Reading Big Magic

I just finished Elizabeth Gilbert’s book “Big Magic.”  I like books about creativity and fearless living, I have quite a collection and enjoyed her view on the subject.

I consider the life that I live a creative life – I dropped out of college (to later finish my degree in Expressive Art with a personal emphasis on leadership and healing) to wander around Portland, OR and participate in an Artist’s Way group and learn to meditate and feed myself after spending three months wandering around Europe and looking at art. I’ve spent time as a very underpaid professional aerial dancer and been the lead choreographer on a couple of projects. I’ve journaled pretty consistently since I was 10 and have a few poems in print. I consider myself to be crafty and have made most of the plates and bowls in my house during a pottery phase, nearly all the decorations on the Christmas tree, a fair amount of the art on our walls, and a good collection of the stuffed animals that the little one is enjoying right now.

One of the things that Gilbert recommends is following curiosity (rather than passion because passion can be so volatile). So, where is my curiosity today? Playing m’bira and playing marimba. The pesky desire to learn to sing a little better is still lurking – I haven’t scratched that itch yet – though I sing everyday to the little one and have been paying more attention to singing and learning new songs.

Gilbert also recommended calling on the trickster energy when things got sticky (vs. the martyr). I asked David today how he would recommend me trick some of the issues that I have with performing and he recommended performing with a worship team using my shaman energy. I like that answer and want to keep meditating on this because it seems that I end up on stage fairly often and I’d love to make peace with it – even to the point of embracing it as being part of my path right now (reading that feels scary, who would I be without this resistance to performance and the personal drama that ensues?). Kenny Werner, pianist and author of Effortless Mastery writes, “When you don’t try as hard to play good, you play better.” And I imagine that this is part of the trick as well. I have also noticed the last three shows that I’ve done that if I keep my blood sugar stabilized by eating smart snacks often, that helps too. I’ll keep looking into this.

dsc00178

our 1/21/17 Musical Caravan setup

day 6

the only trouble with this practicing thing is that the more I do, the more aware I am of the places where I’ve just been fudging it without really being able to break it down. . . teaching also points out those places. . . I’m trying to be gentle while also getting more precise.

this is how Jonathan Harnum illustrates it in his book “The Practice of Practice” thepracticeofpractice.com/book-preview-sample/

practice challenge begins tomorrow

I’m really excited to try something new and to try to use my enthusiasm for practice (and my need for accountability) to encourage you in deepening your relationship with music.

The concept is easy – add 15 minutes of practice/musical inquiry into your life.

I’ve currently been doing 15 minutes of stick-control (drumming rudiments) on top of the rehearsals and classes that I’m currently teaching and attending. I’ve noticed the difference in my playing. David has noticed the difference in my playing. This is exciting.

If you don’t have a practice routine – how exciting to start thinking about building one. If you do, how exciting to think about adding a quarter of an hour to work on something specific.

I was originally thinking that my 15 minutes would be enough, but I’ve incorporated it into my routine to the point that I want to challenge myself along with you, so. . . I’ll be adding another 15 minutes of marimba specific practice to my schedule for the month of November.

I’m also loving singing to the little one and looking forward to getting some vocal coaching to really be able to use my voice as part of my musical repertoire. We’ll see if that unfolds this month as well. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy music making!

blessings,
Arlyn

Arlyn marimba

practice

I am in love with the marimba and marimba ensemble music. It’s official. You probably knew that. It is the first instrument that I have been gleefully able to practice. Not as much as I would like, as I have a super-cute 1.5 year old who likes to grab the mallets out of my hands, but I do get to practice. And I get to play with people, and I get to inspire folks to play music who might not otherwise get to play. Yesterday while waiting, I worked on a rhythm that I’ve been struggling with. I think I’ve got it. This is very exciting.

We sent this next bit to our newsletter, but it felt valid enough to share here as well. . .

With the darkening days, it’s a great time to go inward, and to go to the practices that keep us healthy. It is amazing what a bit of consistent dedicated practice can do for any artform – but especially for playing music. As simple as matching our breath to our steps while walking, or actively listening to music, or practicing rhythmic patterns on the chair while waiting at the dentist’s office, practice of all kinds will help deepen our musical relationships and improve our playing.

Here are two books that both David and I have read and enjoyed on the subject of music practice:

First, Learn to Practice by Tom Heany “First, Learn to Practice is a book about how to practice a musical instrument – any musical instrument. It’s suitable for all musicians – professional, amateur, student or beginner. “Certainly part of the problem in learning how to play an instrument is the way an individual approaches practicing. One must be committed to spending lots of time on eye, ear, and hand coordination; learning how to listen; learning how to sight-read; and, having fun during those many hours of conquering notes on and off the page. But, how many “students” really know how to practice in the first place?”

The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life – Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process by Thomas M. Sterner “In those times when we want to acquire a new skill or face a formidable challenge we hope to overcome, what we need most are patience, focus, and discipline, traits that seem elusive or difficult to maintain.” Sterner writes about learning to love the process.

happy practicing!!!

here

Lately I’ve been noticing that I have a really amazing blessed life.

I’ve also been noticing that I’m stressed out and/or tired a lot of the time making it harder to enjoy this lovely life. It has made me start thinking about fulcrums and pivot points and how to use the least amount of effort to make the greatest difference in my happiness factor. What little changes can I make that will help make a big difference?

A few days ago David came home with a book called, “Triggers” and it’s exactly the sort of book that I love full of wisdom, stories, and good advice. And it came at the perfect time for me.

The author, Marshall Goldsmith, recommends “active questions” among other things.

Not just, “are you happy with your life?”ladyarlyn

But rather, “have I done my best today to be happy with my life?” And then you ask yourself every evening the active questions that help you live the sort of life that you want to be living and rate them on a 1-10 scale – for me, for now, these are a few:

“Have I done my best today to be at peace?”

“Have I done my best today to spend time outside?”

“Have I done my best today to do what needs to be done?”

“Have I done my best today to take care of myself?”

echinacea

 

a drawing from the archives. .  . I’m hoping to turn a few into cards soon:

echinacea

“Antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties in echinacea make it useful in many acute and chronic conditions. It is helpful for those dealing with colds, flu, respiratory distresses, sinus infections, sore throats, swollen glands, arthritis, fever, infected wounds, vaginal infections, candida overgrowth, prostatis, and urinary tract infections.” – Gail Faith Edwards Opening Our Wild Hearts to the Healing Herbs   This is not a tonic herb – this is an herb to keep nearby when you need it but not to take everyday.

 

As it is now officially fall (happy fall), it’s a good time to dig echinacea root and clean it and put it in some 80 proof (or higher) alcohol and make it into tincture for the wintertime (shake on occasion and wait 6 weeks or more). Or a good time to plant it in your garden if you don’t have it yet.

update from my world

hello there.

Well, the pickling went well. They are now ready and tasty. It’s time to get the pickles out of the crock and put in some kimchi.

-cabbage
-daikon radish
-scallions
-carrots
-ginger
-garlic
-hot peppers
-salt and pressure + time = kimchi (or, since it’s not fully traditional, I’ve heard it called kimchi-kraut). If you’re feeling more traditional: http://youtu.be/0sX_wDCbeuU

 

This weekend we went out for a quick visit to the woods:

DSCN1029 nourishing!

 
Today, I’m feeling thankful for the rain. It means that instead of rushing around this morning before work to water everything by hand, I dug a bit, prepping a lettuce bed that I’ll plant for fall lettuce tonight or tomorrow. And then I had tea.

 

And now for more food preserving. Tomato sauce this evening and maybe another round in the dehydrator (it heats the house and preserves our food at the same time, what fun : )

bacteria

I’ve been reading Michael Pollan’s new book, Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation and really enjoying it. Right now I’m in the fermenting section and it is making me want to bust out my pickling (read: ferment) recipes so that I can up the healthy bacteria in my gut.

I’ve known that fermented foods are good for us. I’ve known that while anti-biotics can be useful in certain cases, they come with a whole host of side effects by killing all the bugs in our intestines, not just the bad ones. I’ve been suspicious for a little while now of anti-bacterial soap and how clean the average American suburban home is. There is research now that shows farm-kids as healthier because they are exposed to more germs.

But reading about what is actually going on in here, makes me want to feed my bacteria.

“[The human body] is more like a complex ecosystem—a social network—containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit our skin, genital areas, mouth and especially intestines. In fact, most of the cells in the human body are not human at all. Bacterial cells in the human body outnumber human cells 10 to one. Moreover, this mixed community of microbial cells and the genes they contain, collectively known as the microbiome, does not threaten us but offers vital help with basic physiological processes—from digestion to growth to self-defense.” -Ackerman http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=ultimate-social-network-bacteria-protects-health

I get all sorts of science fiction images when I read this. . . what happens if the bacteria takes over? . . .

But so far, it seems like we are in charge, and that it also makes sense to start taking better care of these little bugs that do so much for us. Like pickling and fermenting and such good things. So here’s a recipe for you by Sandor Katz, author of Wild Fermentation and The Art of Fermentation www.wildfermentation.com

I’ll let you know how it goes at my house. . .

Making Sour Pickles by Sandor Katz

The biggest variables in pickle-making are brine strength, temperature, and cucumber size. I prefer pickles from small and medium cucumbers; pickles from really big ones can be tough and sometimes hollow in the middle. I don’t worry about uniformity of size; I just eat the smaller ones first, figuring the larger ones will take longer to ferment.

The strength of brine varies widely in different traditions and recipe books. Brine strength is most often expressed as weight of salt as a percentage of weight of solution, though sometimes as weight of salt as a percentage of volume of solution. Since in most home kitchens we are generally dealing with volumes rather than weights, the following guideline can help readers gauge brine strength: Added to 1 quart of water, each tablespoon of sea salt (weighing about .6 ounce) adds 1.8% brine. So 2 tablespoons of salt in 1 quart of water yields a 3.6% brine, 3 tablespoons yields 5.4%, and so on. In the metric system, each 15 milliliters of salt (weighing 17 grams) added to 1 liter of water yields 1.8% brine.

Some old-time recipes call for brines with enough salt to float an egg. This translates to about a 10% salt solution. This is enough salt to preserve pickles for quite some time, but they are too salty to consume without a long desalinating soak in fresh water first. Low-salt pickles, around 3.5% brine, are “half-sours” in delicatessen lingo. This recipe is for sour, fairly salty pickles, using around 5.4% brine. Experiment with brine strength. A general rule of thumb to consider in salting your ferments: more salt to slow microorganism action in summer heat; less salt in winter when microbial action slows.

Timeframe: 1-4 weeks

Special Equipment:

  • Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket
  • Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
  • 1-gallon/4-liter jug filled with water, or other weight
  • Cloth cover

Ingredients (for 1 gallon/4 liters):

  • 3 to 4 pounds/1.5 to 2 kilograms unwaxed cucumbers (small to medium size)
  • 3⁄8 cup (6 tablespoons)/90 milliliters sea salt
  • 3 to 4 heads fresh flowering dill, or 3 to 4
  • tablespoons/45 to 60 milliliters of any form of dill (fresh or dried leaf or seeds)
  • 2 to 3 heads garlic, peeled
  • 1 handful fresh grape, cherry, oak, and/or horseradish leaves (if available)
  • 1 pinch black peppercorns

Process:

  1. Rinse cucumbers, taking care to not bruise them, and making sure their blossoms are removed. Scrape off any remains at the blossom end. If you’re using cucumbers that aren’t fresh off the vine that day, soak them for a couple of hours in very cold water to freshen them.
  2. Dissolve sea salt in ½gallon (2 liters) of water to create brine solution. Stir until salt is thoroughly dissolved.
  3. Clean the crock, then place at the bottom of it dill, garlic, fresh grape leaves, and a pinch of black peppercorns.
  4. Place cucumbers in the crock.
  5. Pour brine over the cucumbers,place the (clean) plate over them, then weigh it down with a jug filled with water or a boiled rock. If the brine doesn’t cover the weighed-down plate, add more brine mixed at the same ratio of just under 1 tablespoon of salt to each cup of water.
  6. Cover the crock with a cloth to keep out dust and flies and store it in a cool place.
  7. Check the crock every day. Skim any mold from the surface, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. If there’s mold, be sure to rinse the plate and weight. Taste the pickles after a few days.
  8. Enjoy the pickles as they continue to ferment. Continue to check the crock every day.
  9. Eventually, after one to four weeks (depending on the temperature), the pickles will be fully sour. Continue to enjoy them, moving them to the fridge to slow down fermentation.

http://www.wildfermentation.com/making-sour-pickles-2/

morning

It’s morning here. Cool. There were sprinkles of rain on the tarp over our tent in the night.

I notice a tenderness here in my heart. It seems like it might just be part of being human. There is so much beauty and so much sorrow in this world and all that adds up to a tender heart for me this morning.

I’ve been reading,”Finding Your Way in a Wild New World: Reclaim Your True Nature to Create the Life You Want” by Martha Beck. I highly recommend it. Instead of starting with what do you want? It starts with Wordlessness and Oneness. Teaching techniques for dropping out of the verbal mind and into the present moment and into our connection with all things. From there it asks the question – “what is wanting to move through you?” I like this version of “Creating the Life You Want” way better than some of the others people talk about. I am such a strong believer in the potency of Presence! Of course our vastness is more intelligent than our isolated personalities.

We’ve been experimenting with some of these techniques in the yoga class I’ve been teaching and that’s been lovely. I love the moving practice and dropping into the body. I love the possibility that unhelpful patterns could just melt away.

I’ve been attempting to bring more of this state into my gardening – realizing how I get caught in the “things to do,” which keeps me out of connection with with garden. It’s been sweet to slow down and offer more attention. Slow down and see what is wanting to happen next. Slow down and notice that one of the trees looks a bit wilty and be able to set a hose. Slow down and notice the miracles of flowers.

Asking the question – what would bring more joy for all beings? How can I play more? What brings me deep satisfaction and joy?

I’ll keep you posted. Today it is yoga class with Amy Williams at BIJA in Paonia – she’s so amazing. And perhaps some water somewhere. And some garden time. And some time for art.

And you?

what am I doing? and why would you care?

It was the question that led me to grab my computer and bring it across the street to my parent’s house to link up to the wonderful world of the internet. Email and Facebook are easy solutions to the question until it is cool enough to go back outside and plant the blackberries that really need to get into the ground.

I just started to read “Plenty: Eating Locally on the 100-Mile Diet” by Alisa Smith, J.B. Mackinnon. I sense a theme in my reading choices though not in all my eating choices. The non-local joy of the month is coconut! The local joy of the month is lettuce and arugula and eggs and last year’s frozen peaches.

What am I doing? And why would you care? I’m not sure about the caring part. It’s a question that keeps coming up around this compulsion to blog and I have no good answers. When I teach creative writing, I tell the students that no one else lives their life or thinks their thoughts and so capturing them is a good and useful past-time. Maybe that’s enough. I like to hear other people’s versions of reality, so might as well share my own. . .

As for the what am I doing – today, I watered the garden and weeded the lettuce and thinned the arugula and ate a lovely local breakfast (eggs, kale, bread baked locally – though not grown here). I’ve sketched and washed a lot of dishes. I put a batch of Téj (Ethiopian honey-wine) in to ferment and have a batch of kombucha cooling on the stove. I napped – always a worthy past-time if you ask me and now internetting.

And still the question, what am I doing? The answer is presented by my mother, go and see the new born chicken. Freshly hatched today. Yes. Cute. Very cute and wobbly. Black on top and yellow underneath.

At the cranio-sacral session I had last week, her recommendation was to rest into beingness as often as possible for as long as possible. Easier to check my email. My father recommends: http://www.kinslowsystem.com/downloads.html  but I haven’t made the time to check it out.

Right now in the garden it is time for harvesting red clover blossoms and alfalfa. Both have lots of good vitamins and minerals to offer. Pick and dry on a screen in a dark dry place and then infuse with boiling water for 8 hours for full minerals.