cultivating & crashing

an organic collection of notes, observations, and thoughts

pancakes

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 1/4 cups milk
1 egg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
small amount chocolate chips, optional!

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Make a well in the center and pour in the milk, egg and melted butter; mix until smooth.

Heat a lightly oiled or non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot with maple syrup, peanut butter, or…

Make blueberry blintzes: make simple blueberry sauce (frozen wild blueberries simmered for a bit with a tiny amount of any kind of sugar). Assemble: blueberry sauce + cottage cheese + pancake.

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The Egg

By Andy Weir

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.”

I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had.

“You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time.

“Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.

* * * * *

I first came across the concept of adverse childhood experiences via a CBC Ideas talk on the subject a few years ago, and what I heard was unsettling. On the one hand, I realized that what I considered broadly to be a rough childhood had been given a name. There was something tangible to which I could point; the things I lived through were real, difficult, and their consequences were devastating. On the other hand, the associations that were found between these experiences and health in later life were thoroughly depressing, even despairing at times.

To file under: things with which there is nothing to do.

Laksa

Modified slightly from Feasting at Home. This makes a wonderful amount of soup, about six portions.

Ingredients

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 recipe for laksa paste (below)
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon palm or brown sugar
1½ pounds chicken (breast or thigh) cut into bite-sized pieces
1 pound raw large shrimp
2 cups or 1 regular can of coconut milk
12 fish balls
1-2 cups fried tofu, sliced
4 cups fresh bean sprouts
300g or 3/4 package wide rice noodles
Juice of 2 limes
Fish sauce to taste
Garnishes: lime wedges, cilantro, Vietnamese mint, sambal chili paste, fried shallots

Laksa paste

5 dried red chilies
2 tablespoons dried shrimp
5 shallots (about 1 cup), roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons galanga, finely chopped
2 large lemongrass stalks, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
1 teaspoon fresh turmeric (or ground)
6 candle nuts or substitute cashews, brazil nuts or macadamia (or almonds)
1 tablespoon shrimp paste
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Instructions

In a large pot, heat enough water to cover the rice noodles. Once water is boiling, add the noodles, turn heat off, and stand until they are fully hydrated and ready to eat. This could take most of an hour for wide noodles, less for thinner ones. Drain and toss with a bit of oil to keep from sticking.

Make the laksa paste. Steep dried chilies and dried shrimp in boiling water for 20 minutes. Prep and place all the other ingredients except oil in a food processor. Drain shrimp and chilies and add to food processor. Blend until finely chopped and mixed. Add oil and continue blending until it becomes a fine paste. Don’t let the smell or taste scare you.

In a large heavy bottom soup pot or dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. Add all the laksa paste, and saute, stirring constantly until it becomes very fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.

Add chicken broth and sugar. Bring to a boil. Add chicken, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 4 minutes. Add shrimp. Cook for 1-2 minutes, add coconut milk, fish balls, and tofu. Simmer until heated through.

Squeeze in lime juice. Add fish sauce to taste, adding a teaspoon at a time.

Divide noodles among bowls. Ladle soup over top of noodles. Top bowls with an handful of fresh bean sprouts, fresh cilantro, mint, and a sprinkling of crispy shallots. Serve with chili sauce and lime wedges.

My new party trick

is bringing a colander to a solar eclipse.

I Am Not Your Negro

From an email

I am in a dark mood today. I am thinking of how easy it is for me as an employed, educated, first world, white skinned person to pass through this life worrying about why I am not more mellow and content with life. I am thinking about how that is a privilege that most people on earth do not have, including very many people I see every single day. I think about how silly it is to be so blind to the reality of what is going on to the people we are friends with, much less the people we will never even know. To think of what it must feel like to know that you are just not as valuable to the world as others for some arbitrary, bizzare reason, and how much energy must go into both overcoming that disadvantage and keeping that rage from destroying you and your family. And here I am, worrying about why I can’t concentrate on my work and how I will manage to save up enough money to pay off my student loans faster so I can start to put money aside so that my future family will have what others cannot dream of having.

Now that I am putting in question many assumptions in my life, next I could start thinking about what I would like for my life’s work to be and how to go about doing it.

open culture

Not sure how I haven’t come across this before, but I am grateful that I now have and my mind is blown.

openculture.com

dix ans à Montréal

שמי סופיה

I am learning how to love with a broken heart.

I can’t sleep through the night without medication, but I know I will get there.

During the week I synthesize information about youth mental health; on the weekend I seek to savour every waking moment as deeply as possible.

I don’t write as well as I used to when I was younger and more tormented. On good days I believe it’s better to live well than to write well. On bad days I believe it’s because I am growing complacent and mediocre. Today is a good day.

After many, many years of being a student, I have graduated into a life of paying student loans.

These days, my friends are fewer but more dear.

My favourite

– colours are the ones you find in weathered countrysides: rust, burgundy, cream, wheat, hazel, verde agua, slate

– scents are those of the people I love

– sounds are those of loons and cicadas

– flavour is that of tahini

– animal is Patate, who is teaching me how to be a creature

– weather is hot August heat, broken by thunder and lightning storms

– thing to do is be between grass and sky, slick with sweat or rain

My hair is long and dark with white mixed in, curls cascading along my back when they’re not woven into a braid or tucked into a bun. My legs are not as strong as they once were but they are robust and take me far.

My family is numerous and joyful despite the things we struggle with. Our history is conflictual and painful but I am no longer ashamed of it. With my mother I am learning to live honestly, because I realize that how I am with her is how I am with myself. I am no longer afraid of my father, but curious. My sisters, brothers, and brother’s brother are vibrant and beautiful, and I look forward to sharing our future together.

I’m not sure how much I believe in God anymore but I know I love a good story.

love is not a potato

Estoy aprendiendo, paulatinamente, que el amor no es una papa.

Grief

By Jini Maxwell

When I think about grief, words don’t really come to mind. What I do get is the visceral feeling of being too deep underwater. When I think of grief, I imagine the sudden stab of fear that accompanies a realisation that you’ve dived deeper than you first thought: your trapped breath like a weight in your chest, the glimmer of oxygen perpetually too many arm lengths away.

Grief is more than a feeling. It’s really an environment, a new condition to your life that you have to meet with your whole self. No amount of swimming against the current, or scrambling up the banks, will make it easier to navigate. Most importantly, it is not a puzzle you can think your way out of. It’s something more bodily than that, like the mammalian diving instinct.

At first contact with water, an infant’s heart rate slows, oxygen moves more slowly, and the glottis spontaneously blocks access to the lungs, all before the conscious mind can react at all. Living with grief is an animal experience, and surviving it requires the action of a body that knows how to keep being when the mind couldn’t possibly go on. Your body knows how to keep you safe, not just before your conscious mind, but instead of it. You just have to be in it, and it has to be processed as a part of you.

The bad news is, no amount of time in rivers of grief will prepare you for a new one. The good news is, you didn’t drown then and you’re not drowning now. Your body is carrying you through the experience on instinct. Take a deep breath and listen to yourself from the toes up. Feelings are hard, inconvenient and unpredictable, but the less time you spend fighting your body’s messages, the more you can learn from them.

Survival is, in the end, a game of trust, and not of thought. You have to trust that you can survive your own emotions. You have to feel, even if it’s overwhelming. The most important thing to remember about the river of grief is you’re not surviving it wrong. It’s not taking too long. You’re not moving too quickly. The river you are in is just the river you are in, without moral resonance. Trust that you can cope with doing what you need.

It’s easier to think of grief as something of a redemption arc, starting with pain and ending with the well being you knew before. But mourning exists without narrative; it’s not something you can itemise in a eulogy. The river’s current will stick with you for longer than you expect, and you’ll emerge and re-emerge from the worst parts of it feeling as shocked by the ways you’ve stayed the same as you are by the way you’ve changed. Like a newborn in a swimming pool, trying to analyse your progress is only going to make the water feel heavier around you. Your body knows what it’s doing.

In the moments that you feel yourself entirely submerged, trust that your heart rate may slow, your throat may close and the pressure may build, but your body knows how to navigate this space, even if your mind does not. Every fibre of you is already working slowly and carefully to navigate this new emotional landscape, if you let it. That’s how survival happens—by gentle instinct, not by achievement or analysis. Take the time to be in your body, listen to every soft and hurting part of yourself whenever you feel the urge: beat to beat, without scrutiny, until you can resurface.

However you’re going, you’re going okay.