A lovely calm in the city this evening, quite a contrast from the post-police heaviness of last weekend. Dom and Tashi and I are just back in our green oasis (the garden is SO spectacular) from two nights in Grey County. It was a great visit, staying with friends, dancing contra dances with friends and strangers of all ages and descriptions, having a leisurely but intense sauna this morning followed by a delicious swooshing swim in a rain-swollen river. It's so liberating to catch the current and get swept along, riding the power but without fear, a benign mother nature carrying us along.
Up in the country I was sleeping out in the forest in a little cabin-like space, a tiny trailer in fact, with screen windows all round, so that the bird calls woke me early and then kept my morning daydreams company. Last night was clear and moonless until late, so the stars seemed to hang low and for sure there were more of them than usual. "Diamonds in the sky" rarely feels like a good metaphor, but last night they were brilliants, draped across the bosom of the sky, I feel like saying.
The sauna, like all purgings, leaves me feeling aired out and light. And that feeling is carrying me along like the river's current. I feel washed of small anxieties for the moment, delighted with the world, pleased with the recipes I have already worked on for the Burma book, looking forward to telling stories and giving the whole thing shape: it's a lovely freedom, a freed-up-ness.
Now how to keep riding this wave a appreciative engagement? How to surf the happiness?
I saw an aunt of mine up north, well over eighty and still lively and beautiful and very engaged. She came too to the contra dancing and kicked up her heels with us all. S(he also taught Dom to waltz, as the band (fiddle, flute, drums, Irish-style) swept us along. She talked earlier that afternoon about how she always felt, as the youngest in her family, that she was not as smart as the others, not good enough. I said to her (after arguing with her that her inability to count up her change and remember dates doesn't mean a lack of intelligence -she has plenty, and it's lively! - just an area that some people are better at than she is, so what?), " But now surely you don't worry about what other people think of you?" She said, "Well, now mostly not, but it sure made me afraid then, afraid of getting things wrong!"
The conversation made me think about all the crippling expectations we put on ourselves, the unrealistic voices we hear in our heads hectoring us over small mistakes, or filling us with doubts about our ability to achieve. What a waste of energy! And how destructive! I don't mean that we should all strut around with chests puffed out and feeling like we're masters of the universe. But I do mean that the judgementalism of early teachers or parents or siblings can corrode us, and burden us, if we let it.
Maybe we carry it around when we are young, but surely as adults our task is to look those hideous negative chains that hold us down square on, confront them, and then laugh at them. They are our own constructions. We need to see them as papier mache, without power, and we need to laugh at them.
Feeling as I do today, thrilled by Dom's great driving (he has his learners licence and was fabulous driving down from Grey County in the red Honda Fit, loving it and confident) and by the lightness of being that's infected me, I am impatient that any of us gets caught up long-term in negative thinking. It feels anti-life, and certainly anti-pleasure and a waste of good energy.
How to purge? is the question. The sauna, by heating us right to the marrow of our bones, feels as if it's driving out all kinds of toxic crap, leaving us slimed with sweat. When the river or lake or shower washes it off, we are freed. Now what is the sauna for the soul and the trapped-in-a-hamster-wheel brain? I don't know.
But surely days out, not so much the buffer days we allow ourselves (see my earlier post from early feb 2010), but more the completely out of our element days, where we change place and pattern and disconnect from the normal, surely those times are the way we can get freer. Short term freeings-up happen when we dance and dance, into a kind of high that transports us. Heavy physical work can do it too, for sure. (Drink and drugs are other avenues, but they mire us down and we pay sooner or later.) But when we get the chance, let's remember to get out of our stucknesses, however much effort it may take.
AND AS FOR FOOD: Now that the new potatoes are appearing, if you have some spare hands around to shell peas, use them in a simple herbed potato salad: Boil the spuds whole, drain and let them cool to firm up. Meantime get the peas shelled and pick some fresh herbs: parsley, mint, plenty of it, chives, and then basil if you have it... or tarragon if you like. Be generous with the quantity of herbs. Chop the herbs and stir them into an olive oil and vinegar (or lime or lemon juice if you prefer, or a blend) dressing with some salt. A dash of Dijon mustard is an option and/or a dash of good soy sauce. Heat a small amount of water in a pot, add the peas, and cook them briefly, until just tender. Put the peas and potatoes in a large wooden bowl (or whatever bowl you have), pour the dressing over, and toss gently. It's a great dish for a potluck (Lillian made a 10 pounds-of-potatoes salad just like it for Saturday night) or for a hungry crowd, especially in hot weather.