Friday, December 30, 2005

Tart on Ember Day

Parboil onions, and sage, and parsley and hew them small, then take good fat cheese, and bray it, and do thereto eggs, and temper it up therewith, and do thereto butter and sugar, and raisyngs of corince, and powder of ginger, and of canel, medel all this well together, and do it in a coffin, and bake it uncovered, and serve it forth.

Several years ago, for a dinner after which the invited couples were to each enact a dialogue from Shakespeare, I researched and made this dish. Unfortunately, I've lost the source and historical details, but the recipe dates from the Medieval era. Its blend of flavors is unusual by today's standards, yet delicious. We enjoyed it last night for dinner. Here's the modern version:

7 ounces Muenster cheese
4 medium onions
1/3 cup parsley
2 Tablespoons fresh sage
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ginger
4 Tablespoons currants
9-inch pie crust

Chop onions, boil 10 minutes, drain. Grate cheese. Mix everything and put in pie crust. Bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes.

There's something about the fact that a pie crust used to be called a coffin that gives me pause. I don't know the etymology. What does it say about us that we use the word coffin as we do now, or that we no longer use it for pie crusts?

Update: A little further research did not turn up a source that corresponded exactly to the notes I took, but did seem to verify that the recipe apparently dates from the early 15th century "Ancient Cookery," which seems to be credited to the Arundel Collection, No. 344, p.275-445.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Grey winter

There was no white Christmas this year
No frosted window pane
The ski runs are closed and the hills look naked
All bare grass and trees
The rain sploshes on our noses as we start to run
From parked car to building
Prancing and sidestepping deep puddles
Round bits of grey sky
We exchange wordless glances as we run — we'd rather
Be out here dancing

There's no reason not to take a shower
Here in the wide open
Let the rain sing its way over our skins
In rivulet harmonies
Scatting drops to weave among
Percussive splats
The riffing rain sings to the rolling hills
Its own kind of blues
And, laughing, we dance our own kind of dance
In the falling music of grey winter

Thursday, December 22, 2005

An owl's feather

"...I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating planations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesmal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
I felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke free on the open sky."

— Pablo Neruda

Happy holidays to you all.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The way

he listens, nods,
then says it's not working for him
I am relieved
it's not for me either

he wants me to abandon form
to sing legato
two phrases over their three
there are no lead sheets

there are no sheets at all
no writing
no parsing of time
I'm blind on the edge of the forest

I take a run
stumble and fall in the grass
I have no sense of a path
of where the boulders are

I run again and this time
miss two large rocks
but I have glimpsed blue air
before falling

again I run, pumping hard
rising over the rocks
misjudge and land
crashing in the trees on the far side

take a deep breath, focus,
gather speed
pump, pump, pump

I can feel the lay of the land
below me, the rocks fan out
the clearing bright green and grassy
the trees march orderly along the edge

I'm arcing up, over, out
soaring, my two over their three
fitting like a dance, a loving embrace
over the grass, over the trees

— flying in the blue

Friday, December 16, 2005

Owl feathers

"It's not how much you do, but how much love you put into the action."
— Mother Teresa

"Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate."
— Albert Schweitzer

"In a real sense all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality."
— Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"When you have found your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall."
— C.S. Lewis

"People deal too much with the negative, with what is wrong... Why not try and see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?"
— Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, December 15, 2005


This week has felt like running into doorframes, tripping, stubbing toes—you know, when things just won't run smoothly despite your best efforts. I was so sure, after getting good drugs for her yesterday, that we'd see her smoothly launched back to school early this morning. That was before she showed up in the morning kitchen with a startlingly large, red, hot, swollen rash on her leg. In the bathroom, hearing me express my frustration (decently, mind you) with how our day wasn't going, she said with a little smile, "That's why I always leave extra room for let-downs. Life has a lot of let-downs." It stopped me cold. Of course. It's all in the expectations.

Later on the drive to the doctor's again to check out the rash, we headed straight for the full moon. Looming pearly and large in the lavender-blue sky, I found myself wishing for our camera. Especially when it hovered in the upper branches of the dark spruces as we drove past the park. I told her how much I appreciated her resilience and good cheer at times like this, and she said, "I don't know what else to do but be cheerful. Otherwise, you'd just be miserable." How can I learn to be that emotionally pragmatic? I guess she's teaching me now.

All's well that ends well: she's safely ensconced at school now, in time for her two holiday performances today. Diagnosis: allergic reaction to a spider bite, treatable with a little cream and cold compresses. So now I'm crossing my fingers that we're through the rough patch, while trying to leave a little extra room for let-downs.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A day off

...from writing, today. Instead: mother work. Visits to doctor, pharmacy, grocery store for extra fluids and a jigsaw puzzle to keep my child occupied while sick. This afternoon will include himself taking a turn to watch the kid while I attempt to not lose too much ground at work. The lost time (this is actually the third day of illness) may keep me busy elsewhere a while.

I have many memories of being sick as a child, curled up under a quilt. My mind would ramble over the patterns of colors and prints, the squares, triangles and paths in fabric that traveled up and down the hills and ridges of my legs. Here's a poem by Robert Louis Stevenson that I remember from those days.

The Land of Counterpane

Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bedclothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Great horned owl

under a blood red sky
a crisp, grey profile
perched at the top of his tree
he calls out the coming night

cold and wary
gloved hands pocketed
for extra warmth
breaths swirling white
I tread lightly
down the icy path

just underneath,
standing motionless
I look up into
the shadowed cup
of his gaze

suddenly he calls again
startling, forceful
ears pricked
right at me

after a
respectful pause
I answer his question,

a few times
we parley
until I turn, shivering
wondering what we said
and leave him
to the deepening cold

he swivels then,
raises his shoulders
wings wide
silently slips into a slice
of iced blackness

Monday, December 12, 2005

Love launches ships

love launches ships,
little boats float down the river
bobbling around the bend
to disappear,
love launches them and
doesn't look back,
they go on to things unseen
to dance in the larger music
of the big wetness of the world,
dance in the rain,
dance in the mists,
dance in the surf,
holding on to a paper boat only crumples it,
there in the darkness of your pocket,
wears the corners,
makes it dingy
with your thumbprints

set out your little boat alive,
precarious and thinly made,
set it down quickly
and look away
if you must
throw it out to the river of the world
and watch now how the low branches dance in the breeze

Sunday, December 11, 2005


thanks for your
strange kennings
that sparked
our days!

see you 'round!

Photo by platdujour

Friday, December 09, 2005

Owl feathers

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life..."
— Anne Lamott

“Creativity is so delicate a flower that praise tends to make it bloom, while discouragement often nips it in the bud.”
— Alexander Osborn

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
— Scott Adams

"Rule 4: It helps beyond words to plant bulbs in the dark of winter."
— Anne Lamott

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Palms up

The headlines in the paper
I hold in my hands
Speak quietly
Of a need for torture

I am speechless

These hands have painted signs
Pointed accusations
Beckoned and shooed
Forced open mechanical doors
Roped a lofty tree to the ground
Stolen the life of fish with heavy stone
Finished off a mangled squirrel with a shovel
Broken rocks apart
Carried a boat
Stripped thorns
Stripped paint
Stripped clothing

These hands have not stripped human souls

I question my hands —
Not spotless
Less than innocent
Still —
And they answer for me:
These hands keep learning
drink love, feed life

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Lost poem

it wasn't in the wedge of geese
that splits sky from sage

it wasn't in the rivers of roughness
that sing the length of the box elder

it wasn't in the pearly ice
that spoons the riverbank

or in the awkward cry of the long legged heron
launching blue and dinosauric
down the near-frozen highway of cottonwoods

it wasn't in the arcing spine of the thorny
black locust trembling bare against the sky

it wasn't in the cloud
ruminating low and lazy over the snowy rim

or in the cold that creeps across
these piebald hills
elbowing its cloven-hoofed way into my heart

but I did find inside the old blown nest
wedged in the naked apple tree
the promise of a poem I wrote when I was three

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The songwriter's art

in the swirl and rush of the multitude
you drew me aside to a quiet corner
by the stair and standing by the pile of shoes
played a new song of someone's love and peaches

leaning my ear close I faced the din
while the song drew me in
through a window of words
framed by melody to your small kitchen

an apparition of your redhaired wife
standing at the sink in a cloud of steam
hands wrapped by cotton towels, funneling
peaches into another glass jar

and you with your large hands
standing behind, reaching out
and the jolt of surprising love
the sound of hot glass breaking

the kitchen floor covered in glass
and summer peaches and laughter
and hot kisses rising like steam
the thread of melody weaving through

then the sound stopped, the last chord
drained away, my ears filled again
with the chatter of the crowd
and my eyes with this wide white room

I looked down and saw
your large hands resting on the silent guitar

Photo found at

Monday, December 05, 2005

Senryu Called Billet-Doux

It popped into my head this morning before breakfast without asking:

a whispered love song
in a small red envelope
for your ears only

Having lost use of Blogger mid-post yesterday (does anybody know what happened?), I'll add the information I initially forgot: Written for the word of the day (a few days ago), billet-doux, at Poem of the Day.

Sound of new snow falling

A snow poem by Firehawk got me thinking about the sound snow makes when it's falling.

gold warmth floats through the
whitened window pane and lights
here on my cold cheek

I drink wet green leaves
to warm myself as snow lights
on leafless branches

these flakes float straight down
slowly settle together
no wind moves the tree

the sound they make is
a whisper, absence of noise,
the sound of muffled

the sound of leaf ghosts
the sound of unsung bird song
the sound of sleeping

Photo found at Cal Tech.

Friday, December 02, 2005

An owl's feather

A tip of the hat to Blog Against Racism Day. All I can say is, it seems to me we're all in this together.

"Very shortly after my father died, which was three years ago now, I felt like I received a very strong message from him. And the message was to use my writing and music the best I could on the positive side of things. And I am still trying to figure out exactly what he meant by that, because I know he didn't mean for me to write a bunch of Hallmark cards or something. I paid attention to that, and I think he was telling me something very important. But I know something: In these times we do have to pay attention. There's the love pile and the hate pile, is the way I look at it, and we've got to try and put as much stuff as we can in the love pile, however we can do that."

Greg Brown, quoted in Heron Dance, Issue 38.