alskuefhaih
asoiefh

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mind walks

-
-


The Norwegian Jøtul wood stove in the family room (where we spend most of our home awake time -- where I write, read, work on photographs, blog, paint and watch movies) radiates heat into much of the house, and the forced air propane furnace rarely kicks on. We feed the wood stove dead, seasoned wood from the fallen trees that stripe the back acre of the farm. Ash borers have defeated many tall, straight ash trees, and thanks to that tiny, mighty pest, we have some of the densest, longest burning firewood there is, for a long time to come.

On Saturdays, just after sunrise, while snow falls and floats like ash outside the glass deck door, and chickadees, juncos, mourning doves, cardinals and blue jays rise and fall from the ground to the spruce and back again for scattered bird seed on the ground, I put our biggest pot on the radiant Jøtul. Into olive oil I drop chopped onions and celery that quickly begin to sizzle. Then what’s left of vegetables in the fridge, rough chopped, and scraps I’ve saved in the freezer, get added and filled almost to the brim with water. (My gourmand ex-brother-in-law Larry scolded me once for not saving every dear peel, rind, stem and shaving from vegetables in a freezer bag for a Saturday broth-fest; within the scraps are contained the same elements of vegetable goodness. I changed my ways.) For a few hours I cook this potful that’s almost as big as the cast iron heat-box itself, creating tasty veggie stock that I’ll use in cooking for the next week. Cabbage becomes fragrant (!), and the low winter sun shines on the spruce where at least a dozen red cardinals are tucked in the branches, looking like soft, exotic fruits.

Like birds picking up seeds, I have been flitting from pillar to post gathering ideas and thoughts. I feel as if I'm back in college classes, pushing myself to do close readings of the writers I read. They join in the pot of my head like scraps from the fridge. But what soup is being cooked up there? I read passages from Rilke and Rumi at the daily blogs. Synchronously they link arms and walk like twins separated only by centuries. See the parallel lines from the readings posted a couple of days ago:
Rumi: I would love to kiss you.
The price of kissing is your life.  (~ from "The Price of Kissing")


Rilke: I would perish in the power of his being.
For beauty is but the beginning of terror. (~ from "If I Cried Out")

Each day friends come into the comment boxes and reflect on the passages posted in those blog salons, filtering them through their own separate experiences and patterns of thought. Paths emerge, merge, and sometimes lead into dense thickets where I have to focus hard, keep up and try not to get lost. I love mind walks, even when I'm in danger of losing my way. (Have you seen the wonderful 1990 film "Mind Walk" with Liv Ullman, Sam Waterston and John Heard? Nothing but stimulating conversation, while walking around Mont-St Michel . . . ahhhh.) I collect thoughts and words that smell good, and throw them into my pot-head . Does this make me wishy-washy? Maybe. Like water, shaped by the vessel it's in. And what's inside the pot? Fragments of this and that . . . these, and all.
                                                                       
                                                                                       .
                                                                               . .
                                                                              . . .
                                                                            . . . .
                                                                          . . .
                                                                         . . .
                                                                         . . .
                                                                             . . .
                                                                                . . . .
                                                                                  . . . . .
                                                                                    . . . . .
                                                                                     . . . . .
                                                                                  . . . . .
Steam rises from the pot, walking a ribboning path . . . . .


-
-

56 comments:

Friko said...

The fragrance emanating from pot and pot-head is overpowering, the steam is misting up my glasses and the mind-walk is taking me into alleys that meander here and there, thoughts flitting, and imaginary footsteps floating lightly on the magical words of Rumi and Rilke.

A walk like yours is soul-refreshing and spirit-lifting, as well as warming and nourishing on a more practical level, when you come to dip your spoon into the broth and lift it to your lips for a taste of ambrosia.

Thank you for taking me along.

Ginnie said...

The connections and parallels are wonderfully mind-boggling, sister. I can just imagine the aroma while sitting on the couch, watching you in your red easy-chair. I even have my mouth shut, speaking no words. Simply watching, feeling and smelling. Maybe even thinking....

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

It is warming (and appetizing) to know you put all of your readings and blog friends into the stew in one way or another. You always serve up such hearty helpings on your blog, and it's nice to get a peek inside to see how you do it. Nothing wishy-washy here; just a lot of sensitive wishing-watching by our resident chef extraordinaire.

The Solitary Walker said...

Loved that rising, twisty, steamy path!

Mind-walks are the best walks, the real walks, probably the only walks. Certainly longer than the Spanish caminos. In fact they are endless.

I feel I'm getting quietly stewed...

The Solitary Walker said...

PS If you can make cabbage fragrant (you oxymoronic, gastronomic person, you) you can come and cook here ANYTIME!

Ruth said...

Friko, thank you for coming along, and thank you for your many unique, creative and skillful contributions to this pot-head of mine. Some of the fragrance is yours -- how beautiful! (all that inner grooming pays off, you see)

Ruth said...

Boots, I feel you here in your silent thoughts. Lovely.

And the connections and parallels we have now with Astrid's mother's tole painting, also make me hold my tongue in awe of the beauty . . .

Ruth said...

Lorenzo, thank you for your vote of confidence (always, ongoing). A lot of where my mind goes and how it must watch more closely now is in great part a result of your presence in my [blog] world. Your alchemies, so full of rich treasure -- insight and knowledge, but mostly heart-sight, your closely attentive comments here, and now your perceptiveness at the Rilke blog, all push me into the delicious world of ideas. But they are not just any ideas. They are the ones that matter, about the ways we integrate the things of this world into our souls. You inspire me constantly.

Ruth said...

Robert, are you getting stewed in a good way, I hope? Not like the frog in the pot, I trust . . . :)

The ways you mesh philosophy, walking, Zen, the healing touch of the earth, and poetry, at The Solitary Walker and Turnstone, have had my mind walking with you for some time now. And your contributions to the readings of Rumi and Rilke always share a quick mind, one that see connections I too often miss. These ways we walk the path together, but differently, make the trip fantastic. I feel so rich!

If you'd rather not be stewed with the cabbage, I can put you in a different pot . . . :)

Shari Sunday said...

I loved these pictures and your post. I can smell the steam pot of vegetables and feel the good, hot fire with the snow tumbling by the window. Beautiful mind and nose trip. I like the smell of stewing cabbage. So rich and pungent. We have been having cold nights and mornings, a lot of rain, but warm 70 degree afternoons where it is nice to sit on the porch in the sunny spot. I made a lemon pound cake yesterday and plugged in a fresh vanilla air freshner in the kitchen. Wish you were here for a whle and I could be there. Have a happy day, Ruth.

Maureen said...

Wonderful post, Ruth.

I liked how you referred to cardinals looking like "soft, exotic fruits". Cardinals are Virginia's state bird. When I was growing up they, along with jays, were abundant in number, then DDT spraying brought great losses. They're beginning to make a comeback, though I still only see them on rare occasions.

Woman in a Window said...

I steep. I am thankful for slow fires.

Your stove is wonderful and yet, so small to me. We heat by wood as well, but by a bigger box.

And then your pot, oh, your pot. I would voluntarily jump into a colour so sweet.

Yes, this is all we have, all we are, so many varied parts.

Aren't we lucky?

xo
erin

Cait O'Connor said...

This was such a joy to read, I didn't want it to end, I wanted it to go on boiling like your pot.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Me too! I didn't want it to end. But, in truth, my journey here is just beginning, having stumbled into your pot for the first time today.

it is full and brimming -- and as the vegetables cook up, room is made for more.

So glad to have found your room -- and your pot mind! :)

Louise

Ruth said...

Thanks, Shari, for coming to visit, for smelling my simmering pot and for enjoying the warm fire while we watch the snow and birds land on the ground. The cold winter must feel harsh at times down there in Florida. Good that it gets up to 70 though. Yes, that sounds awfully nice. :) I'd like to sit on your porch in the sun with you. Thank you for your wishes, it's already happy. I wish you the same, my friend.

(A piano! so exciting)

Ruth said...

Thank you, Maureen.

I first called the cardinals "strange fruit" . . . but the song by Billie Holiday haunted me, and I couldn't leave it, the reference is too "fragrant" in my pot.

Strange Fruit

Lewis allen

Southern trees bear strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root,
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop.


Such are the terrors of our history that simmer in all of our pots, consciously or unconsciously. Like DDT also, which evokes another song by another favorite, Joni's "Big Yellow Taxi." They paved paradise, put up a parking lot . . . Hey farmer, farmer, put away that DDT now, give me spots on my apples but leave me the birds and the bees.

Ruth said...

Hi, Erin. I wonder if you have a Jøtul too? They are powerful, efficient and clean-burning. Our family room and connected open kitchen seem to be just the right amount of space for this little stove to heat perfectly without overheating us, which happens often I think. And still, the heat pours into the rest of the first floor, just enough.

You like the pot? Good, 'cause you're already in it! Lucky, lucky me. :)

Ruth said...

Dear Cait, I doubt there is a kinder thing to say. Thank you. I hope you have a cozy fire to keep you warm in that gorgeous snowy sheep-scape in Wales. You do have books, so beautifully captured in your poem, and I hope also a real, hot fire. :)

Ruth said...

Hello and welcome, Louise! There is always room for more, and more, and more. I look forward to savoring your blog where there seem to be many joys awaiting, and they'll soon plop - plop - plop into my pot . . .

Margaret Bednar said...

I'm filled to the brim with nothing to say!! Just savoring the aroma of the above posts, I guess. Warm & delicious!

deb said...

oh, Ruth.
It doesn't get much better.
It just doesn't.

George said...

I'm often in the stew, but never more comfortably than in yours. I think I stumbled into it while on a mindwalk. And thanks for the introduction to that Norwegian stove. I think I would like to have one myself.

Pauline said...

Wishy-washy? You? Hardly! Even if you add water to your thoughts, they simmer down into rich broth.

freefalling said...

what a beautiful soul you are.

Ruth said...

Dear Margaret, filled to capacity, I feel that too. Let's savor it.

Ruth said...

Deb, xoxoxoxox

Ruth said...

George, you flavor the stew with some garlic and red wine -- favored, familiar, a little heady, and just enough strength.

Do look into the Jøtul. This little one is extremely popular, with good reason. Now I'm wondering if this would be for SC or DC.

Ruth said...

Pauline, thank you so much, but sometimes I really think I am too open to too many things!

Ruth said...

Letty, xoxoxoxox

christopher said...

What an astounding post. This is just excellence turned into vegetable soup, laced with the presence of woodstoves and winter birds. Thank you.

M.L. Gallagher said...

Hello again Ruth -- I was thrilled to read your words on my blog -- it is one of the delights of this 'cyber' space -- kindred souls meet, connect and dance in joy.

I'm looking forward to reading/learning/hearing/seeing more of your thinking.

So lovely to meet you!

Cheers,

Louise

Char said...

soup is an art - combined often around here with lots of reflecting and rumination. i save making it for rainy or cold days to savor the experience.

i love reading your thoughts as you ponder the pot of soup, adding, chopping, blending, thinking, reading, exploring, sipping...

feeding self and soul

Ann said...

how long will that vat of soup last you. I saw the brocolli.

Are you going to blend them all up?

ds said...

Word and image, thought and heart--your stock is rich, simmering atop the brilliance of that fire (the one from that exquisite poem!). And the wee cardinal bunched up against the cold, inhales the aroma and is comforted, pushing a little deeper into the snow...

Thank you, Ruth.

Oliag said...

How I love that photo of your Jotul stove with that great big teal pot!. We have a large Jotul stove in our living room but it has always annoyed me that it is not the kind I can put a pot on top of...

Will be thinking of soup stock now as I read and listen and try to absorb new info...I enjoy this tasty comparison:)

Looking for Siddhartha said...

such a beautiful mind walk in every respect. This place is so visionary and respectul. People stay and discuss some points and always they get a kind and clever respond. A place of freedom and intelligence! Thank you, Ruth!
Have a very nice day!
Renée

Amy @ Soul Dipper said...

Thank you for such a comfortable, cozy and aromatic visit at your home. And in your mind? :) Fabulous writing, Ruth - I'm so glad to have found you. You stretch me.

Peter said...

I wish I were there to smell the pot, if possible doing some mind-walking in good company… !

(I would be happy to let you taste my onion-soup one day.)

Thanks also for the preceding post; I was especially delighted to learn about Aivazovskiy, until then unknown to me! I have never seen water and light painted like he did!

Ruth said...

Hello, Christopher. Thank you for your generous, kind and poetic visit! (You live in my favorite state.)

Ruth said...

Louise, reading your post about that little-girl-you felt like meeting a friend from my childhood. And now we walk our journeys together.

Ruth said...

Char, from your comment (and you) I can see that you understand what a meditative experience it can be to chop and prepare soup. It provides a homey, connecting backdrop for all those little Saturday tasks that need doing.

Ruth said...

Ann, I'll use the broth for several days, usually almost all week. I cook the vegetables "to death" so there isn't much worth saving. I strain the broth and compost the veggies. The broth goes into sauces and soups. Last night I made creamy mushroom soup with white wine and potatoes.

Ruth said...

Thank you, ds, for your poetic comment. xoxoxox

Ruth said...

Oliag, oh, I didn't know they made them without a flat top like ours has.

Enjoy those tasty bits you gather up. I am loving your photos at xoxox . . . but I hate to always say "Gail, I love your photo!" and neglect the others . . . :)

Ruth said...

Renée, thank you so much, I'm glad you find this place that way. I love people staying and discussing, and I'm glad you've joined us.

Ruth said...

Amy, thank you, for your warm words, and for your visit. And for that stretching part especially!

Ruth said...

Peter, my friend, we would so love to welcome you to the farm! And I would love to taste your onion soup. I have a special memory of French onion soup in Chartres, in a cozy little place near the cathedral. I went to find the restroom, up a winding stair, and walked by an open door on the stair, with nothing but bags and bags and bags of onions! I think of it every time I think of onion soup. Thank you.

I'm glad you found Aivazovskiy here (you who know so very much about art history . . . ).

Susan said...

Ha! You try to fool us into thinking that your mind walks are meandering and flitting, but in reality you lead us exactly where we should go, where we need to go.

I love your little stove. I was looking at them online yesterday, along with Lopi inserts, one of which we had a long time ago when the kids were young. I'm trying to talk David into getting one again. That way I could enjoy a fire even on the coldest nights when we don't light one in fear of most of the heat going up the chimney...after the fire dies down, but still too smoky to close the damper. We have plenty of downed wood on our property...enough to supply us for a long time.

Your broth sounds amazing. I should start doing that, but the chickies would be soooo disappointed! :)

The Bug said...

You really do have the most gorgeous blog. I feel like I could just walk in, sit down, inhale that veggie aroma, and read one of my trashy novels while you're reading something edifying :)

deb said...

I made homemade soup so often it's a bit of a "thing" I'm known for.

I can only imagine what this room is like. What your broth and simmerings are like. It's magical.

Ruth said...

Susie Q, well I must say, I am amazed sometimes that anyone would follow my mind walks! I love how you stick with me.

I know that you will eventually win David over to your efficient wood stove plan. Tell him about the insert at Hukilau. It is very efficient, and you can open the door and enjoy the fire when you want. And I'm sure they're even better now than when we put that one in.

Yes, your chickies need their scraps, and aren't they lucky to get them! Maybe they'd share some with you . . .

Ruth said...

Dana, thank you, you're the best! :)

Ruth said...

Deb, oh I bet your soups are tremendous and soulful, like you. Thank you, my dear.

Woman in a Window said...

I'm afraid not, Ruth. It's a Drolet, but does its work well enough. Finally, fiNALly, the cold has broken.

xo
erin

Jeanie said...

And I smell the steam rising from the pot -- and it is good! Oh, how you take something, start the circle, move it gently into a new direction and back to close the circle! And yes, the pot is quite full indeed.

That said, I am comfy, nestled in your working room by your stove -- and thinking that I have a chicken carcass in the fridge that must be stocked up tonight before I lose it. Then I'll really small it all!

Sandy said...

I can't believe it's been so long since I've stopped by. I love this post.