A hui hou!
I made my first visit to the Far East in 1966. If there is such a thing as a past life, I discovered it there. There are several events that have stuck with me for the past 50-plus years to validate those happenings.
One of those uncanny situations revolved around statues in various forms throughout my travels. It wasn’t until years later when I moved to Hawaii, that I discovered the significance of Kwan Yin (Guan Yin, Quan Yin) in all her various poses.
I am not of the Buddhist faith, but there are elements that I find valuable and incorporate into my own faith.
I offer you Kwan Yin, the goddess of compassion, a bodhisattva who continues to teach me more about being a spiritual female.
I am a retired United Methodist minister who uses meditation in several forms. So I feel free to let Kwan Yin guide me in my inner evaluations.
When I need to hear it, she reminds me to be compassionate with myself as well as others.
She reassures me that unconditional love, what we preachers call “Grace” is for all people, including myself.
She is a constant reminder that the blessings of human kindness, or Mitzvah, connect us all.
Most of all, she reveals the feminine face of God, and allows me to experience my faith in ways that are more meaningful in my life, ways that are real.
As I travel throughout the world, it is hard to forget that we are all One, all needing that touch of human kindness and compassion that Kwan Yin offers.
A hui hou!
Those of you who have been following this blog since its first post may wonder why I’m reposting some of the old ones. I’m in the middle of selling my home and buying another, so while my time is taken up with house-hunting, I probably won’t be creating many original posts.
If you are new to my blog, then I hope you enjoy these posts and recommend me to your friends.
I first made this recipe back in June of 1964. How do I know? I always date my cookbook recipes the first time I try it and give the family rating. This one rated very high with everyone!
How do recipes become our own? After so many years, we tend to add, subtract, or substitute from the original. Who knows at what point they become ours and not something from a cookbook?
I adapted this one from an old cookbook I had featuring recipes from Luchow’s German restaurant in New York, first published in 1952. You can see the splattered pages. The real name of the recipe is something more sophisticated, but my kids named it “orange sauerkraut” because of the color it turns out to be.
Even people who don’t think they like sauerkraut seem to love this recipe, probably because the sour cream softens the sharp tang of the kraut. Try it yourself and see what you think!
2 pounds of lean beef cut into small 1-inch squares
4 tablespoons of butter (I substitute olive oil)
2 cups sliced onions
1 clove garlic, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste, although sauerkraut usually has enough salt
1 15-oz. can tomatoes
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons chopped caraway seeds
2 cups sauerkraut
Sauté beef in butter or olive oil until lightly browned.
Add onions and cook 5 minutes.
Add garlic, salt, pepper, and tomatoes, plus enough water to barely cover the mixture.
Cook slowly until meat is almost done and the sauce reduced, usually about 30-45 minutes. Stir frequently.
When sauce is cooked down, add sour cream, paprika, and caraway seeds. Simmer ½ hour longer.
Mix in sauerkraut and cook until everything is heated to the right temperature.
Makes a wonderful family meal served with steamed red potatoes, or traditional German style with mashed potatoes.
A hui hou!
I can’t remember exactly when I first became interested in the beautiful Japanese art of bonsai. It was probably in the 1960s, when I traveled to Japan on four different occasions. On one of those trips, I climbed Mt. Fuji with friends, an exciting story for another time.
At the hotel where we stayed the night before our climb, I was quite taken with their bonsai garden. Many of the trees there were over 100 years old with an incredible history. I vowed then to learn how to create these for myself. I brought home many of the “bon” or trays in which to plant the trees. They have survived many moves since that time.
Before I go any further, I want to make sure you know how to pronounce the word “bonsai.” I’ve heard it called everything, including “banzai,” which is the suicide attack word used by the Japanese during World War II. The correct pronunciation is a softer sound of “bone-sigh.”
On one of my favorite sites, you can discuss issues with other bonsai enthusiasts, order supplies, buy bonsai books and tools, learn new techniques, and so much more.
The American Bonsai Society, Inc. was founded in 1967, around the same time I visited the bonsai gardens in Japan. Their official site has many beautiful pictures of bonsai.
I think you can tell from these pictures and from the websites I’ve listed that bonsai is the art of miniaturizing a tree or group of trees. Land is so precious in Japan that often the only way a person can experience nature or go into a forest is to kneel silently before a “grove” of bonsai trees in a tray. In this way, we can simply let ourselves melt into the tiny landscape and imagine walking among the trees, or be drawn into sitting at the base of an old tree. It’s difficult for me to describe this type of meditation, but it is a very effective way to put yourself into a peaceful setting, if only temporarily.
If you can imagine this pot filled with a miniature grove, then you have the ability to create one of your own. The Wikipedia site on bonsai has many beautiful pictures of not only groves and forests, but of other styles that can be produced.
There are a variety of ways to begin a bonsai. What I talk about here is one of the methods I was taught in the 70s at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
The roots of a bonsai are trimmed and secured to a pot or bon with a wire threaded through a wire mesh and tied around a twig underneath. This is one of my pots from an old bonsai that didn’t live. As you can see, there are many sizes and shapes for the trays, or pots.
Once the plant is secured in the pot, soil is pressed around the base and roots. Try to find bits of moss, carefully lift it up and transfer it to the top of the soil. This helps to keep the soil from washing away, as well as helping to create an illusion of age.
Then the process begins of trimming the tree itself to a size and shape you desire. This is not to be done in a hurry. The entire process is quite meditative and I can get completely lost in it all.
There are many ways to proceed. One trick in getting the gnarled effect right away is to buy an aging root bound plant from a nursery, like a Juniper that is no longer really any good for planting in your yard. I love the ones that seem to be growing around a rock. The roots have been secured in such a way that the tree appears to be sitting on top.
When I start talking about bonsai, I don’t know where to stop. There is so much to say. All I can suggest is that you get a book from the library to start out, find a nice flat tray, get a plant and just try your hand.
Before COVID hit our island, there was an annual show put on by the Big Island Bonsai Association, but I couldn’t find anything that says whether it continues.
I promise you that it’s extremely addicting. Once you start, you may never be able to stop. Why would you want to??
A hui hou!
My family loved to backpack in the high Sierras. One year, after a refreshing afternoon rain, my youngest child, about seven at the time, looked down at his feet and picked up something shiny. It was a perfectly formed arrowhead of black obsidian. Evidently the rain had washed it out from an ancient hiding place. What a treasure the rain revealed!
In Hawai`i, we have the saying “no rain, no rainbows.” Too often we concentrate on the rain and neglect an openness to the treasures afterward.
What riches or inner resources have you discovered after the rains in your life?
A hui hou!
This is a post I try to include every few years because it is so delicious!
I learned about Gazpacho when I first moved to California in 1960. It was a huge fad at that time, and I was knocked over by it! It’s been given a number of names, including “liquid salad,” but whatever you call it, it’s simply delicious!
This may seem like a summer-only dish to many of the mainlanders, but in California, and especially here in Hawai`i, we can eat it year-round.
The beauty of a healthy serving of Gazpacho is that you can put almost any kind of raw veggie into it. Take your pick from:
fresh tomatoes (about 2-3 pounds cut into quarters, skin and all – or canned, peeled tomatoes) cucumber
bell peppers (I used a combination of orange, red, yellow baby bells)
maybe a Jalepeño for a little kick?
Zap it up in a blender or food processor until thick and chunky.
Store it in the fridge until it’s good and cold.
Ladle it into a bowl, top with crumbled feta and sprigs of cilantro.
To go with this, I like to serve a good loaf of crunchy rustic bread fresh from the oven, and maybe a big hunk of sharp cheese.
A hui hou!
Is there anyone among us doesn’t remember singing along and feeling proud of our countryside? It was an era of protesting the educational system, the government, the war, the “establishment” in general, and anything else we could protest, but we loved our land – the unique geography that makes up these United States.
If they ever want to change our National Anthem to something more sing-able, I cast my vote for “This Land Is Your Land.”
It was explained to me about the second-growth redwoods. As you can see here, there is a cluster of trees around a bare piece of ground. The original old redwood was either logged out over 150 years ago or could have been hit by lightning. These new “baby trees” sprouted up around where the mother tree had been.
The first photo at the top of this post gives another perspective on a grove of second-growth trees. These magnificent trees may be relatively young, but they still take my breath away – and make me proud that they are a part of my country.
The tops of the trees just seem to reach toward the sky for an eternity!
There is a lot about California I miss. What I do not miss is the traffic, which has gotten worse since I left. I’ve become too accustomed to a more casual lifestyle. Still, I intend to keep visiting whenever I get the chance.
Today, we could write more verses to add to this song that would include our island state of Hawai`i (where I now live) or our northernmost state of Alaska (where I have lived in the past). All fifty states are worth going to see! If you have never been to California, it’s worth braving the crowds and traffic to see a special part of our incredible country.
If you love the redwoods as much as I do, please visit https://www.savetheredwoods.org
“This land was made for you and me.”
Happy Fourth of July!
A hui hou!
Today’s post is one of the fables in Feral Fables. In the book, you’ll find suggestions for reflection at the end of the fable.
The Purple Chrysanthemum
Chores never cease, never subside. Menacing dark corners tower above and below her, dusty and dank. Driven here, thrust there, the woman frantically toils in vain. In every quarter of the luxurious home she unearths wads of shabby rags, inside bureau and closets, beneath tables and beds, over shelves and bookcases.
There is no seclusion here. It is no longer her home. Aliens invade, then abandon her in chaos. Serenity is shattered in the assault.
In a frenzy, she searches for one spot, one haven of beauty where she may hide from the muck and gloom, sludge and shadow. She is imprisoned and enslaved by the moment, shaken and disenchanted by infinity.
Others chart her headway as she labors, then regresses. Despondently she presses onward, now advancing, now reversing in an endless non-dance. Joy pales as the obstacles flourish in neglect. Song is stilled, light fractured, until she spots an overlooked box, unobtrusively tucked away behind the bureau.
In dismay, she lifts the lid, supposing it to be filth-filled, or barren at best. A small packet sheathed in foil rests inside, dormant yet dazzling in its obscurity. From the crumpled edge of the opening there protrudes a long green stem, crowned with a large purple chrysanthemum, blossom of her soul. An abundance of petals, long and delicate, unite around a pollen-filled golden center.
Tears fall as she recalls the moment she clipped the bloom from its parent. Tenderly she had placed it into nourishing water where it could take root and grow. Now long forgotten, the chrysanthemum has flourished, alone and in the inky obscurity of the ragged box. Surely it was withered and dead by now, for many moons have passed. Other celebrations have come and gone, but the blossom remains.
She pauses, then meticulously peels back the foil covering. That which was dormant for so long has burgeoned with fragile and lacy roots. What once was a flower, cut off from its source, has sprouted in the dark, unattended and ignored.
Weeping, she holds the hardy segment of beauty in the palm of her hand. The tiny bit of life, buried in the pit of her soul, is resurrected and retrieved. The purple chrysanthemum will never perish. She will survive.
I stayed at the White Swan Hotel, named for (I suppose) all the swans on the Avon.
A hui hou!
One of the courses I always loved to teach was “Psychology and the Expressive Arts.” Not only do students learn how to use the expressive arts (writing, painting, clay, dance, music and more) in counseling clients, but also how to use the arts to re-discover the creativity within. An assignment I always gave was for them to write about one of the metaphors in their lives.
Metaphors are all around us, and I offered suggestions for my students to show them how to find metaphors in unexpected places.
One of my personal favorites is the metaphor of sailing. I’ve used it so many times in the past that it’s almost become a cliché, and yet it is a strong metaphor for me. Those of you who have been reading my posts fairly regularly will remember that I lived on my 37’ sloop for five years.
I moved off my sailboat to the Phoenix area when I was assigned to be a pastor there. About six months into that appointment, one of the men in the church came to me and said, “This is the first Sunday you haven’t mentioned sailing.” He went ahead to say that he wasn’t tired of it, but that it emphasized the fact of how many ways sailing was a rich metaphor for our lives.
We have all seen many sailing metaphors illustrated on posters or key chains and the like. I am reminded of the sailing metaphor in particular and that is the way we have to maneuver the boat in order to get to our destination.
You know that a sailboat cannot go directly into the wind without stalling. The sailor must tack back and forth, sailing just off the wind, yet never losing sight of the goal.
The same thing is true of life. When we are not able to sail directly toward our goal without getting stalled, we don’t need to let that stop us. We can veer off course a little as long as we keep in mind where we ultimately want to go.
This has been true for me so many times – with education, career, home, relationships. How easy it would have been to give up, rather than to let the wind carry me in a different direction! I may have tacked back and forth many times in life, but I’ve ended up where I was ultimately headed.
Do you have a specific metaphor for your life?
A hui hou!