Monday, April 5, 2010


The last few days, the long elastic time that is the four-day Easter weekend, have passed in a hazy daze, or a daze-y haze, because we've been in sun and warmth. it's been like a blessing from the universe to have such an intense fore-taste of summer warmth. And here in Toronto, where we had really no summer and no warmth last year, it's even more of a welcome balm to the body and the soul.

So now the lamb is all eaten, the Russians at the Orthodox church on my street have had their Saturday midnight procession, complete with singing and icons and people walking with candles (and others talking in the soft night air on their cell-phones), the children have found their Easter eggs... What's next?

It's a time for celebrating spring and new life here in the northern Hemisphere. In the more tropical air of Thailand and Laos and the Shan States of Burma, it's about to be new year, Song Kran as it's called in Thailand. The holiday comes in mid-April, in the hottest of hot season, and is often marked by an early pre-monsoon season rain. Soon after, with the rains proper, rice planting/transplanting begins and the earth transforms into lush and brilliant green paradise. The grey skies overhead and the indirect lighting that results (the big lightbox in the sky, as some photographers think of it gratefully) give everything a rounded three-dimensional look and bring out the richness of saturated colours everywhere...

But here we don't have such a clear demarcation... instead as the snow melts and warmth reurns, the changes are subtle at first - the buds swell on the trees - then burst out and declare themselves. Just up from me the bare branches of a neighbour's plum tree are dotted with small white flower buds; the huge maple that fills the sky to the west of my bedroom has fattened leaf buds; and out front the crabapple tree and the Japanese lilac both have greens leaves just springing out, visible only from close to.

It must have been surging spring energy that made me long to make a more ambitious run/jog/trot on Easter Sunday morning. So off I went north through the Annex and then up the steps past Casa Loma (it's on the steep hill that marks the geological location of the old edge of Lake Ontario's predecessor body of water). I walked some but mostly trit-trotted along, feeling very good. I haven't run up there since long ago, before I quite jogging about seven years ago, thinking that it was giving me aches and pains. I discovered a little later, when I started belly dance classes with the fabulous Roula Said, that those aches and pains were caused by my ignorance of how I should stretch my hamstrings and quads and all those other tight back-of-the-leg muscles, as well as my hip flexors. So in the last year or two I've begun heading out for short easy morning runs. What a pleasure they are.

Now this new woman that I've become through belly dance (VERY gradually!) knows how to stay stretched and feels no pain or stiffness from my little jogs. And that's what gave me the confidence to try a longer trot. Today I felt fine, as I took my usual unambitious little morning trip through the university to celebrate the start of the day.

I am going on and on about this, because it's time to talk seriously about age and aging and about how with luck we can stay mobile and healthy for a lot longer, by being smart about how we use ourselves, our minds and bodies, and by pushing ourselves, too.

That thought reminds me that at midweek I heard a prayer read out, a prayer written by Sir Francis Drake. I must go and find the text, for it is remarkable, and it resonated with me. It asks that we be stretched, that our horizons be set wide, that we not sit comfortably content with what we have but continue to push ourselves and extend the boundaries of our lives. At least that is the meaning I heard!

I felt I'd been reminded of an important truth, one that feels especially on target at this time of new life springing forth into the sunshine and the light... Let's spread our wings wide wide and embark!

And a footnote about food:
We're still eating root vegetables here; it will be awhile before we have a wide choice of local vegetables. Even asparagus is another month-plus away. I am looking forward to bitter greens such as dandelions. For now we are limited to sprouts (recent discoveries at Wychwood market include cabbage and dandelion sprouts), and also the first of fresh tender salad greens. (As you know, for me a fresh farm egg in some form (fried or poached, generally) always plays an important role in all this greens-eating.)

Faced with the root vegetables, the other day I made a green Thai curry (using packaged green curry paste and canned coconut milk, I admit) with slices and chunks of sweet potato, white potato, celery root, and thick-stemmed mushroom. In the usual way, I heated the curry paste in a little oil and coconut milk to cook it, then added the veggies, but not the mushrooms, and stirred so they were coated with flavour. Some water and more coconut milk gave enough liquid to simmer things for ten minutes. Then I left it all sitting on the stove off the heat while I ran errands. I like a pause, to give flavours a chance to blend. Later I tossed in the mushrooms, a crushed stick of lemongrass, and the usual lime leaves, and then near the end, some Thai basil, and I seasoned it with fish sauce. I like to extend the liquid with quite a lot of water, so there's a smoothness from the coconut milk, but it's not thick and heavy.

It was a delish combo over rice, and made great leftovers the next day, reheated. But on the day I made it, it tasted better to to me at room temperature than it did hot from the stove. Why is that? Not every dish responds that way. All ideas welcome!

This evening there was more Thai on the menu, at least improvised thai-ish food: I made a soupy combo of sliced pork and sliced fried tofu and chopped long beans, all cooked in a flavour base of minced lemongrass and ginger and pulverized garlic, and seasoned with dao jiao, smashed fermented soy beans, a great pantry staple. The combo went over guay tio, wide fresh rice noodles quickly seared in the wok, so it became a version of guay tio ladna. Thai in Toronto in the springtime... a treat for us all!

1 comment:

naomi said...

Here's the prayer, as I found it on-line

Even if the concept of a Lord God is alien to you, as it is to me, the prayer's intent is a powerful one I think:

Disturb us, Lord, when We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.