July 18, 2011

On the Cusp

I am on the very cusp of my 63rd year,
and I have just now recognized,
honored, acknowledged, looked at......a habit of mine.

Something I feel I've always done, and haven't known before.
That is: I love to mix up, match up, blend different things
to create new smells, new tastes, new entities.

I have a need, which has become habit
to mix and create and blend different spices, herbs,
food stuffs, different essential oils, scents
into creations of delicious smell and taste.

One of my earliest memories is in the kitchen of
one of my aunts. There I am with my mother, aunts,
or maybe just one aunt....
but it was in their kitchen.
They expertly pound and mix and measure
all the while talking
to me, to each other, a stream of movement,
flour, eggs, butter, water becoming dough
which they knead shape cut stretch and place
to their liking;
clean kitchen towels, well worn wooden spoons,
the scale to measure in deci kilograms,
and their hair wrapped in the requisite scarf
tied aunt Jemima style
to keep the stray hair from the food.

I watched these women
create joy and excellent taste.

I was as much a part of their doing and creating
as anyone there.
I was given some childproof simple chore,
simple yet essential to the final outcome of
their creation.

Crack the walnuts, separate the meat from the shells,
then grind my walnut meat prizes for sprinkling into
the apple sugar spice filling mix of apple strudel.
Peel the boiled chestnuts, making sure to get all of
the fuzzy crust off;
these were mixed with whipping cream, sugar and rum
for the delicacy of chestnut pudding.
Of course peel potatoes, with an extremely sharp knife
which I could wield like a pro before I was ten.
Or pit the prune plums, ready them for insertion into
the squares of potato dough,
soon to be delicious sugar filled, and breadcrumb coated
Hungarian plum dumplings.

I was able to watch, listen and create with these first
important women in my life.

All of my life I have watched women
sure, confident, clear
about the act of creating tastes and smells,
in homes and kitchens where they feel free to create.

Later in my life I created with other women,
women who were chosen family; women I fell
in love with.
We did alot of cooking and baking and talking and
creating together.

I saw the kitchens of the women of my chosen family
before we made our own kitchen
before we organized mingled
her wooden spoons, cutting boards,
pots and pans, knives, all of her essentials
with mine.

I was always fascinated by the kitchens of others;
the place you feed yourself and the ones you love
what you want the food to taste like,
not what someone else thinks tastes good.
Where you create your own good taste.
Where you trust your judgement to
create a taste which you'll love,
which others will love,
or at least like.

So I watched and followed the women in my life.
And learned to create my own mixes and blends.

This mixing and blending which I bring to my life
gives me an opportunity to slow down,
do something which comes so naturally
that I don't have to be fully conscious of the act.

I'm just conscious of how the thing will taste,
or smell. The knowing exactly what to add to
bring the taste, smell to perfection seems innate.
I aim for divine smell and taste follows.

The mixing allows my mind to wonder
and wander
and relax.

Here I am getting out my curry spices,
putting them on the counter to mix match and blend
into a stunning creation of good taste.
My mortar and pestle is as important to me as the Sabatier
chef's knife which my friend Demita gave me in my late 20's,
which I still use, which I would be lost without.
I take cardamom seeds from their pods, grind with fennel,
celery seed, ajwain, cumin,
mix the ground blend with cayenne, cinnamon, turmeric.
I make a delicious curry.

And blending smells.... scents,
which I've always done,
which I learned to do from the women in my life
who I watched.

There I am looking at my entire shelf of scents,
on the top row of my medicine chest.
Lots of them.
I like to keep the bottles as long as I can cause
they remind me of when....

I take an empty small vial and begin smelling and mixing scents.
I trust that what I create I will love, at least like.
Created scents which I love to wear
because the smell excites my senses.

Lavenders, patchouli, sandalwood, rosemary
these are some of the primary loves of my life.
Once you've had the privilege of caring for one or more of these
fragrant ones, in plant form,
you come to know their cycles of growth and flowering
their attracting bees, their dissuading deer from chewing.
They are so very kind and prolific
when planted in a coastal, south facing full
sun.... well established....with love.
I loved them and continue to have them in my life.

I love to smell them each one each as well mixed and matched.

I love the act of mixing things in the kitchen and bath.
Things which I use routinely in my life,
things which make my life rich and joyous.
Smells and tastes which spark my soul.

And I have a prayer book which praises God for the creation
of delicious smell and taste.
Can you see the pure joy
the pure joy I feel when I give praise for the very things
I cherish and do habitually.
The pure joy of being able to read
in black on white
which makes
me aware of smell and taste in my life.
Which has sparked my new knowledge of my habit of
putting good smells and taste into my life,
my unconscious habit of mixing matching blending
now made conscious.

Here I am on the cusp of my 63rd year and I fully know
something about myself
which I hadn't before.
My love of mixing matching blending things to become delicious and fragrant.

A new piece of myself which I can own, love and appreciate.

July 09, 2011


The Havdalah candle emits a powerful flame. Four braided wicks burning as One Flame. Letting the world know we are here. We are not going away. We are strong. We are One. Our God is One. The many is One.

I love to light the Havdalah candle, say the Havdalah Blessings, smell the spices, drink the wine, read the Siddur passages and contemplate the transition from Shabbat to the mundane week; the passage from Sacred to Ordinary...and how to keep the Ordinary...Sacred.

I continue to be filled with acknowledgement of God's work in my life. This is a blessing for which I'm incredibly grateful. I continue to pray for the ability to feel the joy and love which daily fills my soul.

The following is a passage from a poem "I'll Let You In On a Secret" by Jacob Glatstein, as translated by Ruth Whitman:
"The day is departing with a quiet kiss.
It lies open at your feet
while you stand saying the blessings.
You can't create anything yourself, but you
can lead the day to its end and see
clearly the smile of its going down.
See how whole it all is,
not diminished for a second,
how you age with the days
that keep dawning,
how you bring your lived-out day
as a gift to eternity."

How you bring your lived-out day as a gift to eternity.