Tag Archives: beans

Communing in the gardens.

Scaly Rustgills under my fig tree.

Late this morning the sun came out again, and shined on all the droplets of dew and fog. I had a date to keep in town, but I noticed through the window that the fountain was dripping instead of flowing, so I went out to put the hose in there for a few minutes. Of course I saw many glowing leaves and caught the scent of decay. How can decomposition smell so fresh, and how does the earth’s breathing wake up my whole body?

Lavender under a net.

I took a few pictures and then I was happy to be on my way, on to the community garden to meet my friend Bella where we have been together a few times before.  Strolling through other people’s gardens is thoroughly relaxing and nourishing; lots of interest and no responsibility. A garden comprised of dozens of gardens, each with its special personality, is even better.

Often we get to take home some treats, for immediate food or for seeds. Bella found ears of corn lying in the path, and she showed me where a few beans hung from a trellis, the seeds somehow still dry and clean inside the mildewed pods. How could I not bring a few home to try? The way those beans offered themselves suggested a small planting, which is not intimidating. And they are intriguing Mystery Beans to me as yet; does anyone here know what kind they are? Such a dreamy-creamy color…  (below).

After my first big greenhouse planting project last winter, and the way so many of my starts did not take off, or for various reasons never bore fruit in my own garden, I am ready this spring to try just a few things, a few seeds…. a more minimalist garden.

What if my pumpkins had been successful, and I’d ended up with half a dozen of those gorgeous French cucurbits such as I roasted yesterday? They would have been too heavy for me to lug around the neighborhood as gifts.

I picked a bagful of meaty, rainwashed collard leaves from Bella’s plot, and the sweetest parsley ever from the free-for-all borders. The calendulas I gave my friend last spring are still blooming there under the collard canopy, and looking wintery — the sun may be bright on days like today, but its rays are sharply slanted, and every image is darkened by shadows.

Another plot owner was there with his teenage daughter, whose name I didn’t learn, but I will call her Maria. They gave me cilantro from their bed, a generous bunch of it, which I’m sure was the most fragrant I’ve ever got a whiff of, just picked after being hydrated for weeks. Maria came to talk to me while I was bent over the parsley, and we chatted about cooking. She filled me in on the hearty ham-and-eggs meal she had helped to make for breakfast this Saturday morning, and agreed that cooking for only oneself the way I do would be difficult.

Her father José talked about how his children don’t like to come to the garden with him. Maria explained, “We never want to bother getting out of bed and going outside unless something is happening that day, if we are going somewhere or people are coming over….” She smiled when I said, “Oh, but things are happening here: the plants are busy growing!”

Today, of course, was unlike any other, and I felt the restfulness of January, and cautioned how it would not even be a good idea to pull weeds when the soil was so wet. Maria and her father seemed quite contented. She may have had the same unconscious rejuvenating response in her body and psyche that Bella and I were having, being in the open air surrounded by trees and grass, fava bean plants and every kind of brassica exhaling oxygen. And Maria did get to be with people.

After our new friends left, Bella and I wandered up and down the rows, admiring every leftover bit of life, such as two tiny bright red peppers clinging to dead stick stems. We examined a banana tree that appeared to have been stricken by frost, but we hoped not killed. And we sat at a picnic table listening to the tinkle of the wind chimes, as hummingbirds swooped back and forth over our heads. It was a simple gift of a day.

Days and bags full of children.

Last week I laid out these sleeping bags in my new guest room, for the use of my grandchildren whom I was expecting along with their parents, flying in from Colorado.

Night after night I’ve started a little blog report on the fun we’ve been having, but night after night I’ve had to crash before I could complete a paragraph. This afternoon has been a little pause, wherein I drank tea and will try again.

One of the first tasks I set the children to was shelling my Painted Lady beans. They were fascinated with how the giant speckled beans fell out of their crisp pods with the slightest squeeze and crunch from their small hands. After we had disposed of the pods, and the remaining several pounds of beans were sitting in a stainless steel bowl on the table, with children and adults frequently stopping by to run our fingers through the sea of them, each of the kids asked if they might have a bean to keep, and I completely understand why. They are so smooth and large, it’s nice to have one in a pocket as a friendly pet.

The weather has been br-r-r-r-cold, and a week of rain is in the forecast, but has twice been pushed into the future. One non-rainy morning we took advantage of that delay and drove out to the coast, while my town lay under a disheartening blanket of fog. By the time we reached the beach, the sun was shining and it was a very pleasant day for a picnic and even playing games in the surf.

I pulled my Seanna doll out of my backpack to show Clara, three years old. This is the doll that I’d found washed up on the beach last winter.

Several gifts of the to-be-opened-early sort have arrived from Aunt Kate, such as a reindeer ring toss game, and a fir scented candle. We dutifully and gleefully opened them!

It has been much easier to make progress on decorating, now that my elf helpers have arrived. I’ve begun to realize that in this era, Christmas decorations have to go up gradually. When there were seven of us in the old days, we’d do the tree and everything in one day and evening, and take it down similarly. But now, with just me to care and to do it, that style and method does not fit. I bought several strings of led lights this year and I plan to keep them up at least until February.

There are dozens and dozens of dolls and stuffies in my house, and Clara is making sure that they are all taken into her care and concern. She lets me know every time one or a group of them is going upstairs to bed, and when they wake up again; also, whatever names she might have given them. I guess it’s always nice to know one more woman who likes to talk about babies! A large teddy bear has been bedded down near the woodstove for a couple of days, and when I walk past and see him out of the corner of my eye, I repeatedly think he is a sleeping toddler.

The children spent hours doing cut and paste one afternoon, and Brodie made this starry paper box. The family brought several of their own essential toys and books, of course, such as the best Tin Tin books for Dad to read to the boys. I’ve been reading the same Letters from Father Christmas to them that I read last year to Pippin’s children.

Soldier and Joy and all will be with me through Christmas Day, which means more good times, and scenes to illustrate my happy days. Most or all of the children take a stuffie into their sleeping bags with them each night; Clara may have several bears, rabbits and sheep at the bottom of hers by now.

I made a big pot of chili using a cup of the Painted Ladies we’d shelled, plus all of the jarful I brought home from shelling  with Cathy a year ago, and lots of vegetables. It was fantastic; the fat beans came out creamy yummy.

And I asked the children to pose with their personal beans as a remembrance.

Shucking beans with women friends.

I have been so busy with many things inward and outward, and I’ve wanted to write about all of it! Experiences of hiking or reading, or discovering connections between the people I meet on the street and those in my books; learning how the wrong ideas of a thousand years ago have brought us to the society we have today, and about how the small and strong actions of good people likewise have a long trajectory…. When I can’t gather my thoughts about even one part of it, and put them into a tidy or untidy blog post, I remain unsettled and confused at some level. The experience lacks a certain completeness.

Lots of bloggers I know seem to be writing fewer posts lately; I wonder if they feel the way I do. I think that after a period of upheaval or change or busyness, after reading and participating in family or church feast days, or traveling — one needs a time of quiet and retreat when not much is going on, in order to process what happened. But during most of this year, there are new loose ends — discoveries or disasters or directives — every day or even more often. When I start to organize a few thoughts, suddenly another one pops up and throws my mind into disorder again.

But today — maybe I could write about today, its beautiful and specific concrete things especially, with my apologies for those two whole paragraphs above which I devoted to vague intangibles. I shucked beans this afternoon, at the invitation of Cathy, who wanted some company to shell the harvest of what she and her husband had raised this year. He is Mr. Greenjeans whom I’ve mentioned several times, but I don’t think Mrs. Greenjeans is the right name for her.

Anyway, this is exactly the kind of activity, or one of the kinds, that I have been wanting to do more of. It was the perfect opportunity to get some work done and chat at the same time. In order to get us away from the category of current events that cause our heart rates to rise, I told her about two of the books that I have been enjoying lately that are in a category together. Here I want to mention only one of them, Greek to Me, by Mary Norris.

Mary Norris

The first coincidence having to do with that book was this morning when I returned from errands and saw a strange couple walking their dog on the sidewalk opposite my driveway. We got to talking and introduced ourselves from that distance, and they told me the dog’s name was Athena. The man noted that often they remember dog names better than human names, and I said that I would probably remember “Athena,” having just been listening to stories about Greek gods two minutes before.

Aphrodite

Mary Norris’s book is not only about Greek gods. It’s about her love affair with everything Greek, and her study of modern and ancient Greek language. She narrates her own book on Audible, and I do love her voice, both her writer’s voice and her physical voice. I first encountered it listening to her first book, Between You and Me, which she also narrated. She tells very personal and often amusing stories all through, about her Catholic childhood and emancipation and her various adventures in language learning over the decades.

Psychotherapy helped her to deal with childhood trauma, but so did immersing herself in stories of Mount Olympus. One of several pilgrimages culminated in her skinny dipping on Cyprus, off Aphrodite’s Beach, as she believed it to be, in hopes that seemed not entirely self-mocking, that she might become more beautiful in those mythical waters.

As Cathy and I shelled black, cranberry, tan and white beans into bowls, I played a little bit of Mary for her from my phone. Cathy told me fascinating stories of her own months-long stay in Greece way back when, about the time that I also was a wandering baby boomer. But my travels were not so deep or wide. And not in Greece.

Cathy tried to describe the sunlight in that land, in words very similar to those Mary Norris had used in trying to express its unique softness. Mary wrote that she wasn’t sure that she herself was changed by Aphrodite’s waters, but she saw everything from then on as though more clear and sparkling. Both of those women renewed my own desire to travel in Greece; some of you might remember that my late husband and I had booked travel to Crete when he became ill, and we weren’t able to go.

I might not be any more likely to get to Tennessee, but if I do, I want to visit the replica of the Parthenon that is there, which Mary Norris tells about in her book. The story of its statue of Athena, the long process of collecting funds for it, then figuring out what it should look like, details about the sculptor and model and why certain design decisions were made — all of that was fascinating to me. I didn’t know this replica existed, and I haven’t researched anything about it since this morning when it came up near the end of the book. Have any of you seen it? Please tell me what you thought.

There. I’ve managed to tell you about one book, one part of a day, and one fun activity I engaged in, with a few women companions. Yes, there was at least one more at that table with Cathy, Mary and me. She’s part of the story I hope to tell another day.

A bean. A life.

It’s been a long time since my first posting of the poem below. I thought of it this morning when I was sorting my Painted Lady beans. October is the month to clean up all the leftovers of summer plants and visitors. It probably won’t surprise you to know that little boys left dishes in the playhouse sink!

Last week four helpers came for a long session of work, and the youngest of them washed up those dishes; now I can put them where the winter wind won’t drop leaves and dust and rain on them, when it blows through the paneless windows.

They also finished up tasks relating to those runner beans, removing the last of the vines from the trellis, and shelling the beans into a big bowl.

Then it was my turn, to take out the biggest pieces of stem and pod so that the beans could simply be washed when I’m ready to cook them. But no sifter or screen that I could find had the right size holes.

When I was dusting this morning I hit upon the idea of using a microfiber cloth to spread the beans on, thinking it might reach out and grab all of that litter. It worked beautifully. I spread a layer of dirty beans on the cloth, and then moved the beans off, leaving all the detritus behind. The shriveled or undeveloped beans were left with the inedibles.

 

A WOMAN CLEANING LENTILS

A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black. A stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a stone, a lentil, a lentil, a word.
Suddenly a word. A lentil.
A lentil, a word, a word next to another word. A sentence.
A word, a word, a word, a nonsense speech.
Then an old song.
Then an old dream.
A life, another life, a hard life. A lentil. A life.
An easy life. A hard life, Why easy? Why hard?
Lives next to each other. A life. A word. A lentil.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black one, pain.
A green song, a green lentil, a black one, a stone.
A lentil, a stone, a stone, a lentil.

— Zahrad

There is a book we’ve had for years in our parish bookstore, Our Thoughts Determine Our Lives. I might even have it in my house by now, but I haven’t read much of it. One might think its message is similar to “The Power of Positive Thinking,” but it’s not. It’s more like what the Apostle Paul said:

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

That book is a collection of teachings from Elder Thaddeus of Vitovnica, such as:

“Our life depends on the kind of thoughts we nurture. If our thoughts are peaceful, calm, meek, and kind, then that is what our life is like. If our attention is turned to the circumstances in which we live, we are drawn into a whirlpool of thoughts and can have neither peace nor tranquility.”

“We need repentance. You see, repentance is not only going to a priest and confessing. We must free ourselves from the obsession of thoughts.”

“Freedom belongs to God. When a person is free from the tyranny of thoughts, that is freedom. When he lives in peace, that is freedom. He is always in prayer, he is always expecting help from the Lord—he listens to his conscience and does his best. We must pray with our whole being, work with our whole being, do everything with our whole being. We must also not be at war with anyone and never take any offense to heart.”

Quietly thinking, letting words come to one’s mind, sorting them out — it sounds like a wholesome and meditative activity. But how many pieces worthy only of the garbage might we find in the bowl of a lifetime — or merely a certain calendar year — stones and shriveled things, and who knows what words and whole tirades and laments that might pop into one’s mind?

When they do, it’s better to grab them, to be like a microfiber cloth. Keep only the beautiful, smooth and thankful legumes on which your soul can feast and grow strong. Every lentil can be like a knot on a prayer rope, bringing the sorter closer to her Lord, Who is her Life.