from BARDO

The stars are in our belly; the Milky Way our umbilicus.

Is it a consolation that the stuff of which we’re made

is star-stuff too?

– That wherever you go you can never fully disappear –

dispersal only: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen.

Tree, rain, coal, glow-worm, horse, gnat, rock.

Roselle Angwin

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

notes from the valley, the Bodhisattva Vow & a biscuit recipe

My headache has resolved into flu, so I am busy cancelling stuff and also learning about this nap business. So far, I like it a lot! My heart seems to appreciate it, too – a quality of spaciousness. At the end of a month there's always a lot of work on with course assignments to respond to, and in this case also schools workshops at all the nether ends of Devon; I still have a backlog of work from before my mum's death, but in those 45 minutes or so I draw on meditation practice and allow my over-busy mind to meander to the flames flickering in the woodburner (still in the house with my laptop rather than in my garden lair).

In the valley the pair of egret seems to be a fixture, often comically mirroring each other in a pose on the bare oak tree. Daily, duos or trios of geese fly over, and a heron will lift off from the little pool as I pass. The last few mornings and evenings the air has a scent of spring, and freshness, about it, and the first dog violets are out here.

Yesterday I was distressed to see an hour-old lamb being rejected by one after another of the ewes in its cold and wet field. It's undoubtedly my concern about the wellbeing of everything that puts a strain on my heart, physically and emotionally; old habits die hard, and for various family reasons I learned how to be an over-responsible eldest sister very young.

Also there's the Bodhisattva vow, to do with caring for all sentient beings/saving all sentient beings from harm or suffering. I do take this seriously and with great commitment; but how much is enough, or even too much? And there is also the Buddhist view on non-attachment to everything, including outcomes, so somewhere there's a balance here: to do what one can (ah yes, but where are the reasonable limits??), and then let go. 

There's a lesson in all this for me. I find it very hard to know the range, extent and commitment that's appropriate in each situation, and how to separate that from a pathological fear-driven need to fix stuff, and a sense of indispensability. It's about trust, really, in the end; but it's also about going the extra mile. Because my health has suffered badly as a result of the stress of the last few years I now have to challenge this pattern, and work out what's healthy connected concern and what is a step too far. Was it John of the Cross who said, reputedly, 'Hooray! Another obstacle!'? I smile in recognition at that. Anyway, I rang the farmer, who said he'd come up.

Last week there was a small dunnock – hedge sparrow – hopping around alone, mostly in hiding, clearly not well. I came back from somewhere one day and the whole sturdy upright birdtable had been slammed into, hard, to the extent that the house-structure on top had been demolished. Where pole and ex-house lay in the broad bean bed was a burst of little brown and grey breast feathers. I can only imagine that the local sparrowhawk visited, and maybe took that dunnock – but the impact of that smash! They travel at such speed (a peregrine can top 100mph) – I wrote here last year about a sparrowhawk cutting the air from the ridge of the roof above me, where I sat invisible to it below, at such speed it sounded like a sheet tearing an inch from my ear, or a fast motorbike on the track. My sister says that there are a huge number of hawk (or do I mean falcon, counter-intuitively?) fatalities from impacts of various kinds.

On an altogether lighter note, the wild garlic here is now through. Jubilation! I used some, with a little wild sorrel (I love foraging), in buckwheat pancakes using my daughter's ex-batt hens' eggs, stuffed with our leeks, home grown garlic bulb and mushrooms in a creamy (vegan) sauce. Delicious! And here's another recipe for you: take a can of, or some cooked, kidney beans and mix with equal quantities of nuts (any of hazel, cashew, brazil). Add lemon juice, soy sauce, tomato puree or sundried tomato paste, pepper and a handful of wild garlic if available (or regular garlic, spring onions/chives). Blend. Makes a great paté/dip for carrots, celery etc.

And while I'm at it: nothing like deciding to lose some weight to prompt my Inner (and usually very well hidden) Biscuit Maker. The rationale, of course, was to send some to work with TM. But although I'm an inventive savoury cook, I'm a bit rubbish at sweet things – mostly because I hate following recipes, and I think you need to for cakes and biscuits (that's my excuse for the rock-hard biscuits and floppy cakes...), and because we don't each much sweet stuff. But you know how you come across those biscuits from time to time that are soft and chewy, but with a little crunch, too? Ha! Smugness here. I made this one up:
  • Pre-heat oven to 160 degrees (can't find the symbol); just under for a fan oven
  • Melt together 100gms of either unrefined dark brown sugar or honey with 150gms of butter/or margarine/or sunflower oil
  • Stir in a heaped teaspoon of powered ginger (or chunked crystallised ginger, buit maybe reduce sugar content above) and the grated peel of a lemon (I'd use organic, to avoid wax/pesticides). You could instead add chunks of chocolate, berries, or orange and cardamom, or lavender flowers, or...???
  • Add 250gms total (or more if mix is too 'loose') of polenta grain, coconut, oats and flour (I used spelt) in roughly equal proportions. Stir well and throw in
  • a small handful of chopped nuts. Make sure it more or less holds together.
  • Plop spoonsful on greased baking tray, mould gently with fingers and flatten.
  • Bake until just going golden and still soft!
Light the sofa and find the fire. No I mean light the fire and find the sofa. Oh no – that's me. For you, I mean enjoy the biscuits.

For me, back to the assignments (by the fire, on the sofa...). Have eaten all the biscuits – with a little help from TM.


  1. - and now you have made me want those biscuits! But I have some kind of fluey thing too and can't rise up to make them for myself.

    I would have had the same reaction to the rejected lamb.

  2. Andie, dear friend, sorry to hear you too have flu. I'm coming out of it, hooray - tho very burnt out. But not so burnt out that I wouldn't make you some biscuits and bring them round - if you didn't live - what? 250 miles away? Hope you pick up soon. And btw for non-vegans I think white chocolate (with raspberries?) in those biscuits would be divine... :-) x


Blog Archive