Monday, July 14, 2014


The huge moon that hung in the sky this evening, impossibly luminous and lovely, was a tad off full, for it was last night, in scattered dramatic trailing clouds that the moon was fullest. I had a lot of time to marvel at her then, for I was driving late at night, on almost empty roads, the two plus-hours from Grey County back to Toronto.

The dryness of my tired late-night eyes, painful and a little scary, drove me to close them at red lights (after putting the car in Park), and ask my travelling companion to tell me when the light turned green. That short respite, repeated several times, was enough to extend my stamina and get us back into the city safely. But the struggle to stay focussed and able made me think about all the times I have taken chances, and all the times all of us are pushed to take chances or choose to do it for a thrill. We get away with it most of the time. And then sometimes we don’t…and we and others suffer.

Yet still we push the limits. What is it in us that pushes us to take chances? Evolutionarily these tendencies must have been rewarded…but what purpose have they served? Well I guess they help us extend out boundaries and discover new possibilities. That kind of positive result in previous generations could have been advantageous in many ways to our ancestors.

But when we take chances and risks we’re not thinking about our forebears, we’re instead in the moment, either willing ourselves to come through despite discomfort or exhaustion (think of the soccer players, yikes) or choosing to take a risk for the thrill of it. And in the latter situation, is the thrill in the danger/risk itself? or is it also in the idea that we can get away with things we ought not to do?

Probably some of both…

I wrote those earlier paragraphs last night. Now it’s a bright grey Monday morning, getting more and humid, waiting to start into the promised rainshowers of late afternoon. Meantime the birds are tweeting and the garden is glowing green, the arugula sharp-tasting and inviting, the cucumbers twining and setting fruit. The eggplants are NOT flourishing though. It’s been too chilly at night, so they have not set fruit. The cayenne chiles on the other hand are already loaded and I have been picking their green shiny heat-gifts for two weeks now.

But back to Grey County… A lovely guy named Steve, a chef who has now turned to farming found himself entangled in a conversation with me about cardoons. He’s growing them, and globe artichokes too, even in Ontario’s tough climate. He’s promised me some in August, and I’m delighted, for I have a delicious Kurdish recipe to try.

The meal was anchored by a lot of food from our hosts (who were celebrating having lived on their land for thirty years) but it was also a potluck. Steve had brought over a big load of zucchini blossoms. He made a batter of egg and water and all-purpose flour, quite loose and liquid, dipped each blossom (with its handy and delicious stem) through the batter and deep-fried them in batches in peanut oil in a wok set over the wood fire. We’d used that fire earlier to grill loads of local beef (marinated round steaks) and a lovely lot of shiitakes that our hosts grow outside on maple logs. The beef we sliced across the grain and then dressed to transform it into Thai grilled beef salad, always a crowd-pleaser, flavoured mostly with mint rather than basil, and garlic scapes, as well as lime and fish sauce and a little chile heat. The shiitakes are so meaty that after a quick pre-grill dip in a mixture of oil and fish sauce (with some minced sage and garlic green tossed in for good measure), time on the grill, and slicing into strips with a squeeze of lemon juice, they were perfection and vanished very quickly.

There’s nothing like a potluck meal with people who grow their own food. (And this was even more wonderful because we had a fire and we were outdoors in a forest clearing.) The potato salads (ours with just a pounded pesto dressing of pistachios, mint and chervil, garlic scapes etc plus local vinegar; others with garden peas etc), rhubarb cakes, leaf lettuce greens…were all lively and vital on the tongue with freshness and familiarity too. Perhaps all that good food and good company were why I had the energy to drive back into the city (and I had been sesible about alcohol: I drank only water for the five hours before I set out home).

And so here we are already in mid-July, loving the summer and already noticing that the days have started to get shorter. It’s my birthday tomorrow, and that of a close friend today. We chatted yesterday evening, sitting outside sipping a delicious Chablis, about the stock-taking that July means for us because of our birthdays. What a pleasure to have time and ease to catch up with friends.

And today as I am thinking about all this, I sift through my birthday-time images in my mind’s eye, from childhood homemade birthday cakes heaped with blueberries and raspberries, to making the three day parikrama  round Mount Kailash in western Tibet, to swimming in the soft waters of the Gatineau River north of Ottawa, to last Saturday’s delicious swims in the clean waters of Grey County.

It’s a big stack of images… a lovely chance for me to appreciate being alive in this world.

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