Friday, August 30, 2013

Life is good

Didja think I fell off the face of the earth? For awhile, I kinda thought I had done just that, or was at least on the brink of doing so.

I struggled for the first week and a half -- seriously struggled with energy (lack thereof). We made numerous trips into Santa Rosa, often leaving early in the morning and arriving back late at night. Plus cooking (which I am coming to enjoy more and more) and general life.

But -- a couple of days ago I began to notice that magical moment when the energy was returning, when I no longer needed to crash right after lunch. I knew the moment would come -- it always does, as the body hardens up to meet new physical demands -- but there were days when I wasn't sure I was gonna outlast it.

Having some serious computer (software, thank you very much Microsoft!) issues that threatened (and may still threaten) the ability for the computer to function, hasn't helped. I've never made a secret about how much I dislike techie stuff, and how uncomfortable I am with it. But, I make gains. A couple of downloads this morning that were supposed to help. And disconnecting Word as my email editor. That seemed to be the biggest holdup over the past couple of days, so we'll see what happens in the future. I have over 2 weeks left here, so I need to keep it working. Internet is still slow, but functioning. Only time will tell for the rest.

Life here is good, despite the difficulties. It doesn't hurt that we have had a long spate of hot, sunny days with good breezes. Perfect weather. And it doesn't hurt that the last two afternoons we drove to Windsor (north of Santa Rosa) along the Russian River through some very beautiful and very excellent vineyards and wineries. My heart sings at the vineyards, and my palate resounds at certain winery signs, such as Sonoma-Cutrer. Not sure just what memory that reflected, but it was a good one. Maybe I just know they make a really, really good chardonnay, or maybe my palate remembers just how good it was when I had some.

I'm getting used to handwashing a couple of t-shirts every couple of mornings (I don't have many with me because I expected 'normal' cooler weather). Lunches have mostly been pretty good, if I may say so. Today I fixed what was supposed to be a frittata, but which seemed more like a Spanish omelet to me -- lots of potatoes. I've made lots of frittatas in my day, but never one without an oven, so I had to use my friend Google to learn how to do it on the stovetop. Also fixed some roasted red pepper/garlic salad, which is one of my favorite things. I cook on two big camp stoves, with serious BTUs, and it's fun to roast the peppers right over the flames.

So now it's time to put away the lunch dishes, and turn to bookkeeping. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sweet sunset

Now, this is what it's all about, folks! We drove into Santa Rosa on Sunday and as we headed home from Bodega, the sun was putting on quite a show. Ayya suggested we stop for a minute -- a great way to relax after a long day.

I'm actually in Santa Rosa again at the moment. Ayya had to come in for some ceremonies today and tomorrow at the new Vihara, and while I was offered a very nice private room, I opted for a motel, so I can do anything I want to do at any given moment without worrying about proper protocol.  I have no clue what I'm supposed to do at the Vihara much of the time, and it's too easy to do the wrong thing simply from that ignorance. Besides that, I've been really, really, tired -- no chance to recover from that loooooog day of travel before jumping right in and driving in to do loads of laundry (not alone -- Ayya always helps and does more than her share), then take over the daily cooking and kitchen cleanup chores. In short, I'm pooped! Shortly after the above photo was taken, after we passed Jenner but hadn't reached our road, I felt that old, familiar feeling of 'hitting the wall', which is a term I first learned way back in 1983 while I was training for my Colorado bike ride. What it means is that the body literally runs out of energy to continue. I recognized what was happening, told Ayya, but assured her I was ok to get us home. It was dicey on our narrow, twisty, bumpy road, but while I may have been a bit loopy, no harm came to anything.

Still -- I'm pooped. And since I made such a big fuss about needing to have the oil changed in the truck, that was part of my day -- I had to wait 3 hours (2 promised), and didn't get to my motel until almost 6:30. And I was supposed to have a restful afternoon! So yes, I'm still pooped. Fortunately, I've been able to mostly be aware of all the mental fussing I've been doing based around the body fatigue, and was mostly able to let go of it, at least for that moment. And once I wind down, I'll be hitting the sheets. And I can stay here all morning if I wish -- will pick her up around noon for the return trip home.

It's a hard life, no doubt about it. But if I continue to work through the issues I'm still sure I can and want to make this work. I will not give up this time. The rewards are so wonderful. The forest heals. The sunshine heals. That beautiful ocean and beaches and sunsets heal. It all offsets the difficulty. I think.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Home, again

For me, there is something miraculous that happens when my flight is say, about an hour out of San Francisco. It's not intentional, it just happens. Anticipation starts to build, and it's anticipation filled with joy and much, much more. My heart soars and the feeling gets stronger and stronger as the plane gets closer and closer. I'm coming home. My heart is coming home -- to its spiritual home. I've considered that city to be my spiritual home for over 40 years now -- during the times I was lucky enough to live there, and as strongly in the times I lived elsewhere.

This is home. And it feels like home. My heart is happy and at ease in a way that it never is 'at home' in Georgia.

I had to laugh once I left the gate and entered the SFO concourse yesterday, because the first thing that hit my senses was the smell of good -- no, make that wonderful -- food. What else would you expect in San Francisco, even at the airport?

At the moment, we are in a laundromat in Guerneville doing many loads of laundry to try and rid it of mold and mildew smell. This is an experience all in itself. Sixty dollars in quarters so far. Welcome to California.

Yesterday was a comedy of errors from beginning to end, yet in each incident I was able to let go of worrying, let go of any fear around each ' what if' that came along. Made for a calm and peaceful day amidst snags.

I got to the Atlanta airport and checked my bags, got my boarding pass, headed to the gate, waited for a flight to load and then the next departing flight was not to SFO so I asked at the counter and it turned out that my ticket was for a flight leaving that night at 9:55 pm, instead of 9:55 am. Luckily, Delta had another non-stop flight leaving an hour later, and she got me on it, got my checked bag re-routed, and all I had to do was walk to the end of that terminal, take the train under the runway to the other terminal, then go almost to the end (gate 5 of 18). But I was on.  The flight got in around 1:05, the Sonoma Airporter bus I needed to catch left at 1:30. I dashed from the plane to the baggage, where my bag didn't come out until maybe the third load. I was just happy to see that it got onto the plane! I grabbed it, looked at my watch: 1:28. I thought, no way I can get out there in time -- but also no way I can't try. So backpack on the back, heavy computer bag in one hand, heavy, big duffel in the other, I moved as fast as I could toward the door that led to the street crossing for the shuttles. I got there 30 seconds before the bus!

Then, the driver told me he wouldn't get to Sonoma Airport in time for me to catch my bus to Jenner, because of freeway construction slowdowns. I relaxed, knowing I had a back-up plan for a ride, and content to wait and see if I would make the connection. He, in the meantime, had devised another plan. At his last stop before the Airport, he told me he was going to go off his route and drop me at the Santa Rosa Transit Mall, where I would be able to catch the bus! He stopped at a corner and I had to hustle off the bus quickly with all bags, then walk a block or so, but what great thing to do! From there, I waited around 20 minutes in the breezy sunshine, then enjoyed one of those 'California only' experiences. A small bus, local people (interesting local people), headed to Mendocino eventually. Laid back, fun. We drove through the rolling hills to Bodega, then headed north along the coast (and yes, my heart really did soar, then) to Jenner. The driver dropped me at the end of the private road that comes up here, a few miles north of Jenner, where Ayya Sobhana was waiting for me. A wonderful day of potential 'disasters' that all had happy endings.

Weather here is fabulous. Warm and sunny, the coastal fog far, far out at sea. It won't last forever and is most unusual for this time of year, but nobody is complaining.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Curry -- my latest food obsession

Today's effort, served over brown rice
I've never had much curry, outside the occasional Indian restaurant. Never thought a great deal about that lack until last April when the cook at Southern Dharma served two very different curry sauces for use over rice during the course of the two retreats. At that point, I was sold and should have asked him for some tips. Instead, I tried an online recipe that turned out to be less than interesting. A week or so ago I did a little more searching and found a really basic recipe. Long story short -- a couple of days ago I tried it, and liked it. Thus obsessed, I tried it again today with some additions and liked it, but maybe not quite as much. 

The basic recipe called for 1 cup coconut milk or whole cow's milk, 1 Tbsp curry powder, salt, and a Tbsp of butter. Can't get much simpler than that. When I made it, I used 3/4 cup coconut milk because that's what I had leftover in the freezer, topped it up with whole milk. I used coconut oil instead of butter, for no real reason. I also chopped up some green onions (didn't have any regular onions), a little fresh ginger (all I had left) and some garlic and sauteed those before adding the spices and milk. Once finished it was tasty, but I found that adding more curry powder made it even tastier.

Here's today's efforts. You know I had to photograph this!

I sauteed the onions in coconut oil until they were good and soft and had begun to form a thick liquid.
Then I added a bunch of finely minced fresh ginger and garlic, two of my favorite ingredients for about everything.

Red curry paste and curry powder

I added some Thai red curry paste because I had it, leftover from the recipe I didn't like. I still can't say it added much of anything to the end result, other than changing the color. Next time, I'll omit it altogether. I also added more curry powder, but since each brand is different, another brand might require more or less.

A little fresh cilantro from the garden, just because I noticed how it had shot up over the past few days from seedling to harvest size.

Then, all that's left is to let it simmer until the onions and such get nice and soft and the flavors all meld. I've been serving it over brown rice, as it is, but I'm convinced it would make a good protein-rich meal with the addition of tofu. I'd have tried that, but I bought some at Kroger awhile back (probably for that online recipe I didn't like) and it wasn't very fresh despite being a good week away from its sell-by date. All they had was their own brand, so I bought it against my better judgment just because that's all there was. No more! Next time, back to a name brand I know even if I have to drive to WalMart to get it.

Final product at top of page -- and enough sauce left for another day. I'm guessing this would be pretty good with about anything -- meats, veggies, whatever.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The joys of old age

I'm beginning to get better insights into how my body reacts/recovers after being really tired (from all the long driving trips and retreats of the past few months, specifically).

I've long seen that it just takes awhile to recover once I'm back home, or even on the first leg of the trip when I arrive at my destination. What I haven't fully realized is that while I feel enough better after a few days to think I've recovered, that really isn't the case. That second phase, if  you will, takes longer.

This most recent trip to Bhavana is a good case in point. Long drive up there, a short retreat, long drive home. I've been home not quite two weeks now, but have been thinking that first recovery was as good as it was going to get, and wondering why I was still so fatigued. I put it down to increased cardio, but that still didn't make sense because I wasn't doing enough to account for the level of fatigue.

Yesterday, second day of increasing the time spent on the cycle machine, I felt great, drove to Rome, did my errands, came home, had plenty of energy all morning, took a nice nap after lunch and felt great the rest of the day. Today, I increased the time on the machine by 10 minutes, and I still feel great. I seem to be swinging back into the relaxed routine -- sleeping a bit better at night, napping naturally during the day -- definitely feeling better all day.

I can only chalk this up to additional time for recovery. Nothing else has changed. Looking back, I know it took awhile to feel good after past trips -- I just didn't pick up on the pattern. This is good news. I can expect this pattern also when I arrive at the Hermitage, but can relax with the knowledge that it'll pass soon enough. It seems that last year my body was feeling much less fatigued the last few days before I left (although my mind was not happy!).

Ahhhhhhhhh -- the joys of old age.