Sunday, December 27, 2009

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other's welcome

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from your bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Poem for Today

Another old and very favorite poem.

Danse Russe

If I when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades,—

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

William Carlos Williams

Monday, November 23, 2009

Poem For Today

Another most beloved poem...A love sonnet turned quite on its head, and one of the few I committed to steadfast memory.


Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution's power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"This is the true joy in life
, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."

George Bernard Shaw
Epistle Dedicatory to Arthur Bingham Walkley
Man and Superman: a Comedy and a Philosophy

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Emily's Poem

The following is without question, among my favorite poems by Dickinson, or any poet for that matter. It has a beautiful pace. It is maddeningly symbolic, sexual, with all the images of her own diminution up against the the boundless, dangerous sea and the safety of solidity and domesticity. I once wrote a pretty good paper about it in the only graduate course I ever took in college. My professor strongly urged me to submit it for the Dept Awards. Naturally, i declined.

"The shore is safer...but I love to buffet the sea."
Emily Dickinson, in a letter

I started Early
- Took my Dog -
And visited the Sea -
The Mermaids in the Basement
Came out to look at me -

And Frigates - in the Upper Floor
Extended Hempen Hands -
Presuming Me to be a Mouse -
Aground - upon the Sands -

But no Man moved Me - till the Tide
Went past my simple Shoe -
And past my Apron - and my Belt
And past my Bodice - too -

And made as He would eat me up -
As wholly as a Dew
Upon a Dandelion's Sleeve -
And then - I started - too -

And He - He followed - close behind -
I felt His Silver Heel
Upon my Ankle - Then my Shoes
Would overflow with Pearl -

Until We met the Solid Town -
No One He seemed to know
And bowing - with a Mighty look -
At me - The Sea withdrew -

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

On Befriending Fear

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races--the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are only princesses waiting for us to act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

So you must not be frightened if a sadness rises before you larger than any you've ever seen, if an anxiety like light and cloud shadows moves over your hands and everything you do. You must realize that something has happened to you; that life has not forgotten you; it holds you in its hands and will not let you fall. Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any miseries, or any depressions? For after all, you do not know what work these conditions are doing inside you.

~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Even Now I Love this Poem

  1. At the end of Cannery Row by Steinbeck, there is a poem that I always admired. I was always under the impression that it was written by Steinbeck himself, but in fact he edited it down from a long love poem, Chaurapanchasika, written in the 11th century by Kasmiri poet Bilhana Kavi. The original is 50 stanzas.
Steinbeck quoted the 1919 translation titled Black Marigolds by the English poet Powys Mathers.

Here is that version:

Even now

I mind the coming and talking of wise men from


Where they had thought away their youth. And I,


Found not the salt of the whispers of my girl,

Murmur of confused colors, as we lay near sleep;

Little wise words and little witty words,

Wanton as water, honied with eagerness.

Even now

I mind that I loved cypress and roses, clear,

The great blue mountains and the small gray hills,

The sounding of the sea. Upon a day

I saw strange eyes and hands like butterflies;

For me at morning larks flew from the thyme

And children came to bathe in little streams

Even now

I know that I have savored the hot taste of life

Lifting green cups and gold at the great feast.

Just for a small and forgotten time

I have had full in my eyes from off my girl

The whitest pouring of eternal light---

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Put the Mettle to the Nettle (Urtica Dioica)

It's early in the morning and I've had little sleep, so I thought I'd extol the virtues of the wondrous Stinging Nettle, considering the title of this blog. A blue jay landed just inches from me on the fire escape, so I will take that as a sign of good things to come.

The title of my blog has as much to do with my love of the way certain words sound when linked together, as it does with my fascination of those things in nature that are prickly, and full of burs, and sting us, but are so benevolent in their healing powers. The way we react to these things speaks volumes. To me a fresh patch of dandelion in early spring is a gratis feast for foraging granted by Nature. To the average American, it is something to which one applies copious amounts of Roundup--something to be eradicated at first sight-- a sad testament to how woefully detached we've become from Nature. I say this without blame. I only express gratitude that I have learned a better way and can pursue the healing gifts that Nature has perfected.

And after all, all is not lost. We are coming around slowly but surely. Last week at the farmer's market, there was one sad little wilted bunch of Stinging Nettle left for me. (I was super late as always). I was a little bummed, but on the other hand, so pleased that their plentiful supply of that wild and cantankerous weed had been snatched up by people who had received information, opened their minds.

As I myself am feeling a bit cantankerous this morning, and not a little lazy, I thought why not take a nice shortcut and steal wholeheartedly from my dear friend Sacha Jones. She just wrote a fantastic and very thorough post on the Stinging Nettle, aka
Urtica Dioica, in her Stiggly Holistics newsletter and posted my recipe for a very simple Nettle-icious soup to boot that I in turn, took from some of my lovely neighbors and fellow countrywomen who were so pleased that the beloved nettles they foraged and ate so often in Armenia were available here! I brought them a few bunches from the market.
Anyway, I don't think Sacha will mind--at least I hope not...

PS: I had to add in that after I wrote this, I went out for a stroll and passed a pretty house with a gorgeous bloom of pink roses. I stopped to sniff of course (always time to smell the roses), and then I see the owner of the house (I presume), hunched over a teeny tiny sliver of weed making its way into the world from a crack in the sidewalk. She was armed with a gigantic container of Roundup, squinting furiously and pointing the nozzle with all the concentration of a scientist in the lab . It was true irony, indeed!

Stinging Nettle as the name suggests, will sting you if not handled with care, but please don't be afraid of them nettle- they are so very nutritious and delicious that it's a very good idea to get some from the market or if you have some growing in your garden or field, to pick yourself some (wearing gloves) and take advantage of this delicious weed! I would also suggest foraging for it, but be aware that many people spray this "pesky" weed, so be sure to check out where you are foraging. I was lucky enough while visiting Britain to have some tasty young nettles from my lovely sister Toni's field, growing from a nutritious horse manure pile. (Oh you city people I know you're turning up your nose, but really, it's so good for the garden and produced a fine batch of nettles!) What's so good about nettles? Nettles make a wonderful tonic for your kidneys and liver, strengthen your bones, enrich your blood, afford relief from seasonal allergies/hay-fever, thicken your hair, are good for hyperglycemia, help reduce blood sugar levels, and can help improve high blood pressure. Nettles help build energy and are great for women during menstruation, pregnancy and just before and after giving birth - and help to build a healthy reproductive system, as well as immune boosting in general. They are rich in chlorophyll, vitamins A & B, calcium, iron, potassium, silicon, magnesium, zinc and a whole lot more goodies. (Sources: Rosemary Gladstar's Family Herbal and Rebecca Wood's The New Whole Foods Encylopedia). To me, nettles are a staple herb, and I like to drink nettle tea all year round (from the dried plant) but love it especcially when the fresh leaf is available. You can make nettle tea, nettle soup, nettle pesto, nettle omelette, or sautee it with garlic and eat on it's own - or place on top of a lovely ricotta or camembert cheese and whole grain bagette! (recipe below:) How to: If you are picking your own, please be sure to wear rubber gloves and put them in a sting-proof bag. I get mine back in NYC from Berried Treasure at Union Square farmer's market (Wednesdays and Fridays). I hold the stem through the bag, and run under the tap to rinse, then use a pair of scissors to cut the leaves into a bowl. I then use the scissors to cut up the leaves. If you have gloves it's much easier! Boil the kettle and pour boiled water over the nettles. After a minute or so they are no longer stingy. I leave mine to steep for at least an hour, often 2-3 hours to make a really dark green, almost black brew to drink, and then sautee the greens as above. Eat in the way you like best - there are lots of nettle recipes on line, or try one of my suggestions. Drink the tea, warm or cold, it's so fresh and springy-tasting and very good for you. Don't be afraid, just be careful. When the fresh ones are no longer in season, check out Mountain Rose Herbs for dry nettles, to make a daily healing tonic. Other uses: Use the stems and very wilted leaves to make a hair/face/bath tonic. As with the tea, pour boiled water over and leave to steep for a good long while 'til nice and dark. Strain out and keep in a bottle - it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Use as a hair rinse, pour some in your tub or use as a lovely facial toner!
Nettle Recipes!
Cha Cha Delight
This recipe was inspired in the Farmer's Market yesterday by my delightful friend Cha Cha, aka Linda. I was describing my passion for stinging nettle and my life-long interest in them, and how I like to cook them in olive oil and lots of sliced or chunky garlic, and she suggested then putting those atop toast and camembert. This is what I made myself for lunch, and I could not stop smiling!
What you need:
Boiled water
Olive Oil or Garlic Butter
Really good baguette (I used organic whole multi grain from Bread Alone)
Camembert or Ricotta or some soft cheese of your liking from a grass-fed cow or sheep dairy (I used Ronnybrook's* but I also suggest Hawthorne Valley's Bianca)
Sea salt and black pepper
What you do:
Boil the kettle
Carefully cut your nettle leaves into a large bowl
Pour boiled water over the nettles, leave to steep (about 20 minutes)
Chunky-style chop or slice your garlic
Cut the baguette in half length-wise and toast
Strain the nettles, keeping the "tea" to drink
Sautee your garlic in the olive oil or butter and toss in the nettles for a few moments
Spread the delicious cheese over the baguette
Top with garlicky nettles
Put on a plate
Sit down, smile, breathe, look at your food, have gratitude for your food, chew well, enjoy this meal, make it last for ages. Do not eat in front of the computer or television - be with your meal. Be grateful for the cows, the sun, the rain, the farmers, the bakers, and Mama Nature. This meal would best be enjoyed with a friend but if that's not possible, at least tell your friends all about your experience.
*Ronnybrook's Camembert is super runny, more like yogurt really - be sure to have it on a plate before cutting into it, and if you are having it for a picnic, have friends to share it or a sealable container to take it home.... be prepared for lip smacking, finger licking deliciousness! And as with all well-crafted soft chees, make sure they are out of the fridge for several hours before you want to eat.

Arousiak's Nettle-icious Soup
My lovely friend Arousiak is a fan of foraging and all things spring, and this is her recipe for a simple nettle soup that is so flavourful and easy to make. It's great for left-overs too, in fact I think I like it better on the second day, so make lots of it.
What you need:nettle soup
One Big Onion
Olive Oil
Bunch of Nettles
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
What you do:
I don't want to change anything about Arousiak's recipe so here are her own words:
"Nettle Soup: SUPER easy. I used one bunch of nettles. Scissored them into the colander to wash. Then i sauteed half of a really huge gigantic onion, so that would be one large --for quite a long time on very low heat with olive oil. Threw in about 4 diced fingerling potatoes, so that would probably be one large or two medium taters. Sautee those with onion for just a few seconds. Then four cloves garlic, salt, pepper, then the nettles (in fairly large scissored pieces), cover with water, bring to boil, cover with lid, simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until it looks ready and the nettles are tender. The nettles are so flavorful, you really need nothing. Then ladle into bowl, add a little pinch of salt and a good squeeze of lemon. Enjoy. A handful of lentils in there might be nice too, but try to resist the urge to add too many things."
Stiggly note: I did add a small shaving of pecorino on mine and used sweet potatoes instead of fingerlings because that's what we had in the house, and on day two threw in some left over brown rice to make a really hearty breakfast on a rainy day.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Art of Sending Happy Mail

A good art 'tis to cultivate.
I'm rather proud of this one I am.
Sent to: Margarita Conchita Habichuela
From: Esmeralda Consuela de Jesus.

click pic left for details.
The Vase of Tulips Cezanne

that drink was originally a hot toddy, but i tweaked it to look summerish. i didn't intend to make the liquid resemble the "urine of Satan after a hefty portion of asparagus."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Receiving Graciously Holds Hands with Giving Freely

In the fantastic
Spring Cleansing Workshop that I just completed with Sacha Jones of Stiggly Holistics, we got onto the topic of receiving. The group was composed of givers, and we all had difficulty receiving in one way or another. The conclusion we came to was that one cannot really give of themselves, if they have closed themselves off to receiving.
Sacha had made us copies of this wonderful article from Ode Magazine, which I highly recommend reading:

I, in turn, sent it to my friend, Jeannine, who told me that this was the very thing she’d been working on in her own life, and had in fact, made copies of this very same article and handed out to some friends. Quite the full circle.

As a personal example, I have always had difficulty receiving compliments. My response to “You’re very pretty", went something like, “Oh, shut up. Stop it. No I’m not.” I have learned that this is a disservice to the person granting you the compliment. They are offering you something heartfelt, and in turn, you are patently refusing it. I still struggle with this, but now I am much more likely to respond with a “Thank you. I really appreciate it.” vs. a “Shut up!”

A few weeks ago, I was in my favorite little grove of pines in my local park. This is a place I go to recharge, to attend my “church” of Nature, and to breathe prayers. I was seated and leaning against an old pine, eyes closed, practicing deep breathing. When my hands are out and open, I have a natural tendency to close them up. But having read, discussed and thought about the act of receiving, I became aware of this habit at that moment and realized that it had significance. Opening my hands completely made me feel a little self-conscious (even with no one around), and also vulnerable. But I let myself go and really allowed myself to take in all the energy around me. By yielding a little control, I was able to gain something better.

I have a 90-year old great aunt who can spend an entire day and evening slaving away in her little kitchenette to bake something wonderful for my family, but heaven forbid you should bring her something, she will hound you to give you the money for it until you go mad. Even in all her wisdom and years on the earth, she doesn’t understand that by focusing so intently on paying back, she is in effect depriving the person of the simple soul-filling pleasure of offering something. Our society is so conditioned in reciprocity that we forget that reciprocity can be worked out in other ways besides the merely tangible.

Learning to receive is basically learning to be more open. To take in what the world is offering you –whether it’s help from a friend or neighbor, a physical gift, a compliment, opportunities, or even when you find yourself in a beautiful garden or park—to simply receive the smells and sights of your surroundings, without the burden of guilt, or feeling unworthy, or feeling obligated to return a similar favor.

It is also important to learn to receive not so positive things. When we have crises, the natural inclination is to run away from them, to push them away, or to try to “fix” things as quickly as possible. But inspite of the pain, we can embrace and use crises of health, spirit, finance, and others, as gifts that help us learn and become stronger, healthier, wiser, better.

Receiving graciously can be as fundamental as really opening your lungs and receiving fresh air and as vital as learning to receive love fully from your partner, or your children. In time, you learn that you grant equal gifts naturally.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fiddle dee Fiddle dee Fiddleheads!

Yeay! I finally got my hands on some Fiddleheads, thanks to the fiddletastic Sacha Jones, my dear friend. She heard the cries of my heart and answered, so as this incredibly short season winds down to a close, I joined in the swan song-- with butter and garlic. A hello and probably goodbye at the same time.

When Barack Obama talks about the "fierce urgency of now", he may as well be talking about these unfurled fronds. About two weeks or so to get your hands on some, and if you don't get to the market on time, they are all gone. And there just may be a young man there twirling the last one between his fingers and teasing you for your tardiness as your heart weeps.

There is something both very familiar and altogether new about these things. So now you are forewarned, for next May. They were delicious. Thank you, Sacha Jones.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

See this Right Now: Bluebell Wood at Botanical Gardens

There are places where one
can become enchanted right here in New York City. Every spring in late April and May, Bluebell Wood in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens erupts in color with 45,000 Spanish bluebells. My heart literally skips a beat each time I spy from a distance that vast expanse of flowers and I am rendered breathless as I get to it and it fills my field of vision. At each hour of the day, the light and shadow paint the delicate bells in different shades and tones of blue and purple. It's almost hard to believe it's real. It is majestic. Go there. Now. They won't be there in June.

BBG has
free admission all day Tuesdays, and Saturdays between 10 am-12 noon. Otherwise, admission is $8 (free for children under 12) , which is a small price to pay for the pleasures it grants.

The Importance of Being Earnest

That's right, folks. I've given up and I've given in. Screwziak's road to earnestness has well, begun in earnest. Now that I jog (sometimes), don't drink coffee (much), refrain from negative thinking (WTF!), and eat chlorophyll for breakfast (mmm...minty), I figure it's time I also entered the sphere of blog. My self-annihilation is almost complete. Or rather the breaking down of fatty armor in an effort to locate and give my true self the hugs it needs. A self that is more lichen and moss, and less cigarettes and whiskey. This will be a public notebook of sorts for my musings, amusings, conclusions, observations, obsessions, preoccupations, tree, flower, sea, air, mountain, animal, food worship; things I'm thinking about, things I'm a loving, things that make me chuckle, chortle, guffaw, titter; things I'm eating and cooking and sharing. Things I'm watching and listening to. Whatever wisdom I've horded in these few years. In other words, pure, unadulterated randomness. Cheers. Thanks alot.