I wrote this on the plane on the way to Baja last week. I didn't get to send it before we arrived and then returned, but I want to go ahead and put it out there. Not complete at all, but a start.
Flying to Baja for a five-day stay!
Haha. I'm laughing once again because it seems this story really wants to take its own time, to have itself turned over again and again in my mind and heart before I send it out in its entirety. I am in the air now, on the second leg of our journey, having just finished the most fluid, productive writing session I have had with this yet. Insights materialized and made their way into words. We were preparing to land, and I saved the draft and --- it disappeared into nothingness. Again. The second time that's happened in flight. I sure hope I can find a way to save this this time so that it actually makes it to you!
This story - of my initial experiences at Lumbini Gardens - is very important to me to write. More for myself than anyone else. As I've said before, it's a challenge for me to write about the Big Stuff. Small talk of the everyday type is safe and solid. The Big Stuff is.. important. Risky. I get tongue-tied.
Let me stop preambling and just get to it, for I don't have the time to write about it today, either, just as I haven't every other day. This may be the door-opening that allows for further insights later. And actual details as opposed to mere metaphorical waxings. ;-) And photos. :-)
Perhaps the most important thing I realized during our month-long stay in Baja California Sur, Mexico, was that, while a month is a long time for a vacation, and every day manages to pack in a million feelings and experiences, a month is not even a beginning for really getting to know a place. It's not even an introduction or a prologue; it is a first paragraph. Wendell Berry and Permaculture as a whole keep reminding me that to know a place takes a lifetime of infinite minute-upon-minute inhales and exhales of attention.
Much like a forest grows from a field with many successive generations of plants doing different jobs, my experience of the property called Lumbini Gardens has only just stepped into the pioneer plants - the "weeds" that make the way for redbuds, that in their turn shade the soil for the oaks. I braced myself at the somedays-seemingly-relentless winds, the sun that penetrates as soon as it makes a shadow, and the scorpions that not only crawled into my suitcase and across my foot, but also into my dreams. I am confident that these will be the brambles that are laughed about once our hands are dyed purple, and our buckets and tummies are full of berries.
We started our endeavor first thing with an intention: of remembering that we are the newcomers and guests here. We are not here to elbow the uncomfortable or inconvenient out of the way, but to ask the beings who already inhabit this place for their permission and approval. And their guidance: to show us how to survive and thrive in this environment that is so new and foreign to us. To humble ourselves to the roles of students and followers, not conquerers. Not even farmers, but partners and collaborators.
This Mother's Day I treated myself: to a cheesemaking class at Love Apple Farm in Santa Cruz. We covered four different "soft" cheeses ~ chevre, feta, mozzarella, and ricotta, made with pasteurized goat's and cow's milk, and then raw cow's and goat's milk (surprise surprise: the teacher of the class prefers raw milk to pasteurized. She says it makes far superior cheese). Though I have made mozzarella and a couple other simple cheeses before, it was nice to have someone who knows what she's doing take me step by step. The highlight of the class for me ~ and, really, what tipped me over the edge to sign up for it ~ was that we got to milk a goat. Interestingly, during my high school years I lived on a dairy goat farm. But I never even thought about milking a goat; I had no interest and was not required to. But Sunday ~ what a thrill it was! And how intimate it felt to me, grasping her warm, very soft and silky udder and expressing warm milk. I couldn't help but talk to her and thank her. I think especially because Anjali and I are still in a breastfeeding relationship, it felt pertinent and close to my heart ~ on Mother's Day, no less. It was also a surprisingly simple movement to express the milk; perhaps it made intuitive sense because of shared mammal-hood. After the class, I waited for Sealion and Anjali to pick me up and was hanging around talking with the goats in their pasture. The farmhands walked up and invited me to help them milk the goats. So I got to milk a goat to completion, as opposed to just an introductory teaser, like in class. And then Sealion showed up and he got to milk too (Anjali missed out due to carseat naptime). Definitely an activity that comes quicker with practice. And I couldn't help but feel like a modern "city slicker," oozing with novel pleasure the way I did at a chore that was for centuries a mundane activity for many. I look forward to a time in the foreseeable future when milking time can be a habitual twice-daily chore for me, too.
A couple of the girls out in their gorgeous pasture.
Breathtaking location of Love Apple Farm, which includes a stand of mature redwoods. The horizon is the ocean.
Instructor Fiona in her kitchen classroom.
Embarrassingly cheesy (haha!) grin on my face ~ *blush!*
Hand-pulled mozzarella with four preparations: no-salt and barely-pulled, no-salt and pulled, salted and barely-pulled, salted and pulled. Can you tell the difference? The taste and texture were remarkable.
Chevre wheel decorated with edible flowers ~ nasturtium, viola, and chrysanthemum.
Outro de hilarity: what Papi and Anjali were doing while I was in class. ;-D
I notice the photos are cut off a bit when using Flickr.. I sure don't feel like fixing that...
So glad to finally get to this; I told you I might, and I did! Here's to long return flights with a solidly-napping babe! Coffee. And a splash (or two) of somethin'.
As independent study credit during my last (official) year of undergrad school, I assisted Kentucky writer Normandi Ellis. I went to her home every week, did editing and cataloging for a book, and other interesting stuff. She was a powerful mysterious woman around 50 whose personal veil between the seen and the unseen worlds was thinner than most ~ perhaps by nature or by practice, probably a little of both. Her home was cluttered with time-collected detail ~ art, trinkets, dark velvet ~ and thickly dusted with incense and cigarette smoke, feminine and witchy energy. Normandi was a scholar of Egyptian myth. As she was writing her second book on it, it permeated her life. Around the first corner past the entrance, guarding a plush burgundy couch, her living room showcased a large print on papyrus of an Egyptian-styled vulture - gilt, black and red. I had grown up thinking of vultures as harbingers of decay. However in Egyptian understanding (as in Nature, truly), vultures clear away the old to allow for the new; A crone-wise harbinger of Change. The ancient Egyptian pantheon reveres a vulture-headed deity.
As I studied and worked with Normandi, I steeped my own subconscious deeply in mythology. I also found myself engaged to my four-year boyfriend, Gemini Cricket. More importantly (to us), we were readying ourselves (as much as one can) for a bicycle voyage from our homestate of Kentucky to the west coast of Washington state. As our departure (and wedding) drew close, we set out on a dress-rehearsal overnight tour of Land Between the Lakes in western Kentucky. That night after starlit pre-nuptial campsite fun, we lay in our brand-new tent, sticky with self-generated humidity. I dreamt in technicolor detail that that ancient vulture from Normandi Ellis's wall was scratching at our zip-up screened door. Pulling and tugging. Peck, peck. Change indeed. After that, vultures and buzzards appeared to me in my waking life as a friendly indicator that I should take note for potential life change.
Winter, seven years later, I tooled down an unfamiliar road, waving my hands and sing-shouting along with every word of Ani DiFranco's Evolve. It was an unseasonably warm and crisp day so I was able to open the window and howl at the countryside; I sing when I'm nervous. I was on my way to meet my mom for a meal and try to make like all was fine and "normal" in my life. I passed a tree ~ an old, tall, solitary fencerow tree ~ that was so loaded with buzzards, it appeared to be clothed in black leaves. I almost ran off the road.
Time passed. Wounds healed. Life renewed and blossomed. I forgot about vultures for a long while.
I set up the camp kitchen in the shady shelter of the neem tree for our first day of several weeks camping at Lumbini Gardens in Baja Sur, Mexico. The gusty wind made setting up the tent impossible and frequently knocked off my sunhat. Anjali sought the comfort and shelter of the Land Cruiser. While Sealion labored in the elements to establish electricity, there were things I could do to make our outdoor living area feel a little more homey. I made a batch of "limón tea," organized and wiped the desert dust off the blue-with-white speckled enamel plates. I separated produce that can be in open desert air vs. produce that must be kept in the coolers. As I worked, I noticed the long slow shadows of birds flying in my periphery and thought, "Uh-oh. I hope those aren't buzzards; that seems like bad luck." It wasn't till later that I remembered my connection with those prescient creatures. Everyday a few of them (they are turkey vultures down there) made their rounds, scouring with their senses the desert scrub that surrounded us on all sides. "You too?" I thought to them. "Oh, good - so it's not just me; this is a big one."