Sacred Sundays: let’s talk about death baby, let’s talk about you and me!

8 08 2010

“Let’s talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be, let’s talk about death!”

So, maybe Salt n Peppa didn’t ever think that their lyrics would be changed to talk about the exact opposite of their song “let’s talk about sex”.  However, I find it appropriate as the reason they wrote their song was to get something that no one talked about into the limelight.  The song was saying “HEY! this is something that everyone does and no one ever talks about it, let’s change that.”

I feel the same way about death.  It’s something that EVERYONE (and I mean everyone) does, and no one wants to talk about ever.

I like talking about death.  I like telling my daughter that her food came from the dying of plants and animals.  I like when we find road kill in the city and look at it.  I like explaining to little A about why the cats at grandpa’s house aren’t there anymore.

Is that weird? Unhealthy?

For me, talking about it all the time, integrating it into my everyday life, helps me cope with the inevitability of it.  It helps me process it so that when death of a loved one happens, I’m not so traumatized.  It helps me understand that this is not something that spontaneously happens in a sudden surprise, but is, in fact, happening all around us all the time.

(photo is copyright Neil Gaiman from his Sandman series)

I listened to an interview on CBC the other day, with someone from a village in some impoverished area of the world (missed the beginning on the radio).  It was heart-wrenching to me, but the woman was not traumatized.  She was, in fact, seemingly, happy.  One thing she said about all the death, when asked, was that she was surrounded by death everyday, it was nothing new.  For the interviewer, this was a horrible tragedy.  For me, however, I wondered at the mental health benefits of actually being surrounded by death everyday.

We are, of course, already surrounded by death.  We can’t escape death.  It is inevitable.  However, in our North American culture, people are put into hospitals and nursing homes to die, alone, without family.  Our meat is slaughtered away from us, in large factories, and packaged into nice little bundles that look nothing like the death that brought it to us.  Wars are fought far away, where our leaders can convince us that nothing but heroes and help is being administered by those benevolent soldiers carrying automatic weapons.

We do a very effective job of pretending it doesn’t exist, and then, when it suddenly happens near us, we are surprised, traumatized and unable to deal with it.

We are told to do all we can to avoid death. To live our lives carefully and without risk.  We sanitize and isolate our children from anything that might hurt them.  Often, we spend the end of our days sitting and watching life pass by so that we don’t fall over and die faster. With our fear of death, we can take the joy out of Life.  And then, what are we living for?

I intend that my daughter is raised understanding the cycles that we live in on Earth.  I want her to understand about death and rebirth.  I want her to understand that death an ending, but also a beginning.  That taking life gives life. And, ultimately, I want her to understand that it’s going to happen and we don’t have to be afraid of it, because we have our entire lives to come to terms with it.

How do you live with death?



Assorted Saturdays: Honouring the Blood

7 08 2010

We bleed.  Womyn, that is.  Every month, our beautiful genitals issue forth blood from a life that never became manifest.

(Photo credit:

When expressed that way, I understand why there is so much fear around menstruating.

In our society where death is terrifying, definitely NOT acceptable, the monthly cycle of little death can conjure up some pretty intense reactions in people.

I remember when I got it my mother said something like “welcome to womanhood and the Curse.”  yup, the Curse.

Because womyn, in traditional Christian mythologies have done something horribly wrong and so they must bleed every month.

I believed that, for about 10 years of my bleeding life.  I had cysts on my ovaries, big balls of pain that rose and fell with my cycle, and so my first moon was in a hospital.  The following cycles were equally traumatic, though not with hospital visits, as I knew that the incredible pain was from inside my body and would not be going away.  The pain was monitored with slimy ultrasound sticks over bloated bladder and kept in check, at age 14, by the birth control pill.

Because I really didn’t receive much education about my body as a child, like most of my generation, and those previous, I figured that all of this was just good and normal and that I would be condemned to suffer, excruciatingly, every month, at the hands of my procreative system.  My mother and I coalesced into an ooze of sympathy for each other’s plight, as womyn, and that was it.

When I was 22, I was off the birth control pill for a couple years, based on discovering that it was actually a horrible thing to do to one’s body for prolonged periods of time.  I had been experiencing pain so intense, every month, that I was drugging myself with codeine just so I could function, even nominally.

That was around the time I met Elsa.  She was an empowered woman, studying Women’s Studies in University and was a wellspring of feminine empowerment.  She asked me if I would let her throw me a menarche party.

“A menarche party?” I asked.

And she went on to explain to me that in many cultures, a female bleeding was celebrated.  It meant fertility for the tribe, another person able to carry on the traditions and customs through childbirth.  It meant fertility for the land, as the blood would nourish the Earth and help the crops grow.  It meant, in some cultures, gained wisdom and insight.  A menarche party, then, was a celebration of all things bloody and menstrual, feminine and powerful.

My mind, as they say, was blown.

(not so much a mind being blown, but isn’t this a cute photo?  photo credit:

So, at age 22, I attended my menarche party.  We wore red, ate red food, talked about blood and bleeding while sitting inside a glorious womb that Elsa had create from deep red fabrics in her attic.

My perspective, thereafter, surrounding my body’s necessary expulsion of uterine lining every month shifted.  I remembered to celebrate my body, instead of curse it.  I remembered to focus on what this blood gave me, and my life, instead of what it took away.

Since then, I have come a long way. I still have cramps, but they aren’t nearly as bad; they haven’t been since that party.  I still get grumpy and tired and all the other things, but now I recognize it as part of a miraculous cycle. I still get anti-social and “bitchy”, but realize this is the urge to go inwards and learn from the little death that comes every month.

I love bleeding now. I am grateful every month that my moon blood greets me.  I gather it in my diva cup and feed it to my plants.  I sleep with a moon blanket to gather my blood off my bed.  I eat delicious chocolates and make love to myself to thank myself for the wonders of what my body does.

My friend Sarah says “Thank you.” every time she knows a womyn is bleeding.  Why? Because she knows that we all go, for those few days, to a place of darkness, where death is ever-present.  She knows that we walk, with our blood, through intense lessons, to bring them back an offer them to those willing to hear.  Because we offer our blood to the Earth.  Because we are moving through cycles so that human life can continue.

So, to all womyn, I say “thank you” for your blood.  May you all find ways that allow you to honour it, as the glorious gift it is.


Foodie Fridays: Fermented Zucchini Relish and Traditional Cucumber Pickles

6 08 2010

Before we left for the great North, we harvested our garden and I traveled the highways with a huge bag of pickling cucumbers, a bag of zucchini and a couple mason jars.

I love the bounty of summer and I intend, this year, to preserve it more than ever before.  And, so far, I’m well on my way to that.  I am also trying to avoid the new, commercially inspired methods of preservation: canning with lots of sugar, pickling with vinegar, dehydrating with sulphites etc.

Last year, I was introduced to a magical book called “Nourishing Traditions” by Sally Fallon.  It changed the way I looked at food, and inspired me towards more traditional foods and methods of preparation.  One of the big changes is fermentation, which is incredibly exciting.

Fermenting foods, rather than preserving them in vinegar, enhances the nutritional value, populates your belly with amazing beneficial bacteria and tastes pretty delicious.  I started my experiments last summer in fermentation and, after reading “Wild Fermentation” by Sandor Katz, I was inspired to experiment even more!

Having discovered, last year, on the last week of pickling cucumber season at the farmer’s market that, indeed, fermented cucumbers are the most delicious pickles ever to exist.  Unfortunately, it was the last week, and I only got to experience one jar of the delicious tang of those lovely cukes.  I pledged that I would not suffer the same fate this year and planted three hills of pickling cucumbers this year with a vow to ferment as many as possible.

Curcubits, the family that squash, zucchini and cucumbers are a part of, are a prolific family, as I mentioned before.  They like to shoot out babies as fast as they can, and bless us with their bounty.  So, not only am I overwhelmed with pickling cucumbers, but also zucchini.

I like picking zucchini young, while they still have that tender flavour that melts in the mouth.  Too big and they become tough and watery, not really good for much other than zucchini bread, or, zucchini relish.  So, I decided that I would try some fermented zucchini relish with the one zucchini that evaded my eyes and grew past the tender point, and a little end of a zucchini that I had.

I started with the pickles and decided to add some garlic this time, from my dad’s neighbour’s garden.  HUGE bulbs (!) all organically grown and gifted to me (thank you Ralph).

The next thing you need to do is wash the cucumbers. Make sure all the spikey parts are off and that there is no left-over blossom clinging on to the end.

Now, because I live with a small person, who is generally not going to eat an entire fermented pickle, I cut the pickles into slices.  I also find that this makes it more efficient for space, as you can fit more sliced cucumbers into a mason jar than whole ones.  But, there is no reason you have to slice them, I just prefer to.  I also cut off the end, but, again, as long as they are clean and not with stem, you can put them whole into the jar.

After I sliced them, I stuffed them in a jar, in a clove of garlic and an oak leaf.  I have heard that oak leaves, cherry leaves and grape leaves can help fermented things from getting too mushy due to their high tannin content.  So, I threw one in, because mushy cucumbers are yucky. The oak leaf is not necessary either, but I thought I would see what difference it makes, versus my non-oak leaf cucumbers.

Next, I mixed cold water with about two tablespoons of salt into a pitcher, mixed and poured over the cucumbers until they cover the jars by about 1 inch.  It is important to note that, whenever you are working with ferments and water, your water must be non-chlorinated.  I am very lucky to be at my dad’s where non-chlorinated water comes out of the tap, but most of us either have to leave the water out for 24 hours, or boil it and let it cool, to allow the chlorine to evaporate.

Now, when I did this at home, I used smaller jars on top of the bigger jars as weights, to keep the cukes under the brine, but I don’t have those here, and they are really not necessary.  It’s good to check on them every so often while they ferment on your counter to ensure they are under the brine, otherwise they start growing lactobacillus on the top and it looks kind of gross, though is still edible. So, I just put the lid on, left it loose and put it on a corner of the counter, where they will ferment until I leave.

After cleaning up from the pickles, I decided to try zucchini relish.  I have never made regular zucchini relish before so I was at a bit of a loss as to where to start.  Luckily, the collective consciousness…errrr.  internet, exists, and I asked Google and was gifted with this beautiful post to work from.  I have no tolerance for spicy things, so I knew I was going to have to change the recipe to accommodate my personal tastes.  In the end I worked with this:

1 large-ish zucchini (use as many as you want)

1 chunk of red pepper

1 small spanish onion, fresh from the neighbour’s garden

1 clove garlic

mustard, chinese five spice, and all spice


I scooped out the seeds from the zucchini and cut the garlic, onion and peppers into chunks.  Then, I threw them in the food processor with the grating attachment on it, because, well, it’s SOOOO easy and fast.  You could do it by hand if you feel so inclined.

I then added the salt until it tasted nice and salty and flavourful, about a tablespoon.

I also added in a couple of oak leaves, to keep the texture firm.

Then, I ground up the spices in a mortar and pestle.  As I didn’t really know how much to use, I eye-balled it and am hoping for the best.  You may have noticed that this is how I cook, as there are no real amounts to this recipe at all. This is how much I used, for a reference:

I then added that to the mix and put it all in a plastic yogurt container, pressed on it until the juices come up over the top.  I would use a weight, but I don’t have one.  Weights make life better in ferments, but are not necessary.

In the end, I ended up with three litres of cucumber pickles and a yogurt container of relish.  I will let them rest on my counter until they are bubbly and then I will move them to the fridge (if you have cold storage you can use that instead) and eat them on all the most delicious things I can think of.

I am excited to give you an update as to how they all actually taste.  MMMMMM!!!

And, a special thank you to Dad and Sara for letting me use their fancy new camera.  I forgot mine at home and am glad that I could use theirs to make this post more interesting.


Thrilling Thursdays, or, why I love my family

5 08 2010

So, what is thrilling for me right now is this: FAMILY!

Yup, they are great.  My family is my dad and step mom and my mom and step dad.  My brother too, but he is all the way out in Victoria, so I rarely see him, unfortunately.  And, of course, my daughter.

This is pic of the Top Know Crew, my dad, step mom, little A and I sporting our top knots this spring

The reason they are thrilling is this: when I am with them, I am a better parent in many ways.  When I am with them, they, without asking, take initiative on helping me with parenting.  Instead of shying away with my screaming child, they come in and scoop her up into a thousand giggles.  They teach her things that I don’t, like how to play frisbee or how to play the piano.  Especially my birth parents, reflect to me so much of where I came from, how I can evolve our family and help me along in that evolutionary process.

They do some of the dishes, without ever being asked.  They cook nutritious meals, without ever being asked.

Now, this might not seem like a lot, but it’s the kind of support that I yearn for in a community.  Community has been my Holy Grail.  I have searched for a community that I could run away to the land with and raise our children together for as long as I can remember having independent adult thought.  I have searched all over this great Turtle Rock and have met so many amazing people.

All the galaxies shine with the beauty of the people that I have met, each an infinite star exploding its glorious light into the Universe.  I have learned so much from all of them.  Yet, when it came time for the vision to really ground, ie: when I had a baby, they were as distant as those star systems, only pinpoints of light in my vision, instead of the brilliant and nurturing suns I hoped they would be.

And that is where they were all at.  And I honour that.

And, I realize what a blessing my family truly is, because though they aren’t necessarily the most spiritually nourishing or socially conscious folks I know, they are ready, willing and HAPPY to assist me in the raising of my daughter.  And really, they have wonderful lessons too.

And while I know I can’t live with just them, I want to find some sort of middle ground, where I can be near them and also be with community, of some sort, as I still, naively or not, believe that solid people will actually be able to become a part of my community one day.

So that feels pretty monumentous, because I always thought I wouldn’t want to be near my family, that integrating them into my life would be like oil and water.  I feel like I am coming to a place where I believe that I can integrate family and community like a nice, smooth vinaigrette.

mmmmm creamy!


Writing Wednesdays – but it’s my birthday

4 08 2010

Today, I am turn 29!

I am so excited! It is wonderful! and, while I am spending it with my family, I wanted to throw some writing love into the mix, and keep with the whole blog thing.

So, a short post today, but I figure I can be lenient with myself as I will never again turn 29! (not like some folks out there who magically turn 29 every year…..)

The latest news on the writing front is that I have finished through my first edit/read through of my novel! And, because of that, I actually have a good idea of what I want it to look like, in finished form.  And, I have a lot of good material to make it with. 

However, there is a LOT of work to be done on it.  Writing a 50K novel in a  month (NaNoWriMo) is simple compared to the immense task of taking those 50K words and turning them into something that many people would actually want to read. 

So, that is my major project in writing right now.  Here is a little excerpt from it, to tantalize your writing taste buds:

There was a happiness that I wished to hang about my neck like a string of pearls every moment. I wanted it to melt on my tongue like an everlasting chocolate truffle, rich and creamy. This happiness was nourishing, like a hearty stew on a frosty autumn day. It satisfied the cells like oasis water. It was the point of Life, I was sure, and what I always strove for.

Somewhere along the Path I stopped finding that happiness within me. I started looking outside for the feeling. The scenery had been so stunning, so inspiring for so long that I forgot how to find the magic in the everyday.

I wanted fireworks, light shows and the most activated beings I could find.

But, everyday is just every day. It is the hauling water and chopping wood. It is cooking, cleaning, changing diapers and folding laundry.

When I birthed Asteria, my life became the every day. Everyday was a new discovery, a new and infinite way to love. Everyday was a challenge: how to find magic in the midst of a thousand diapers, dishes from three days ago and meals from cans and boxes made over several hours, between feedings, changings, burps and gas pains.

I had thought that my community would help fill in the blanks of the everyday, while I took care of my daughter and basked in her magic.

But, everyday is just every day. It is not fire works, it does not come with a thousand simultaneous explosions of unrelenting bliss. It simply is.

What do you think?

Now, off to my beautiful daughter and the package of balloons she bought me for my birthday (“me want you to have balloons mama pud they me favourite thing and me want you to share it.” so sweet!!)


Tending Tuesday: What is going on in my garden?

3 08 2010

I miss it like crazy.  It is like another little baby, only this one is much more forgiving, sleeps through the night, every night (until frost that is) and well… I can eat it. 🙂

I sit here wondering: has the downy mildew that showed up on my cucumbers taken over, or was the reiki successful at helping it overcome the fungus?  Have the squash finally sprouted both male and female flowers at the same time so I can have squash this year? Are the potatoes dried up and shriveled in their bright blue containers?  Is anyone picking the calendula?

Honestly, I love my garden SO much.  It has given me so much abundance this year and will continue to do so into the fall.  It has taught me a lot about what to do, and what not to do and when to do nothing.  These are important lessons.

Currently, I have three 4′ x 10′ raised beds, an herb spiral, two containers of potatoes and a fig tree with calendula friends in it.

In the first bed that I planted I decided to try a permaculture technique of polyculture and dense plantings.  The idea is that planting densely allows for a living mulch and you get to have continuous harvest of deliciousness, as you harvest young plants.

Here is a picture of what my polyculture could, theoretically, look like, so you’re not so bored.  I would post one of mine, but I’m not there. And, this one has way more vegetables than mine.  😉

I planted assorted greens, beets, herbs and, as a strange inspiration, edible flowers (sunflower, borage, caledula and coriander).  The polyculture has been working really well, except for the fact that I didn’t recall that calendula was actually such a huge plant and it has totally taken over the garden.  I don’t have the heart to pull the plants, so I am allowing them to flower and some of them to go to seed.

In that bed, on the edge, I also did a planting of peas, which I thought were shelling peas, but ended up being snap peas.  I just pulled them out and replaced them with a row of carrots and one of beets.

On the far end there is a pickling cucumber patch, which, until the day we left (sunday) was doing wonderfully.  Sunday morning, we awake to downy mildew, which I had just learned about the day before at the farmer’s market, spreading its brown, spotty sickness through the sap of my delicious pickling cucumbers.

I am not a pickle kinda girl in the traditional sense.  Vinegar pickles are, in my books, a travesty of culinary expression.  The truth about preserving cucumbers lies in the fermentation process. These pickles are, in fact, the best thing I’ve ever tasted in the pickle vein of existence.  Even staunch anti-pickle advocates will eat my fermented pickles.  And, luckily for you, you will learn all about them this week, in foodie fridays. Wait for it.

So, it was with great sadness that little A and I discovered the downy mildew.  We harvested what we thought might be our last cucumber harvest, prayed, offered reiki and love over them and then left them to their own devices as we left for the great North.

There is a part of me that wants to call my neighbours.  “How are my cucumbers?” I would ask. And, I’m sure, the response would be greatly unsatisfying.  Something like “Pretty good.” or “I haven’t really checked them lately.”  Which would both be perfectly understandable answers, but not nearly the in depth communication with my cucumber plants that I am looking for.

The other bed, closest to the road, is full of butternut squash and a zucchini plant.  I would add that there is also a few fennel plants and some pepper plants and even a dash of chard and nasturtiums in there, but they are really overshadowed, in every sense, by the girth of our squash plants.  Cucurbit family is a very prolific family, something like a settler’s Catholic family, shooting out runners like babies like that was the only thing it had a purpose in doing. Wait, that is it’s only purpose…

However, the one squash that we had, we accidentally harvested when cutting back some of runners so they didn’t take over the road. And so far, no other male and female flowers have existed together on the plant, and so, no babies.  I WANT BABIES! (not ones that I grow in my belly though.  Not right now.  OK?  OK.)

I want to see my darling squash as they birth their little babies.  I want to see the beautiful male flowers right along side of the female plants.  I want to know the difference in  what they look like.

So, I sit here.  In my mother’s livingroom.  I wonder about all these things, and more.  I wonder about whether the carrot seeds have enough moisture to germinate.  What about the bush peas? But it will all have to wait, as will pictures, until next week, when I am back in my little haven of urban abundance.

Until then, if you happen to be passing by, give my plants a little hello, some love and a maybe even harvest a zucchini or two. If you let me know about it, I can live vicariously through you.


The results are in: The new layout of this blog

2 08 2010

Only one person commented about my last post, which I am incredibly grateful for.  So, seeing as how she is the only person with input, I am going to assume that all my readers feel the same way (as no one posted any differently) and create a new layout based on her input. Kudos Rashel!

I am going to try writing everyday, and because I feel like I need more structure I am going to have a different theme everyday, unless I am doing a “series” on something in particular, and then I will throw the structure out the window for the good of the idea at the time.  You’ve been warned. 🙂

So, here’s the layout based on days.  I tried to use alliteration as much as possible, as I find alliteration to be very pleasing and memorable. I hope you all like alliteration.  (In case you don’t know what alliteration is: alliteration is a poetic device in which the author uses the same letter or sounds to start each word in a stanza, like: murmuring moonbeams muffling the moan of more mundane malice.  Something like that….)

Momma Mondays:  insights into mothering, parenting and all things child related, including updates on my family (with more pictures ever)

Tending Tuesdays: tending the garden that is!  (yes, I realize that tending tuesdays might be a bit of a stretch from gardening, but remember: alliteration folks!!!)  This is where I will explore my forray into urban agriculture, update you with pictures and harvest details from my plot and hopefully inspire more people to grow more of their own food.

Writing Wednesdays: exploring writing, sharing work and generally expounding on my ever-evolving writing career.

Thrilling Thursdays:  At least once a week I have a major epiphany (often, it is the same epiphany, only learned a new way).  It is thrilling, this ride of Life, and here is where I share the lessons, enjoyments and general thrills of Life thus far.

Foodie Fridays:  Ever want to know how to ferment your own zucchini relish?  Me too!  Let’s explore traditional foods, preservation methods and recipes together!

Assorted Saturdays:  This is kind of an “anything goes” type of day.  This is whatever assortment of thing that I feel inspired to talk about.  Maybe it will be activism, maybe sex, maybe sleep or maybe even my big toe.  We’ll see when we get there.

Sacred Sundays: what’s spirit got to do with it?  Sundays is where you can find out!  What does spirituality look like to me? How do I explore it? How can we explore together?

That is the line-up/run-down of how this blog is going to be structured from here on to infinity.  Well, maybe not infinity.  Let’s try it for a bit and see if we like it first, shall we?

So, I will see you tomorrow with a garden story, that will have no pictures of my garden, as I am visiting my family right now.  So, stay tuned for a completely interesting and bi-located entry.