It is snowing... big fluffy flakes drifting outside my window this morning as I write this. So picturesque... and bitterly cold. A perfect morning for a steaming batch of steel-cut oats. I cook mine in a mixture of cow’s milk and water with chopped apples, vanilla, fresh-grated nutmeg, a splash of maple syrup, and dried, unsweetened cherries. So warming and nurturing on these wintry days.
So tell me... where did November go? It seems a blur to me now. It started out with traveling to Seattle to visit my favorite aunt who is gravely ill. I met my mother and her sisters there. And although this was a very sad time for my family, it was wonderful for me to be in direct contact with my matrilineal heritage. I gained a little more perspective on how I was shaped by their presence and influence when I was growing up. And with no men around... I must say it was indeed quite blissful... for a time, anyway. My aunt lives just a couple blocks of a Trader Joes so it was easy for me to have my food needs met while visiting.
Thanksgiving took us to Santa Fe once again, amidst a bout of flu that ravaged my family. My youngest son was the one sick during the trip. I thought for sure that I had packed the elderberry syrup but could not find it anywhere in my suitcase... until we arrived back home, that is, and there it was hiding in one of the pockets. Oh well. My husband’s aunt did not make her signature apple and green chili pie... which was a little disappointing but probably for the best. Of course... when in Santa Fe we must eat out at a Mexican-style restaurant which are akin to torture when a B. For me it is the temptation of corn. Of all the avoids for B’s, this is the one that still challenges me. So I had to employ my “corn deflect”... when everyone else is enjoying freshly made corn chips and tomato-based salsa, I order a margarita and before too long, I no longer care about the corn. Sure... I am trading one avoid for the other but... since agave nectar is usable for all blood types, shouldn’t tequila be as well?? Ah, yes... I know... but I’m not ready to shatter this dream just yet...
Yes... I did get the flu... and happy to report that I did survive. I am fortunate in that I only get the flu once every 10 years or so... thankfully... and with the BTD certainly I suffer less than I used to when I do. I drowned myself in elderberry syrup, elderberry tea, and vitamin C which helped... and rested, reflected, and finally recuperated.
And now... here it is... a week before Christmas. Wasn’t it just Easter? Where does the time go? I remember when a teenager and impatient to become an adult and be on my own out in the world, a wise woman said to me, “Oh Kris... don’t wish time away..” I could not grasp the truth of her words then, but I do now. Time is indeed precious.
I love autumn.
I think of this time of year as a spiraling inward, a time to pause and notice the transitions of this season, and what they bring. Watching… noticing… helps me prepare for the coming dark and stillness of winter.
So… being the dreamy B that I am, I have spent many a morning sitting in the crisp air on the front porch watching the sun drift slowly upward into the beginning of the day as the leaves on the Rocky Mountain maples let go in the breeze and skirt along on the winding currents to the ground. I just love that moment of letting go leaves do in their autumn dance, their swan song to the summer that has passed. As I watch the leaves floating along, leaving their mark on this autumn canvas, it gives me courage to look at what needs letting go of in my own life… to make room for new seeds to be sown.
I try to spend as much time outside as possible now…. noticing all the changes taking place in the outside world. Every day there are obvious changes, a shift that was not there the day before. Suddenly, the hummingbirds have left the cañon, the insects have fallen silent, the shrubs, bushes, and trees begin pulling their energy toward their roots away from growing upward and outward. Spaces between the branches begin to open up as the leaves begin their Falling. I think of the end of autumn as when the sky opens up to be seen in it’s fullest.
It is also a time to make a conscious shift toward high compliance and preparation for the cold to come. For me, that means increasing the amount of root vegetables in my diet… carrots, beets, sweet potatoes… and winter squashes high in beta-carotene. Cooked greens like kale, chard, and spinach replace raw salads. My fruit consumption changes too… eating only a few pieces of fruit per week.. I crave cooked whole grains and keep foods made with flour grains to a bare minimum.
As my outward activity begins slowing down, I yearn for slow-cooked foods… soups, stews, slow-cooked roasts. I eat much more meat in the winter, and balance that with reduced dairy. And then there is sugar… ah yes, sugar.. so much associated with holidays and traditions. But the longer I follow the BTD way of life, the less sugar cravings I have. I only desire sugar now if I have not had adequate protein in the day, or in using sugar like a drug… something to take me out when I am feeling lousy. But those times are few and far between now…
All of these things help me begin to slow down, pull inward, inducing the quiet necessary to prepare for the darkness that gives birth to the dawn a new year… new experiences… new growth.
There is a yoga meditation practice called breath counting. In this practice, one simply sits comfortably with attention and awareness focused on the edges of the nostrils, where the breath is exhaled. The practice involves breathing in and out quietly, focusing on that point. With each exhalation, begin counting one... two... three... and so on up to ten. All mental attention is focused completely on counting. Once ten is reached, begin again.
Sounds easy, right? However... many people discover that after the number two or three... thoughts and other mental distractions begin to creep in. When one’s mind notices these distractions, just start over ...counting again.... beginning with one. In their first year of practicing this form of meditation, most people never get beyond four or five before the thoughts begin creeping in. And always, it’s... back to one.
Such a great metaphor to use in life... back to one... if you know what your “one” is. Fortunately for BTDer’s, our one is clearly defined, and we each have our own individual variations as well. My one involves food, rest, exercise, creativity, time spent with others, time with myself. And being a B, it is crucial that all are in balance with each other. If one of the elements gets way off kilter, it can skew the whole lot. When that happens, misery is sure to ensue.
For instance...in the realm of food choices, I always feel So Much Better when I keep flour products to a bare minimum. I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. For me. And when I choose unconsciously in the grain department, my thinking becomes foggy, distracted. I lose my count. And then it’s back to one. No guilt, no berating myself. Simply, back to one. To begin again... a new day, hour, minute... one...
What is your one? What is your foundation for healthy living? How do you know when you lose your focus? Through thoughts, feelings, sensations? These have been important questions for me to reflect on. I don’t get quite as distracted as I used to. I can count for longer now, most of the time. But distraction, and straying from our health goals and desires is a part of the journey. I am going through a phase in my life currently where I seem to never get beyond the number one before I lose my concentration. Life is like that sometimes. But no guilt, no failure. Simply... back to one.
To begin... yet again...
It seems inevitable, that at the start of the school year, my children come down with some type of upper respiratory infection. When my youngest was having his bout with the virus, he requested some chicken soup. So, I trotted off to the HFS and picked up a couple of cans of rather pricey soup and brought them home. In opening the cans, I was shocked and dismayed at the contents… a couple of pieces of chicken and a mushy, I assume vegetable?? or two… I couldn’t believe I paid close to 3 bucks a can for that swill! “Heck… I can do better for this and a lot cheaper too”, I thought to myself.
So I began heading toward the door to buy ingredients for homemade chicken soup. But then… whoa… wait a minute here… would I be able to resist eating homemade chicken soup? It was my mother’s recipe… reminiscent of all that nurturing wonderfulness that only a mother’s soup can provide. No… I better make it turkey soup… if I can find fresh or thawed free-range turkey somewhere this time of year.
Fortunately for me, Whole Foods did have a rather large half of thawed turkey breast available. Even though chicken would have been much cheaper, I went with the turkey. My son is an A non-secretor… turkey is beneficial for him. Plus… I found out that at this Whole Foods, they usually thaw one or two turkeys a day and if I call the night before, I can request whatever part of the turkey I want and they will hold it for me. Excellent… I love turkey thighs! Also… good to know that their “fresh” turkey is previously frozen.
So back at home and I felt rather silly dropping a turkey breast into a pot of boiling water rather than roasting it first… but my son needed soup so into the soup pot it went. I usually make turkey soup with the carcass of the turkey so I wasn’t sure how flavorful the broth would be. Not as rich… but it was surprisingly good. And the amount of turkey meat that was on that breast… made it worth every penny. I got a huge pot of the meatiest turkey soup I have ever made.
Which was a very good thing because… yes, I came down with the virus too. It has been several years since I have had a bad URI. I was so grateful I had made that pot of turkey soup… so wonderfully nourishing when feeling under the weather.
Worth every penny… and more…
Not too long ago, I went for the last hike of the season to Josephine Falls, one of my favorite hikes up a narrow little cañon. The trailhead is located on a one way dirt road that is closed to traffic 6 months out of the year. We almost didn’t make it up to the cañon as we have had torrential rains in August and the road had severe ruttage as a result. If I could have turned around, I would have. But… like so many things in life… the only way out was through. So we bumped and banged our way along (again… just like life…) until we finally reached the trailhead. The trail begins in a little wooded glen next to Bear Creek and climbs steeply up a ridge a short way later, and this climb continues to the end of the trail.
This trail, like so many trails in Colorado, was once a road back in the homesteading days. It is always remarkable to be hiking in what looks like a remote, inaccessible area by modern standards, only to stumble upon cabin ruins from an old homesteader. One of my favorite unexpected ruins is the old Jack Rabbit Lodge, off of Dome Rock Trail (now closed half of the year for spring lambing of Bighorn sheep). Jack Rabbit was a private resort for fishing, hunting, and “other” sports… with the obligatory brothel out back. It is located on the bank of a stream that must be forded several times. Often, this stream is running so fast and so deep that the only way to cross is on horseback.
But the most amazing thing about all the ruins on the trails is the stories that go with them. And many of the most colorful, steadfast characters of the “Wild West” were indeed… women. That’s right… women… many of them widows with a brood of children to raise to boot. I am amazed at the wits it would take to survive on one’s own as a single woman in the west, eking out a living on an isolated homestead with few neighbors, often masquerading as a man just to survive. The fortitude of these women I find so inspirational. It makes me realize, with all our comforts and convenience, just how soft we’ve become…. and how very far removed we are from the fantastic efforts of just basic survival.
One of the things I like best about this trail is the story it tells… the storms it has weathered. Literally. Several years ago, there was a severe ice storm that felled many trees and made the trail impassable for many months. This single storm changed the entire face of the cañon, and the trail up it, as well as the creek down it. At present, the trail tells the story of the drought we have endured for the past 8 years. There is a section of the trail I call 'the ghost trees' as clearly half to two thirds of each tree has died, with only the top branches still green and pulsating with life. The lower half of the trees looked like bared skeletons stripped of skin, flesh, and muscle. And yet… these trees continue to endure…
I took a few photos on this last hike of the season for Josephine Falls. Click here to view some of the photos (you can click on any picture to enlarge... however... then the entire page will need to reload once again...). The falls are quite unusual as they can only be seen in the distance, except for the lower portion of the last fall. The drought is clearly seen in many of the pictures with sun-bleached tree skeletons dotting the hillsides. The aspens were indeed quaking as they do in even the softest of breezes. Although still summer, with wild flowers still in bloom, the first kiss of autumn has arrived too. But it is the sky… the deep sea blue of sky that touches my heart this time of year.
Until next time…