Yam vine

I found yams, as opposed to sweet potatoes, at Fiesta, a local international grocery, and brought some home. I'm a sucker for plants that sprout on their own. Life resonating with life. It's practically impossible to keep anything green alive in the Texas heat, and I can only manage to keep a modest few watered, so when I spotted embryonic leaves seeking light, I sliced off the end of the tuber and stuck it in a votive candle holder. It sent out roots instantly.

Yams are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, potassium, manganese, and dietary fiber. Low fat and sodium mean that there is an excellent potassium/sodium balance, which protects against heart disease and osteoporosis. Pretty good deal, huh? They're easy to prepare, and I spied a recipe for crispy yam and goat cheese wontons that sounds lovely. The true yam is found widely in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Yam, June 18.

Yam as diety

If you are a big fan of Tom Robbins, as I yam, you read Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. My sister and I read it in the cardio waiting room in Houston while our dad had bypass surgery. It was the perfect book to read. I know from the author's bio that Robbins has a degree in theology, which informs each of his novels in a...well...novel way. No religious group or sect is exempt from his brilliant and humorous writing. Again, life resonating with life. The mega-alive Cissy and The Chink and the sprouting tuber are all divine. Sacred and profane. That's what happens when you're a preacher's daughter. You read a lot of theology.

The yam is the major food source for indigenous people in many countries. Some groups worship the yam as a god, holding annual festivals to purge the old and ensure success in the new year. So it makes perfect sense that Robbins collected the Eastern mystic with the iconic yam in a cave (yoni!) and crafted a memorable character as Cissy's spiritual/venal guide. If Robbins isn't writing about existential metamorphoses of various dieties, he's writing about sex. Frequently in a Shiva dance or similar yin/yang manifestation. It's challenging to write about Robbins without fumbling for abstractions to describe a very solid state of being. Even if that state is wildly creative. Or changes without notice. no(w)here.

Back to the tuber. I'm fascinated by root crops, probably the Capricorn thing. I love them. Beets, carrots, potatoes of all kinds, yucca root (my fave), turnips, rutabagas, parsnips, you name it, I scrub the dirt off and bake them or eat them raw. The only ones I don't like are licorice-flavored ones, that means you, fennel. I do like fennel seeds. I've eaten sweet potatoes all my life, a staple in the southern US. Mamaw would grow sweet potato vines in the triangular nook by the window over her sink. Which originally looked out onto a roofed/screened back porch the length of the house. When Papaw died and our family moved in with Mamaw, daddy re-plumbed and finished out the porch into a bed/sitting/bath area. This meant there were windows in the living room that looked out onto the sitting area, window connecting bedroom to bedroom, and the kitchen window. Wow.
Sweet potatoes are one of the south's staples, along with myriad greens, tomatoes, okra, and other hot weather crops. On special occasions in the Latino tradition, you'll find a delectable sweet potato tamale that's a super veggie dish, if you make your masa without lard. No southern Thanksgiving table is complete without sweet potato casserole or sweet potato pie. Props to the Texas A&M extension-service-style fact sheets for a superb information about any type of agricultural biounit in existence. Served up as friendly tidbits from A to Z--history, nutrition, culture, husbandry, and tasty, simple, economical recipes. No flash, no promotion, just the facts. Eeeeeeasy for a screen reader to read, thus accessible. I give them an A+.

Yam, June 30.

Crystal, The Purloined Angel, and Mamaw's Thimble Collection nearby bestow energy along with Sun and Water.


Maternal instincts

I'm missing my mama right now. Miss working out complex ideas and playing with words 24/7. Lengua Familia. And the way she endlessly called my attention to anything of the least interest in every environment--books, newspapers, TV reports, nature, people. Her elegant, thought-provoking writing was so beautiful it shone. She was fearless in what she wrote about, I realize now that it was because she was following her passion, and used her formidable command of the language, its nuances, its music, its justice, its ability to describe and reach the soul. We laughed a lot.

I miss her brilliance. Even though I was completely overshadowed, and preferred it that way, I learned so much about writing from her. I was thoroughly imprinted. Except for a disastrous three months at Texas Instruments, I entered the work force as a librarian.

So why now? Where's my moon phase widget? I don't know where people get the idea that women don't respond to cycles after menopause. I'm even more aware of cycles I didn't even know I had. So maybe this is just a broader cycle. One of those 5--10 year ones.

I am in a half-my-lifetime cycle with my sister and niece right now. My niece's father passed away Saturday, and spirits are on the move in this corner of the universe. I'm paying attention. O Fortuna, Velut Luna--Status Variabilis.

So the wheel is multi-layered, multi-dimensional. Not 24 hours earlier, my daughter announced that the wedding will be in Austin. This is a rare experience. To examine joy and grief as fully as I am able and learn from both. My trusty Z-Coils will help me keep my balance.


Thimbelina--Mamaw's Thimble Collection

These are some of Mamaw's thimbles. Duh. But so utterly 19th century. Sewing was Mamaw. Made our family's clothes growing up. Whipped up frothy cream and crocheted confections. An amazing cook and seamstress.

I'm sure I've told this story before. My sisters and I would dream up outfits and painstakingly color in the details. A few months later, we'd get a box with Papaw's fudge and the real life incarnations of our drawings.

Wedgewood, abalone, petit point, plain, exotic...these and the crochet needles Papaw would make for her out of pecan, cedar, or oak, some cool wood. In all size hooks. Some of her pieces are quite large--bedspreads, tablecloths, hooked with a tiny needle and web-thin string. Woven as fine as linen.

Papaw also made incidental tools for her--knives she used in the kitchen, always cutting and paring vegetables and fruits, meats. Sometimes he collaborated on a crocheted piece that became a tote bag. He carved handles, drilling holes along the bottom edge of 2 matching pieces, which Mamaw incorporated to whip up and attach the crocheted bag part. I think was silk thread--it made an exceptionally strong and flexible carryall. I accidentally left it in Sedona, with two jars of Daddy's honey inside, in 1969 or so. I still miss it. I guess it wanted to stay close to those monumental Kahlil Gibran drawings.

The sophistication and complexity of her work made her one of my first sheroes. The sheer volume of creativity completely eclipsed the fact that she had only a third or fourth grade education. I never snapped to that growing up. It was only after I reached my 30's that I began to understand the implications of how she lived on the earth. Rural Arkansas transplant to Texas@1900.

Art that has totally gob-smacked me over the years

Gibran's work, only one of the many reasons that Sedona is a spiritual touchstone.

Picasso's Guernica at the MOMA. My mom took me, and purposely didn't tell me it was there, wanting to see my reaction. It was displayed on the landing between the 1st & 2nd floors, and we were chatting as we started up the stairs. When I turned, the physical and emotional enormity was In My Face. I stood riveted to the spot for at least fifteen minutes. She said I wailed. I think I only whimpered.

Rembrandt's The Night Watch in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Immense in size and sensitivity. You can smell the canals, the testosterone, the ponderance of wealth and power. Exquisite detail in the faces--a gravitas that assures us that the gentlemen are passionate about defending the gates of the city.

The Fantastic Viennese Realists. The best exhibit I've ever seen. Bar none. Will have to do a deep search for the ones I'm thinking of.


Twyla Tharp is Working For Me

Twyla is at work in my subconscious. One of her exercises suggests that you look to other creative people for inspiration. She looks to the masters for the musical backbone of her choreography: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. You can elevate your own skills by investigating other forms of creative outlet. Prepare an esoteric meal. Pick up an instrument. Describe words using only your body.

Something that opens your senses, puts you on alert for bits and pieces of loveliness in your life. Ritual habitual. Wasn't that a song?

We have all known pretty much what she's saying, she just says in an organic, firmly-tethered-to-real-life way. Some of that is her writing person, but the ideas are hers.

My lovely daughter cleaned my kitchen and bathroom while she was here, and I have lovingly reconnected with another creative refreshment that delights me--taking photos. With the camera she gave me for Christmas. Yes, she's that sweet and thoughtful.

The kitchen is where I keep collections of shells, artwork, stuff, junk. It gets the late afternoon sun which 1) makes it the hottest room in the joint, and 2) gets fabulous light. But now that aforementioned AC/fan reduces energy consumption, said kitchen is considerably more comfortable. The light is heartbreaking, the camera has rechargeable batteries, and twinklies are bouncing around. Using any creative skill replenishes your life passion, whatever that may be. The result doesn't have to be beautiful--it is the wholistic involvement in what moves you that exercises your creative muscle. Think of it as a tune up and tune in.

I did not consciously remember reading the Tharp exercise. Marvelous how she planted a seed that grew toward the light. The discipline of making a regular, habitual place in your life to create, in balance with the other bits that mean most to you.

A rare, drenching, kettle-drum thunderstorm is pounding its way over Austin. Time to open the door and savor the rain.

Soon: Mamaw's wonderble thimble collection.


Summertime in Austin

With temps nearing 100 it's time to protect from the sun and stay cool. Two new ACs and two new overhead fans should help with reducing consumption and cost. So far, it's running about 20-30% less than this time last summer. That's a start.

My brain grew some righteous folds over the last few weeks. Planning the work flow for porting Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 with a large group calls for lots 'o B vitamins, processing, and mapping. Now we get to train. Then we get to edit. Lots 'o pages.

Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit" is a beautiful piece of art. It is beautifully laid out, all text, no photos, but the use of font size, minimal color, gray tones, and clarity reminds me of "Zen Bones." What she has to say is equally true no matter what you are doing, doesn't have to be art. Her exercises are fluid, natural, and evolve from living authentically in the real world and loving what you do. It's a luscious treat on a number of levels. Read it.


Post Concert Season Doldrums

Singing is a lot of work. Good exercise. AVAE is dark for the summer. Noticing a pattern here. After the last concert, unless I have other work lined up, I get a little down. It's nice to have a little break, but then I want to get back to practicing, rehearsing, whatever, to keep the pipes open and oxygenate.

This year was different. More than a little down.

There are other circumstances which are really getting on my nerves that are making it harder to focus on recent changes in my body. Namely, I can now see the cataract in my left eye, or rather, there is a tiny line that is out of focus right in the middle.

Damn. When I close my right eye, I see double, just ever so slightly. There's the line of type, and a faint offset line just below it. Damn. Time for the eye doctor.

Of course when one thing starts to change, it's easy to fall into fear-of-being-a-bag-lady mode and it becomes a little more tedious to turn the thinking around.

A trick that sometimes works for me is heaping gratitude upon the universe for making progress on other fronts. Things I am grateful for: Z-coil shoes that make walking relatively pain-free. My friend Darnelle who transformed my living room over the Memorial Day weekend. My wonderful daughter who sends me flowers every Mother's Day. Vicariously enjoying her travels to Tokyo and Dusseldorf. Fabulous neighbors who trade kitteh-sitting and are great cooks and take my trash out when my back is out.

That's barely scratching the surface. Haven't even gotten to my sisters and the Rat Pack at work.

The other trick I do is make myself write about it--sooner or later. If I keep meeting resistance, I throw the I Ching. In the forty-two years since a mystic English professor introduced the Ching to me, after an evening locked in the zoo, witnessing the animals come to life, I have never failed to find a key to gather my wits.

So this weekend is planned. Pick up Z-coil sandals, never-ending laundry, and maybecatch Star Trek at the Alamo South. Got a taste for the "Wild at Artichoke Heart" pizza there--roasted garlic, goat cheese, chokes, sun-dried tomatoes, and excellent fresh-brewed iced tea...and it's in walking distance.

I feel better already.