relentless strength of the prairie wind lifting the broken land skyward.

She paused for a moment on the threshold, absently gazing forward as her eyes adjusted to the new light.

Her skin was fair. Her hair was wildflower-honey colored .  .  . falling below her shoulders in ripples like waves on a summer lake.

She was slender. Dressed in kickback casual, yet, styled to be her.

It was her eyes that captivated me, though. 

She wore no makeup. She was perfectly gorgeous in her raw skin. She seemed completely comfortable with the purple spoons beneath her eyes.

They gave her a Pre-Raphaelite, waif-look that mesmerized and melted me in one glance.

I saw a piece of myself in her, but, I didn’t know which one until she sat down next to me.

I was drying from a pedicure; she was preparing for a set of nail to adhere and be embellished.

A moment of silence passed.

Two women assessing their instincts of trust.

We somehow concluded, simultaneously, to begin talking. Not just chatter, but, depth of speak.

She told me her life story – all 30+ years in an hour.

I told only snippets from a life lived much longer.

She was born and raised in the wasteland of a fading Route 66 town, a town that has become a hub of crack cocaine.

She avoided drug addiction. She married after high school – pregnant as she walked down the aisle.

She stayed with him for ten years; bore two children; divorced; lived 4 years single in that desolate town. Then, escaped one night to Missouri. A year there and she was chased back to New Mexico by a failed job and a homesick son.

She returned to realize that she’d fallen in love with her best friend. A cop in the crack town. A truant officer at her high school.

It was a small-town tale, but, I was continually drawn back to the noir beneath her eyes.

She spoke from such a deep well of wisdom.

I wanted to be her.

I wanted to re-live my life in smaller steps. In a smaller space. Simpler. More direct. All-the-while, gaining sage wisdom.

I wanted to invest in her economy of movement.

I saw myself eschewing academia; not exploring the world; nor meandering along the Champs-Elysees while she was nursing an infant.

I began to see more of why I’m seduced by tiny, parched towns and their ghostly people. Why I feel like a stranger on my own home turf – that strange land of the metropolitan East Coast.

She unknowingly gave me another clue to my personal puzzle.

Somewhere deep in the velvet of those vague, noir eyes, she held secrets and answers to my mysteries.

Somewhere in those eyes, at times, so tender I hurt to look into them. They drew blood in a way that’s curative. 

I projected myself into her mind. And, perhaps, had I the skill of Rossetti, I’d paint her eyes from every fractured angle in the galaxy and expose the guilelessness of her atomic truth.

But I have only words as raw material.

And they are so damn ephemeral. I need a  solid mooring. Brushes and oils and stretched canvas to capture this picture. To hold it still for contemplation – this too brief meeting of companionable souls. This momentary paralleling of two beings wanting to exchange lanes.

In my fantasy, we’ll reach the same destination of grown-up Truth.

Her path: right-lane Interstate.

My path:  crooked rural roads.

Destiny fulfilled. But, for a fleeting hour, it was scintillating to imagine trading paths with a stranger.

 

Little White Churches

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My heart can’t resist them.

A couple years of living in the Blue Ridge Mountains, circa 1970s, I realized that I wanted to live in a church.

I found a little white clapboard Baptist church near Panther Falls, Virginia.   Abandoned, because the people lost faith in the midst of poverty.   But it was still structurally solid and safely nestled inside a grove of poplar trees and scrub oak.

The steeple looked like the base of an old windmill. Above the door was a round stained glass window, with red and blue hues, that reminded me of Jupiter.

Inside, the pews were lined in rows of horizontal soldiers. A grid work of dark wood and red velvet seat cushions. The room was small but it felt spacious because of the ascending ceiling and the choir loft that touched the clouds when fog descended.

The sunlight that crept through the trees was misty by the time it met the colored windows lining the building’s side walls. The interior was a mixture of light and dark and every color of the rainbow in-between. It was peaceful and solemn.

I love churches when they are empty.

Always have.

Those beautiful little handcrafted edifices without rituals, but with the accessories necessary to conduct one as décor.

A place to be still.

A place to call home.

I was too poor to buy that church and unable to convince the owners to rent it, but I still harbor a yearning to live in that Appalachian church-home.

I have thought lovingly of it for three+ decades. Every time I drive by a little white church of any denomination, my heart rejoices.

After I moved to the village of Estancia, New Mexico, several years back, I quickly discovered that around the corner from my tiny house was one of the sweetest white churches of all times.

Methodist.

Not acquainted with the religion, but I fell in love with the building. And when I learned that the back door was kept unlocked, on weekday afternoons after work, I’d slip in, sit on the red velvet cushion, and gaze through the painted glass windows. Noting that the southern exposures were singed – the edges of Jesus’ garments and the corners of the Last Supper’s tablecloth all charred and curling.

The wooden pews were arranged in arcs, with two aisles, like a huddle around the pulpit. Behind the lectern were tables draped in white fabrics that support forests of white taper candles.

I’d sit silently at different degrees of the arcs. Each radial angle reflective in a different color or shadow. I’d bow my head in some form of prism prayer.

Sitting in this church – alone – always washed me clean. Something about the simplicity of white that calms and renews.

I don’t yet understand my passion for little white wooden churches, but they invite my heart in.

They inspire confession.

When I feel filthy, a white church is my soap and washcloth.

And often I have some crazy sense of unclean.

I am always housecleaning; I am always heart-cleaning.

What am I obsessed with washing away?

Vacuuming some sin from the floor boards of my heart?

Scouring the toilet bowl of my soul?

Dusting the mantle of my mind?

Why is life – so messy – that I devote a lifetime to cleaning my space-of-being?

That I sit in empty churches to inhale purity?

That I focus my meditation upon the white fabrics draping from altars?

Sometimes I find my inner being crawling through the tunnels and webs of woven fibers, searching for the secret of the shroud.

I have never understood this passion for textiles either.

Maybe because fabric is tangible. Because I can see it constructed from its source – from the flax plants and silkworms and cotton pods.

I can track its progression. I can touch and smell its existence. I can also get lost in the fantasy of its lavish embroidery and festive beadwork.

I’m no fan of the new gospel churches that believe in bare warehouses as places of undistracted worship.

I need the distraction of beauty.

Especially the pageantry of ecclesiastical textiles.

I like sparse, but I need highlights of fabric embellishment. Lightly speaking: Holy dust clothes move me.

Sometimes I think that my deepest faith lies in empty churches and fabric. Somewhere in the honeycombs of stitchery, a wing of truth waits.

In a dust mote. In a spider’s dew-damp leg. In a tendril from a tightly-plied linen thread.

It’s absurdly simple. And mind-twistingly complex: sitting in empty white churches, contemplating sacred textiles, I find some sort of rogue religion.

And how happy was I, after remarrying, to find a tiny, tattered, white church about a mile away from my new home on the prairie.

A safe haven.

It offers peace of presence: Just knowing it’s sitting there .  .  . wind-beaten and bare .  .  . on a lonely dirt road.

A bit like someone’s stained and gritty coffee cup left behind.

Circles of Fire

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Winter is my white season.

My time of emptying soul through reflection.

 

I found out recently that my Aunt Jane died only several years ago while living in England. She had been a favorite character in the theatre of my life. She had also been a heroin addict. Her addiction began somewhere around age thirty.

Aunt Jane and my mother had been close friends. Sisters, almost. I felt like their mutual daughter when we three were together.

They were beautiful, magical women. And when my grandmother, Toot, joined – it was a generational trinity of wonder and wisdom.

But I remember the day that the magic broke and spilled its secret waters. On that current, a part of me washed away like cracked ice on a frozen river. 

A few of those fractured pieces want to speak. To return to the white of a snow-covered land with no footsteps. To remember something I fear I may forget to remember.

 

A Piece of a Conversation:

-Ruth.

-Yes.

-I heard from Bob today. He called to tell me that Jane burned the girls’ clothing last night.

-How could she have done something like that?

 

Mary paused. Swallowed. Straightened and extended her spine so that it sprouted upward from the kitchen table.

 

-He said she put the girls to bed, waited for them to fall asleep, and then cleared out their closets and drawers. She took the clothes up to the attic, tossed everything into a pile and set it on fire.

-My God, Mother, she could have burned down the entire house and killed everyone!

-Yes, I know. Luckily Bob was not on-call that night. He smelled the smoke and called the fire department immediately. Part of the flooring has to be repaired. They were lucky.  .  .  .

-What else happened?

-I keep hearing something scratching against the backdoor screen.  .  .

-Probably wind.  .  . leaves blowing.  .  . birds.  .  .

-No-o-o.   .  . but I’ll go on .  .  .

-Jane has been having BJ bury the used hypodermic needles in their backyard. Can you imagine the damage this is going to cause her? BJ is the oldest. Sharon may be too young to remember. Bob doesn’t think that she understands what is happening at all. But he’s worried sick about BJ’s safety.

 

Extended silence. Throats clear. A rustle of tissues. Wooden chairs creak. Footsteps softly pacing the linoleum floor. The screen door again.  .  . faint scratch of fingernail.  .  . soft thump.

 

-I can’t imagine putting your daughters through something like that. I could never put Jayni through that.  .  .  .

-No, you’ll never have to. You’re very different from Jane.

-Jayni adores her Aunt Jane. How can I explain any of this to her?

-It’s an illness. Aunt Jane is very sick and will have to go away for a long time. Jayni’s the youngest grandchild. She won’t remember much. By the time she’s old enough to know the truth, Jane may have died.

-What should I do? Neal has just been promoted. He can’t leave. He can’t take care of Jayni. I don’t know whether it’s a good idea to take her to Bob and Jane’s or not.

-Take her. The two of you go. Stay as long as you can. Let Bob know that the family is supporting him. I’ll prepare Neal’s dinners. I’ll call Theresa and have her clean the house

-But what do I tell Jayni? She’s a curious child. And easily frightened. A sensitive child.

-Yes, I know. Tell her you’re going up to Baldwinsville to visit your brother. She can visit with her cousins. Make it sound like fun.

-She’s shy around her cousins. BJ intimidates Jayni with her haughty attitude. Sharon treats Jayni like her personal servant. She really only loves her aunt.

-Well, there’s not much we can do now. You need to start making plans and packing tonight.

-Shhh.  .  . I heard the back door knob. Jayni’s coming in from the backyard.

 

A Piece of Home:

I enter the kitchen and glance at the mayonnaise-colored clock-radio on the counter next to the toaster. The surface is so glossy it looks like a petit fours’ fondant icing. I am hungry, but it’s too early for supper. The time is about 3:00PM. Daydream Time.

I hug and kiss my grandmother, Toot. Everyone calls her “Toot,” though no one remembers why.

But I remember the story: she requested to be called by the first words uttered by her first grandchild. My cousin BJ had the honor of naming Grandmother Ballard, “To-To.” Every family member adopted this new term of reference. Everyone, that is, until I was born and began to speak. I shortened the name to “Toot.”

One firm, commanding syllable. Its success was widespread: family members, neighbors, friends, business associates. People loved to feel the bubble of air that popped at their front teeth when they spoke this four letter word.

 

There’s a history of four letter words being dirty. Unutterable in polite company. This word, however, is clean and crisp. It stands with self-confidence. I’m proud to have authored it.

 

And I’m proud of my grandmother as I kiss her soft, powdered cheek. She is beautiful and elegant. Her blue-tinted grey hair is softly waved and secretly fastened in place with crinkled silver bobby pins. Her skin is perfectly smooth, uniform, unmarred by even one freckle. Her pores are sealed by a delicate layer of flesh-toned dust. She smells of roses. That frail scent of toilet water that whispers a flower’s fragrance. Strictly Ladylike.

 

In her lap, sits her burgundy leather purse. Her champagne-colored gloved hands are draped and lightly folded over the handles. Her feet, in matching burgundy pumps, are paired like bookends at the base of the wooden kitchen chair. They are alert. Heels ready to click – like Dorothy’s – into Oz.

 

Her suit is made of wool. So finely woven that it is soft enough to snuggle into. It’s a subtle plaid of complicated colors. Colors that blend so well together, the eye cannot distinguish individuals. A color palette that expresses the ultimate goal of Communism.

 

The suit is hand-tailored by Hellie Stelmacher, Toot’s personal seamstress. The precision of German craftsmanship is immediately evident.  .  . seamless seams, covered buttons, double topstitching on the collar, cuffs and pocket tabs – all impeccably parallel. Toot is always assembled with the awareness of every detail. And every detail is related to its neighbor. To its tribe. To its entire clan.

 

Her mind is as orderly as her appearance. She is a finely tuned machine, keeping my mother and me in good-working order. She tries to keep my Aunt Jane and my cousins BJ and Sharon well-tuned also, but they live several hundred miles away. So that family’s machinery is less tidy. The timing belts are looser. The spark plug firings less exactly syncopated. Their suggested maintenance schedules are not consistently followed.

 

I think this is why my Aunt Jane has had a breakdown. Her regular maintenance schedules were overlooked. And the intricate machinery parts – like the viscera of clocks – stopped working in unison. Some little tooth bit the wrong circular gear during the wrong rotation.

 

A Piece of Imagination:

Inside of my three-year-old mind, I imagine my Aunt Jane coming undone as I kiss the cheek of my meticulously-done grandmother.

Toot jingles her voluptuous key ring – the ubiquitous signal that she is planning to depart. I want her to stay. I want the conversation to continue. I want more details for my theory. So I excuse myself, saying, “I’ll go upstairs and play in my room.”

The expression on my mother’s face relaxes with a sigh. The commas around her mouth lengthen.

Oh, the relief of punctuation.  .  . it’s a pause for breath. And breath is life force. It’s a continual, silent chanting of Om. The voice of God. The sound current of creation that never ceases. In its vibration everything is contained. As in silence, everything is contained. As inside the pause between an inhalation and an exhalation, on that edge just before the next inhalation.  .  . truth is held in suspension.

 

A Piece of Recollection:

As I watch my mother’s mouth unfurl with an exhale, I hear Toot’s singing voice in my memory. The one she used in church. In the safety of a large congregation of Presbytery. The wavering silk thread of a soprano – quivering like uncertain hands pulling the silk from the worm’s cocoon safely nestled in the bend of a mulberry tree.

The voice looks like a lady trying to walk on a cobblestone street in high heels. The flavor is vinegar mixed with a teaspoon of honey.

My place in church was to stand next to Toot, between the floral garlands and the white taper candles burning safely on bamboo stilts, Polynesian style. The decor of special holidays.

 

A Piece of Protection:

And on these special occasions, I jockey for position so Toot and I can share a hymnal, and, so I can dissect the qualities of her scantily-heard voice. I memorize it for occasions such as this. For times of uncertainty and times of fear that make me want to dress up in pretty clothes and costume my anxiety.

I take this memory upstairs to my room, leaving the door ajar. I remember hearing my grandmother singing holy words of praise. Although I cannot decipher the exact words, I know they were sanctified. I know they were rising up to Heaven. I know she thinks they were beautifully offered in a voice that wears angel’s wings.

 

A Piece of Eavesdropping:

This memory is my adhesive as I put my right ear to the floor and strain to listen through to the kitchen below. But the voices wear mufflers. The words pass like exhaust fumes – sour in their pungency; intangible, ungraspable in their exit.

 

Another Piece of Imagination:

I begin to imagine instead.

I imagine Aunt Jane pulling down the spring-hung ladder that leads to the attic. I imagine her setting fire to the lives of my cousins. I imagine her face painted like a warrior – scrawled up bloody red. Her intent upon some distant invisible mission.

I imagine her walking into BJ’s room first, because she is the oldest daughter.

I see her open the closet door and pick-up ruffled dresses and blouses with white Peter Pan collars and pleated woolen skirts clasped with large gold safety pins. One at a time, flinging them into a box. I hear the metal hangers hitting the cardboard with a sound like pelting hail.

Once the closet is bare, she walks into Sharon’s room, and opens the closet door.

More fiercely now, she yanks clothing from the hangers:  a yellow and white seersucker sunsuit with shoulder ties like shoe laces, an organdy party dress with crinolines and wide bows at the waist, a dotted swiss Easter dress. Gaining momentum, she lets the wire hangers litter the closet floor. Her eyes grow more determined as she stuffs the clothing into the box. In her mind, she begins to chant, “I want to be a good housewife. I want to be clean and tidy and organized. I want my children to clean up after themselves.”

 

 

With the box in her arms, she walks in measured slow motion. Up the ladder, one step at a time, into the attic. She walks to the center, under the cathedral peak, where the four-cornered dormer sunbeams meet in a mandala configuration.

In the center she places the cardboard box, teeming with little girl’s clothing. Like an abundant offering upon an awaiting altar. From her apron pocket she pulls a can of lighter fluid – the kind my father uses to accelerate the combustion in our charcoal grill. She squirts it over the clothing, first in a star pattern, then outlines it in circles.

Like the circle of a Wicca ceremony, she moves around the box clockwise. Her footsteps become slower, hypnotic, tribal-like. She moves even slower, suspended like a Pa-Kua practitioner – walking the walk of an ancient Chinese warrior so deeply focused upon his internal components that his physical body appears to float. Walking the walk of the praying mantis. So graceful, patient, dancerly.  .  . yet fully committed to killing.

From another apron pocket, I see Aunt Jane pull a large box of safety matches.

She waves her right arm in the broad arc of a wing and drags a match slowly down the black strip on the side of the box. The red match head turns blue and yellow and orange as it erupts into flame. She tosses it onto the pile. 

With each step, she lights and tosses a match until she completes a full circle. She is living, now, inside of her Celtic ancestors. The flames surge. It’s a funeral pyre. A cleansing ceremony. Burning dresses, looking like the burning ghosts of little girls. I long to see their souls rise to Heaven.

 

In the orange afterglow, I see her face. It’s streaked with sweat and soot and red lipstick. Her lips move, but I can’t make out the words. She looks like a Hoodoo priestess in spellbinding-trance or a Shakespearean witch about to be consumed by the fire of her own making.

 

Her image begins to fade and curl like the skins of daffodils. I see my Uncle Bob sprinting up the ladder, two-steps-at-a-time. I see him reach through the licking flames and grab Aunt Jane, whose dark shape has a corona of wild hair and no face but a shadow. Her head bends and latches onto his left hand. She is biting his ring finger as he drags her from the flames.

 

A Piece of Kitchen Communion:

My reverie dissolves. I can only remember my beloved aunt visiting my mother and me earlier in the year. Talking and laughing and baking together in our soft, buttery yellow kitchen. I remember wrapping her apron ties twice around her waist, just so I could hug her a while longer.

 

A Piece of Hope:

My mother and Toot are making travel plans for me. Maybe tomorrow I will be driving with my mother up to Baldwinsville, New York to see my Aunt Jane. I hope that I can still hug her. I hope that my cousins are softer, kinder toward me. I hope that all five of us females can embrace in a circle of symmetrical love and flaming grace.

A Broken Puzzle:

This dream never came true, however, I am comforted now – knowing that Aunt Jane lived a long life in a faraway land without leaning upon any of us every again.

She left a silent legacy. A circle of mystery.

Aunt Jane died and I still don’t know the truth.

Edible Good Luck

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Holidays can be very flexible, if we give them permission.

And if a holiday doesn’t get celebrated on its calendar date, well .  .  . nothing is really lost. Its spirit will unfold when the time is ripe. All will remain aligned in this infinitely vast universe whether I forget or remember.

Personally, on New Year’s Eve, I’ve abandoned the ritual of crafting lists of rigid resolutions in favor of sighing into the agility that yoga practice has taught me. Now my importance is: exhaling deeply, contemplating expansively, embracing whimsy.

I’m not a holiday purist.

But I do enjoy New Year’s. And I did neglect to post this on the absolute first day of 2016. What I’m thinking is that the whole weekend is the holiday. It’s been stretched like chewing gum since it fell on a Friday. That makes it extra special.

Now getting around to edibility, what I want to say is that since my younger self dug some pretty deep roots in the Appalachian South, you could say my grey matter is soiled with some superstitious belief that eating a feast of black-eyed peas and collards will start the new year with luck and money.

Some years I remember; some years I blithely forget. I’ve never kept track of either one’s luck factor. So who knows what brought good fortune or poverty in any given year?

This year I semi-remembered. We ate “luck and money” Southwestern style: Spanish Rice, pinto beans, doughy white tortillas, green broccoli.

It may sound aberrant, however, here’s the full Southern blessing:

Rice for riches,

peas for pennies,

collards for dollars,

cornbread for gold.

TRANSLATION:

Rice symbolizes wealth and community.

Black-eyed Peas, because they swell when cooked, represent prosperity.

Collard Greens symbolize dollar bills.

Cornbread, cooked to a rich saffron yellow, looks like bars of gold.

 

My thoughts are this: Sometimes Southern-style white rice is accompanied by pickled beets. So.  .  . since a little bleeding of red is auspicious, because red is for rubies, why not Spanish Tomato-red? It’s a jewel tone.

And Pinto Beans; they swell also. So, prosperity should be well represented.

Broccoli. Lightly steamed. Emerald in color. Shade tree in shape. My father always insisted that money doesn’t grow on trees, but, I refused to fully believe. It’s a forest of glistening emeralds.

Doughy White Tortillas. I think “dough” says it all. Besides, do gold bars really back our currency these days?

Regardless,

To all, Blessings and Good Fortune and Prosperity in this nascent year, whether you eat your luck or disguise it in alternate forms!

And check out #3 on the list of New Year’s Resolutions in the photo above: “Drink Good Coffee.” Mocha Muse Coffee Shop supports this one!

 

 

**Reference Source: Our State, for the Southern New Year’s Blessings and Translation.