Friday, October 28, 2016

Dhanteras goodbye

My mother passed away Thursday morning. Dhanteras had started in India and this was the one puja she never missed. I think the choice was intentional and beautiful and perfect.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016


When my parents lived in Minnesota they lived near Turtle Lake which is in a northern suburb of the Twin Cities. Turtle Lake was one of the original cabin communities when the Cities weren't quite so sprawled. The area directly around the lake has that northwoods feel with handprinted signs pointing out who lives where. My parents lived in a newer community just north of the lake and since I lived one year with them in that home, I spent a bit of time on that lake with my friends. I've seen turtles. I know painted turtles which are found all across the upper midwest.

There is a nice little pond at the hospice facility where my mother is spending the last few days of her life. I take my cell phone for a walk around the little pond on a regular basis. It took me some time to notice the things moving around in the pond. I was initially afraid they were gators. Don't laugh! Every single transplant I've met down here talks about gators, especially those from Minnesota and believe me, there are quite a few from Minnesota. Beware of the inland waters, they say. Beware of the gators, they say.

nice tranquil touch to the hospice facility

I'm gazing intently at the pond trying to dry my tears when I notice a head pop up and move towards me. I'm stunned, half hoping it is a gator coming to tear up the tranquility of this place. What a story that would be!

I have no idea what kind of turtles they have in Florida. But this pond has many. And tons of them come out to look at me on the shores of their waters, they swim over and waddle out to get a better look. I stop counting somewhere at twenty.

slimy turtle has many friends.

Oh by the way? The incident with the turtles happened after I nearly tripped over this little lady rooting around near the path. I have no idea if she bites. Holy armadillo on my path, I said to the person on my cellphone. You are too cute bite me, I say to her.

cute little armored armadillo

While the unfamiliar adds a bit of fun, I can't help but miss the autumn colors of Minnesota. It is autumn interrupted. I've come from a land where it is cool and crisp. I am now in one that is hot and humid and one that smells a lot like India. I am suddenly surrounded by long conversations in Gujarati when I can follow along easy enough, but can only reply in English except for the occasional rudimentary words. The cool thing is that so far every time I've asked for clarification or translation, I've learned that I had it right the first time on my own. I find that pretty cool on these hot, humid days. I wish my daughter was here absorbing her fourth language, the language of her grandmothers, my mother's tongue.

The veins of my life crisscross across continents and climates and through all sort of flora and fauna.

daily practice: photos and a bit of writing. tomorrow I'll try to get in a walk.

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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

flying down for the end

Yesterday I rushed down to Florida to be with my mother in her final days. So many details to consider, so many decisions to be made but I'm trying to let go of those in order to help her let go.

daily practice, day 3

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Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Found on but not actually part of the Mankato Sculpture Tour

My husband is a hockey player. He is a skater. And when I say he is a skater I mean that he can skate perhaps better than he walks. He skates circles around me. I regret that I didn't spend the last twenty-three years of our life together spending that time becoming a better skater.

Imagine if I had? We could be amazing out there together! Couples skating!

Oh well.

The Big D says he came to skating late, at the late age of 9 or 10 years of age. And he remembers getting out there every single day, skating until dinner time on school nights and all day long on the weekends.

He began daily practice at an early age.

The joy he gets in skating is so apparent on his face the moment he gets out on the ice. His joy is infectious. It brings him such pleasure. And I find it incredibly sexy.

daily photo: day 2
I take photos daily but plan to post what I want which may be an image taken on a different day. Just saying.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

daily practice

I want to start a daily practice. Is it crazy of me to start this towards the end of the year? When I have so much going on? Yes, I suppose it is. But none of that matters because today I read something written by Shawna that reminded me winter can be a time when things begin, "a time when inner things happen." It is certainly not winter yet but I am looking to prepare myself for it because I know it can come swiftly after Autumn in Minnesota.

I've just returned from a Women's Spirituality Conference and it was not what I had expected and also more than I could have hoped for. Did I cringe in the opening ceremony that included a calling of the directions paired with interpretative dance? Yes I did but only because it reminded me of my younger college self. Did I get a lot out of each and every workshop I attended? Yes I did which is rare for a conference I think. Did I make stronger relationships? Yes I did with my best friend and another woman who has been a neighbor for more than a decade. All good things. Confronting my past and creating future bonds.

I attended a workshop session titled "Daily Practice Sucks." Which is true on so many levels but many of us crave them for grounding and stability. Yet it renewed my belief in knowing that daily practice enriches my life.

I learned that daily practice does not always fit my understanding of the results but rather focuses me on my intentions.

I want a daily practice of:

rising early

I can do all these things and none of it has to be sublime or monumental. I can do all these things just for the sake of doing. My intention is to live my life to the fullest even if it is small. And so I begin.

But yes, it is crazy to take it all on. Yet I realize I've been doing it all along. I brush and floss my teeth every single day so I know how to do daily practice (a realization from the workshop). This other sort of practice doesn't clean my teeth but it does clean out my heart.

My heart which is so full because my mother is dying. But also my daughter is growing.

My intention is to live my life to the fullest. And so I begin.

daily photo: day 1

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Monday, October 17, 2016

the autumn dance

It was drizzling by the time we made our way from the city into the woods. Drizzly autumn days have a special quality to them. All the colors are brighter, richer and more saturated.

Mother Nature came over and laid some new flooring while we were away in the city. She did an amazing job!

The geese just keep coming and going. There is a pond pit stop just to the north of us.

A couple of hours after sunset owl mates fly into the oak tree. The calls were throaty and long and flooding the still area around us.

The wind changed bringing warmer temperatures from the south earlier this afternoon. It supposedly 62 degrees and only dropping another ten tonight but I'm not fooled. I'm wearing my knit cap and fleece tights. I'm not chancing cold. I'm hopefully acclimating as the season changes.

The moon comes up and the air turns blue. All the leaves that have fallen to the ground are reflecting the shimmer of the moonlight in the raindrops left undisturbed after today's rainfall. A frog jumps on through. There is no wind. It is a still night. It is a clear night. The only sounds are the geese honking on and off. But there is the steady drop of leaves, some pelting me, others diving into the open fire. It is a magical night under the super moon. It is slightly past peak out in these autumn woods and many trees are laying bare, the branches further sculpted by the eerie yet ethereal blue moonlight. 

We dance when Buddy Red Bow's Indian Love Song plays on WOJb. That song gets me every time. I remember all the different seasons when we have danced under the trees to this song: slip dancing on the icy snow, boots sucked into the spring mud. Tonight the leaves rustle under our feet. Tonight a memory of autumn forms up through my legs and fingertips as I slowly twirl under the stars, holding the hand of the man I love close to my heart. The geese honk in applause as he dips me to steal a kiss. It's a much needed moment of reconnection. With him. With the woods. With the moon. With the earth.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

wood chopping

"And here it now seems obvious to me that I have omitted all mention of the desperado and the melancholic, not to mention the psychopath, representing the darker sides of the human psyche, impossible to ignore in any serious consideration of the art of chopping wood -- we are, after all, talking about smashing something into pieces. With all the physical power at one's disposal, using a sharpened cutting edge -- for thousands of years the most efficient battlefield weapon of them all. Modern life doesn't offer many opportunities to compare with this, to engage in a serious act of violence one day and enjoy the fruits of it the next, and all without doing anyone any harm. Am I a part-time psychopath?" - Lars Mytting, Norwegian Wood
Hmm. Am I a part-time psychopath? I do that yawning thing, you know. That thing where I yawn when someone else yawns even if I have no intention of sleeping anytime soon. I heard psychopaths don't do that. But here's the thing: I've starting drinking black coffee which I know that some think of as psychopathic.

So am I a part-time pyschopath?

While many, many things sprawl across my mind as I'm chopping wood, the question of whether I am a psychopath never has until I started reading Mytting's book. I've only got the sample pages because I'm waiting for the book to be available at my library so right now all I've had are some teasers about psychopaths and axes.

It seems everyone is successfully writing books these days (except me) and a book about wood-chopping isn't nearly as mundane as it seems.Granted chopping wood to sustain heat through the winter is an entirely different endeavor than the one I take part in once week out on our woodland property. My wood chopping is for recreational purposes. I can't even say it is for exercise and strength-building because it never works for me in that way it does for my man (he'll spend a weekend hauling and chopping wood and suddenly he's all trim and fit). But it is character building. And very satisfying.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

edible or not?

The Pear-Shaped Puffball is considered a choice edible. Dang! I wish I had know that when I first found these growing all over our wood-chopping area. I've watched similar ones growing on a healthy tree nearby. I'd watch each year as they grew out and eventually became one of those puffballs that released a cloud of spores into the air. They were fun to poke. I became less enamored with them as my daughter grew and got into the poking but with her little face a little too close to the cloud of spores. How do you explain "potential for respiratory illness" to a young child?

But this year while my eyes are become more seeing of that which I can eat in the region around me, I see these everywhere. For some it is a prized edible. For me, it is an opportunity that has gone by. I'll wait until next year because these are a little old now and when they get older, apparently they become more bitter.

We've gotten into the habit of foraging for mushrooms then adding our finds to eggs the next morning. Unfortunately I found this Lions Mane a day too late. Not too late for cutting, just too late for our weekend morning eggs. 

I had no idea how many edible mushroom there were in this region. While I've been moping over my lack of hen and chicken of the woods, I've been overlooking these other opportunities. I had other hangups too, but mostly it's a lot of whining and complaining about that which I cannot find. 

And there it was hanging below a dead tree trunk that had fallen over on the slope that leads to the river Flambeau. All shaggy looking and apparently tasting of lobster. Lobster! Tonight I will slice it up and saute it in some butter.

I've  had a lot of hangups about foraging for mushrooms. I was full of fear - fear of severe intestinal issues and fear of death by toxins. All very rational and necessary fears for the average mushroom forager. I believe there should be a bit of fear involved. But still, I had this desire deep within me to find sustenance on this land. I believed this could only happen by meeting a mentor, another person who could lead me by hand into the woods. I was wrong about that. I have found good resources and have met with several wonderful people who have encouraged me to try it out. And once I started, the mushrooms began to appear. Nearly everywhere!

These are beautiful Dyer's Polypores which apparently can be used to dye wool an intense yellow or a bright green. I left those behind. But I'm sure that sometime this winter I will be dreaming about collecting these some day for some dying experiments.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

october day

Hello from the woodlands! Autumn is here in all her cool beauty. The leaves have changed and dropped, the air is more crisp and the fire is burning brighter. Everything tastes and smells of Fall. There is so much going on in my little world yet it still feels good to get carried away by the season.

My foraging frenzy has tapered off, made less so by generous friends who are sharing their bounty (got a ton of chicken of the woods last night).

I try not to fall in the trap of thinking this land is infertile. It is disturbed land that was leveled some thirty years ago to make for the development of a recreational community that quickly went bankrupt after total denuding of the area. The trees around us are young-ish.  It makes me wonder if my inability to find hens and chickens (of the woods) is because the trees are young and healthy (healthy meaning devoid of a fungi decomposition but then decomposition is essential to a healthy ecosystem). I've just come to the realization that the word 'fungi' does not refer to the mushroom themselves but the entire system laying underground.

There is plenty for me to savor, plenty that others have produced for me to taste. "Raw" here means unpasteurized and since this is non-alcoholic it is the perfect drink for an Autumn afternoon.

So I distract myself by chopping wood. Lots and lots of woods. Having read just the beginning of Norwegian Wood I find myself wondering what kind of wood chopper I am. 

Easily distracted again by this puffball mushrooms which would have been edible last weekend but not now.

The woods girl finds a frog which she likes to hold but doesn't like when it is moving.

The sun appears on the road so we grab our cameras for some photos.

And then there is the archery. The trick with the cooler weather is to keep moving which we do while the Big D builds the fort. Soon it will be time for us to join in the work but not quite yet.

I am grateful that my family are doing fine after being brushed by the recent hurricane down in Florida. But my mother is still moving steadily towards the end of her life. I feel broken and divided by her struggle with glioblastoma. She has deteriorated rapidly since we got the diagnosis in January and we all know that there are very few days left for her. Yet she is down in Florida and it is difficult for me to get down there on a regular basis. We've had a troubling relationship but I was able to speak my truth and she was able to listen so now I feel tenderness towards her. The loss of my daughter's granny is unbearable.

I sit here at my city computer and think on how these October days are some of the best out in the woods. The days are filled with love and warmth and that is something she would want us to experience.

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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

fungi under a macro

Positive identification! Only too small to eat: lemon drops. These are such beautiful curious tiny little fungi. 

These curious bright orange spots are wolfs milk slime. They will turn a deep rich brown in a few days time. 

A cluster of them has a caviar quality. Sort of, huh?

But then they can also take on the glowing alien eggs in a cave look. A bit more scary and the potential for a nefarious sinister trouble such as a take over of the earth for an alien agenda.

I do know the fungi have a plan to take over the earth in a way that heals the soul and nurtures life. Fungi take over all that is dying and decaying and restore its properties to nature allowing for new growth under and around it. There is so much to learn about mushrooms and their role in the nature's cycle. So much to learn yet. And for that I am glad!

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Monday, October 3, 2016

foraging frenzy

It began this time last weekend when our woodland neighbor stopped by to show me a Hen of the Woods cluster the size of a beach ball. 

A foraging frenzy took over my mind, my heart, my life. 

A flood of Hen of the Woods entered my social media. "The largest I've ever found!" "I'll have to dehydrate all this because it's way more than what I can eat." Yah. Yah. I'll get there to the woods soon, I told myself. Still I scanned the sides of the city roads I took, especially the one alongside the cemetery with it is big old oaks. I watched intensely out the passenger window on our ride to the woodlands at sixty miles an hour.

My plan was to get out early. Which is what I did today. I got up and out early. And in the afternoon and for nearly the entire evening before the sun went down.

I must be the only forager in the Midwest that hasn't found Hen of the Woods. Maybe I'm not much of a forager yet. 

But I do know this land better.

I walked for hours up and down this steep drop to the river while Big D and the little one fished. I poked each and every oak tree I passed. I found turkey feathers and hickory nuts. Polypores and other shelf fungi. My clothes picked up prickly seed passengers along the way.

I may not have found what I seeking but I did find this:

It could be the skeleton of a baby dragon. Or a deer. But I like to think of it as something more mythical. So let's go with baby dragon. We also found leg bones and a couple of ribs.

Which will last me much much longer than any mushroom.

Of course I found other mushrooms but mostly only the toxic kind. The fancy skirt underneath the cap of this beauty makes me think it is a destroying angel.

This one could possibly be an oyster. Then again it could be angel wings. Hmm. I'm finding a pattern in these autumn fungi. A lot of angelic mushrooms around that can cause gastrointestinal problems - far from heavenly.

A lot of "could be" finds today. Could be Bricktops. I did a spore print on these which turned out to be the correct rusty purple. But I'm not ready yet to take the taste plunge. My goal is two positive identifications and consumptions this year. That seems about right for wild mushrooms and the inexperienced forager. I've found Chanterelles this year. Now I want some Hen of the Woods. See you next year Bricktops.

A Decorated Mop.

My basket may not have been as full as I hoped. It certainly had many unexpected surprises.

It was an interesting day and my ankles will ache tomorrow. But also it cooled my frenzied mind. And the family caught a fish. So all in all a good start to October.

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