Saturday, January 1, 2022

Honouring Moments of Pause

   Slowly, very slowly, I am emerging from a pause. I took time this year to deepen study in Chinese medicine, mind my private practice, read, watch, internalize and observe the changes. There are days that have felt like moments and others like eternities. While I have not written much for the blog, I did continue to take photographs and quell my curiosity of the natural world with my camera. 

   I am including a few collages with some of my favourite images that tell a story about this past year. There are so many images to share as I edit and reconfigure my writings. It occurred to me this past week that so much of my time during the past two years was invested in cultivating safety for myself and for my work. When we feel safe, we can then down regulate, be curious and find breath. There have been days where the breath has been short, shallow and brief. The work has been to find the depth of the breaths where the air can sometimes feel trapped or held. It is during these levels of activation, I have felt the importance and necessity of honouring moments of pause. Taking photographs, especially of my hummingbirds, asks for stillness and focus on slow exhales.  I never use a tripod so it is always an act of meditation to keep a still hand.
   There were moments with peeper frogs, a luna moth, mimosa flowers, and countless hours with a new generation of hummingbird visitors. As the world has turned in so many directions I am eternally grateful for the presence of the small details of shimmering beauty that reside in the woods, the air and the earth.

 It is my hope that some of these images will spark curiosity and deep refreshing breaths as we enter the new year. One of my favorite images was taken this autumn of a passion flower vine that grew with such vitality that it climbed up the side of my home and drooped over a doorway. It gave the garden the feeling of something very romantic and old. The vines were curled, woven, knotted, stuck and integrated with the shingles and rooftop. Each time that I walked out the door, I was reminded to stay the course, and to follow the inspirations that offer glimmers of beauty and passion. This vine has been growing for over a decade. Inside in the winter and outside in the summer. It continues to gently bloom, offering magical green and purple flowers despite the wobble of the world. 

    As I write this post, the owls are singing in the woods. I hear them morning and night, just when the light has a certain dusky tone. I am so deeply grateful for their presence. They remind me that the cycles of nature continue and that we too are part of a circular process of healing and rebirth. They also offer the reminder of a place that still holds a little bit of wildness and raw woodsy beauty. Wishing everyone a new year filed with creativity, curiosity, patience and kindness. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Food is Medicine

 During the course of the pandemic, warm meals, carefully crafted fresh dishes, and layered soups have been creating much comfort and joy. Some days, a bowl of hot homemade vegetable soup has made a world of difference during these chaotic days. Sharing a freshly made dish with a neighbour, a friend or patient from my practice has also made me feel like I am participating in the solution. 

We can offer comfort and support through the love that we place in kitchen. I have found that cooking has been one of the most meaningful expressions of love and connection during these challenging times. I am deeply grateful for the beautiful vegetables and care that the farmers have given to their crops this past year. Sang Lee, Amber Waves and Balsam Farms are a my favourites. 

When I have had extra soup, I have packaged it and given it to friends and neighbours when they least expected the gifts. It fills my heart with goodness to share now more than ever. While we may not be able to share a meal in our homes, we can certainly share love in this gentle and nourishing exchange. 

I began a new feed on Instagram, the title of the feed is @pure_soups. In this feed, I share images of the flowers that sit on the table while eating, the herbs, the soups, the ingredients, and the intentions behind the soups. I have also included thoughts on the nutritional values of different foods through the five elements and the lens of Chinese medicine. 

I have enjoyed photographing the images of the ingredients, the color, the textures and the toppings that I have placed on the soups. At this time, I am finishing the squash and root vegetables from the winter shares of Amber Waves and Sang Lee Farms. 

The sweet potato soup has been the most frequency made soup. Enriched by garlic, onion, sesame oil, vegetable broth, hours of slow roasting and cooking, topped with beautiful elements from the last herbs in the garden.

One of my favourite ingredients has been Japanese pickled plums. I chop them finely and add them to the toppings of many soups. The sour and sweet taste offers a nice opposition to the sweet earthiness of the pureed root soups. The plums are astringent and offset the sweetness creating more of a balance in the soup.

As the days are growing longer and we gear up for warmer weather, I will be posted more of my recipes and my photography. My hope is that my posts inspire new explorations in the kitchen. Tonifying the middle Jiao is an important way to keep our immunity strong and resilient, especially during the colder days. 

As I am writing this post, I know that the farmers are enjoying the last days of rest before preparation for the next planting season. My seeds are being sorted and my new gardens designed in my dreams. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Autumn Hummingbird Medicine

 This beauty is about to leave for warmer days and colorful flowers. It is always heartbreaking to feel them leave the garden. It has been a wonderful Summer of curiosity and observation. 
This is one of my favorite images to date. 
The sky has been hazy and turned soft pastel colours as the particles from the wildfires of the West coast are flying over our lands. The soft halo behind our elegant female hummingbird reminds me of a Byzantine painting of a female Saint. 

Just before the hummingbirds leave, they are very generous with their presence and they spend extra time feeding for their journeys South. She has been here a lot the past few days and I can feel her getting ready to fly away. To see the hummingbirds every day for many months, it is bittersweet to feel the intensity of their feeding, knowing that in a blink of an eye she may disappear. 
The last salvia are still in bloom, as well as the last cardinal vines. Little pops of color in an otherwise fading garden. The night air is cooler now and one can feel the activity of the Atlantic Ocean churning the winds and summoning crisper weather. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Owl Medicine

Yesterday, during the early moments of blue grey daylight I heard the young owls cry from the branches of a cedar tree just outside the window. These are the owlets that I have photographed and been listening to for several weeks. One of my wonderful neighbors invited me to see them in her back yard. It has taken me a while to understand their behavior, and there is so much to learn that it may take me a very long time to completely absorb their elusive habits. 

In years past, I have only ever heard them, never saw them in the wild. It has been a wonderful and incredible experience. The first time that I saw them, they were together on a branch at the edge of the woods. They were so well camouflaged that it took my eyes a moment to refocus. 
In the blink of an eye, they were gone. Their wide and impressive wingspan took me by surprise. They are magnificent. They are elegant and have the capacity to vanish into a tree canopy as if they are performing magic. 
They have been coming out of the woods at dusk and visible at first light with the little ones. The first good image that I took  was when it appeared on a branch from what seems like thin air. 

It took my breath away, its yellow eyes and strong body.  It sat on a branch and stared directly at us. My friend sat next to me, and I said to her, 
"I can't believe what we are seeing right now."
My friend is much better at staying still than I am and we both has a silent giggle under our breath. I was so excited that I could hardly stand it, as my heart nearly jumped out of my chest. Holding a heavy camera with a long lens was very difficult, the excitement made my arms and hands shaky. I was in complete awe. It was love at first sight. 

Since that encounter, I have seen them a few times and when my hopes were the highest, they hid from me, or flew over my head in the depth of the dark woods. I have been learning a lot about these Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus). The greatest lesson that they have taught me is how to see in the dark. This is a literal lesson, although it might also be interpreted as a shamanic teaching, I am learning how to see the unseen. They blend into their environment so well that one has to really adjust to a new way of seeing the woods. 
The second lesson that they have taught me is how to hear differently. I have learned what their wake up call is like and how they communicate with one another. One night, I was in the woods and I heard the owlets waking up and talking with one another, it was as if they were checking in with one another to say hello and also search out one of the parents. We believe that there are four owls.

Lastly, they have taught me how to be more curious. To learn more about owls all over the world and to read about the history of owls from different resources. The owl below is young, it bobbed and danced while looking at me. The feathers are more fluffy and soft than the adults.

The author Desmon Morris has written a book, the title is Owl
In the introduction to his book he writes:
"When we examine the history of our relationship with owls we find that they have, indeed, frequently been a symbol of both wisdom and evil. Wise or wicked, wicked or wise, the image of the owl keeps altering. For several thouand years these two iconic values have kept swapping and changing. Another of the contradictory qualities of the much misunderstood owl."

According to Morris, there are fossil remains of owls that have existed for at far back as 60 million years. When I did a little research of my own, I found images of ancient fossils and cave paintings in Europe. 
When I look at the images that I have taken, I can hardly believe that they incredible creatures have been on the planet for so many millions of years. It is like having an encounter with a modern day dinosaur, literally from my back door and I did not have to travel half way across the world to see them in all of their glory!
These elusive creatures have been with us, woven into our psyche and our cultures for so many centuries.
The owl graced Grecian coins, were made into gold beads by the Mochica in Northern Peru and revered for their magical and healing powers by many cultures all over the world. 

The goddess Lakshmi is often depicted riding on the back of a white owl when she enters the earth plane to visit the poor and bless them with her presence. The owl accompanies her in the dark as it knows how to travel well at night with its extraordinary night vision. In Minorca owls are painted on ceramics for good luck. Amulets of owls are also worn for protection. 

There are so many interesting facts about owls in cultures from all over the world that it could take a lifetime to read about how we as humans have lived with these magical beings. Desmond Morris did a beautiful job exploring their vast and meaningful relationships with humans throughout the centuries. 
Last week, I saw one of the owls fly through the back of the property. It took my breath away, again,  as it was almost dusk, the crows were making a lot of noise chasing it away and it flew so fast, it was a brief but amazing sight. 
I hope that this is just the beginning of my time with the owls. I love them so much, their yellow and black eyes, intense stare, silent flight and curious calls. They are mysterious and generous. My neighbour has been gifted many feathers from them and they love her sanctuary where they sleep, drink water and rest in the safety of her magical realm. 
Hopefully they will visit me again soon and I will have another story and new images to share with everyone. They are year round residents and hopefully that have found their forever home here in the woods of Springs.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Magic of the Day

"If you've never been thrilled to the very edge of your soul by a flower in bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom."
~Terri Guillemets~

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Nourishing the Middle Jiao and Gu Qi During Times of Transition.

As we begin to understand more and more about our current pandemic, I feel more equipped  to write about how we can take care of ourselves during these challenging times. I study as much as I can now and I am learning from the doctors who are sharing their hands on experiences in China. Having access to this information has been incredible. I spend a lot of time processing what I am reading and hearing so that I may translate this information into meaningful and life affirming content for my patients, family and friends.
The current consensus is that this is a pathogen that moves through several energetic layers, from a Chinese medical perspective, and presents as a damp condition. Knowing that dampness is a key part of the presentation of the virus once it enters the lungs, it feels important to support our systems with exercise, regular meals and quality foods.
During this transition I have been advising everyone to lean into preparing their own meals, especially soups. The possibilities are limitless. I prefer to slowly make them in layers.
To begin, we start with the broth as a base and then add greens, other vegetables and toppings.
Soups warm and nourish the middle Jiao. This is the energy center of the core that includes the Chinese Spleen and Stomach. The energy that is created by the transformation and transportation function of the Spleen is called Gu Qi.
For many reasons, cultivation of Gu Qi encourages the manifestation of Righteous Qi, as part of a continuation of Qi through various organ systems.
If we are eating appropriately and at regular times, the Spleen will be happy.
It will then be able to nourish Blood and ultimately many other functions of the body that enhance a healthy Wei Qi or Immunity. When the Spleen is regulated we are less likely to create excessive phlegm. The lungs are particularly susceptible to dampness excess, especially for those of us who live near the ocean.
Having a healthy Spleen supports stability, nourishment of the mind, the heart and appropriate timing in the acts of giving and receiving.
Here are just a few ideas for creating nourishment during these swirly days. I hope that they inspire anyone who reads this entry to explore one's own capacity to create warmth and goodness in one's life right now.

The soup above, began with a chicken broth, and vegetable broth. Black rice, sea lettuce flakes, scallion, ginger and goji berries were added for releasing the exterior and building Blood.
After drinking this elixir I felt my skin open and the heat move Qi at the surface.
This was wonderful for a cold Spring day.

The ingredients photographed below include: goji berries, shiitake mushrooms, cranberries, lemon peel, and violet flowers. I cut the ingredients finely for the carrot, ginger soup. Additional ingredients include celery, onion, carrots, small golden potatoes, spinach flakes, sauerkraut, coconut milk, paprika, chipotle powder, garlic, topped with dandelion and parsley.

Below is a detail of the violet flowers sitting on dollops of coconut milk. Given the contrast of the opposing orange and purple, the beauty warranted its own special image. When soups are beautiful, they evoke a sense of curiosity and joy. Theses are important elements of digestion.
The ancients say that digestion begins with our eyes.

Below is another detail which includes, shiitake mushrooms. I soaked these in warm water twice and used the mushroom infusion as an addition to the soup. It adds an earthy flavor that gives it an added layer of musky beauty.

Below is the soup in its entirely.
The colors orange and yellow, belong to the Earth Element. I made this soup today after a cold and wild rain. It feels appropriate to have a warmer soup because of yesterdays wind and dampness. The gusts were so high that it felt like a hurricane. When we have this kind of unstable weather, the Earth Element enjoys special attention.

Lastly, this Spring green soup was made from asparagus, kale, parsley, cilantro, garlic, vegetable broth, sauerkraut, topped with lemon peel, carrot slices, asparagus shoots, goji berries and shavings of a savory Dutch gouda.
Sauerkraut is sour. The energetics of sour foods condition/tonify the Wood element in Spring. It is a small added ingredient to the soups that adds flavor and energetic support to awaken the detoxifying function of the Liver.
The green soup was pureed after the greens were sauteed in sesame oil. This oil is warming in nature but gives the fresh greens a nutty and earthy element. I like adding sesame oil to soups because it can soften the clawing nature of leafy greens.
Parsley and cilantro are excellent for detoxification and supporting the Liver in Chinese medicine.

It is important to remember that if we have histories of trauma, we may rush through meals, override that para-sympathetic function of digestion and forgot to taste the sweetness of life. Some of us may actually be holding the freeze response in the viscera. Paying special attention to this aspect of our physiology is a meaningful part of our unwinding and healing.
I find that after a nourishing meal, sitting for a bit with a hot water bottle over the stomach is wonderful for allowing the process of digestion to continue. We want to hear the peristalsis, this often means that we are digesting well and that the function of the Chinese Stomach is online. 
Hot herbal tea, a drop of peppermint oil on Acupuncture points Pericardium 6, slowing down for a little bit before resuming activity allows the Middle Jiao to reorganize and for our bodies to absorb the goodness of the meal that we just enjoyed. 
When we have appropriate time for digesting food, we are also digesting information in our lives that may be asking for time and integration. In Chinese medicine 'Yi' also known as 'thought', is stored in the Spleen. When we slow down to truly digest our food, we may also be digesting past or present thoughts, and appropriately allowing assimilation not only on a nutritive level but also on the physiological, psychological and energetic level of the Chinese Earth element. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Because the World Needs More Egrets

There are spacious days right now, ones filled with study, silence, beauty and observation of the natural world. I have seen nature come closer, to create more intimate opportunities for connection.
So many new birds are arriving, 

This beauty was photographed in the bright Spring light. Egrets are shy and in my experience difficult to photograph. They do not like people getting too close to them, they are elusive in that they appear to be still and willing, and in a blink of an eye they are gone. 

I love their layered feathers, large transparent wings and long necks. They always feel elegant to me. Graceful extensions of the skies. On warmer days, the skies are teaming with new life and I often wonder what they see looking down on us during this unprecedented time. 

On a walk yesterday a heron flew over the middle of Springs Fireplace road. It followed the yellow lines and swooped down so close to me,  I felt as though I could almost reach for its amazing wings. It was the closest that I have ever been to this magnificent bird. 
Watching egrets and herons are once of my favorite activities. During this pause, the greatest luxury and gift is the extra moments with nature and being the observer during different times of the day. 
The day began overcast and damp, followed by late afternoon sunshine and more rain tomorrow. To be able to pay such close attention to the subtle changes of the skies, the water and the new plant growth feels like a very special privilege. 
One that I treasure so close to my heart.