Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hawthorn, Hope and Pentecost

Several years ago my friend who is studying to be an herbal practitioner told me that Hawthorn is an ancient healing tree: the berries, leaves and flowers can be brewed as tea and used as a tonic for heart problems. I have begun drinking a tea of Hawthorn berries and olive leaves and it is quite good. A few weeks ago I decided to search for the meaning of Hawthorn in the language of flowers and was rewarded in my search for it symbolizes hope.

It is so fitting to me that this tree would have this meaning for outside my house in the front patio is a fifty plus year old Hawthorn tree. Shortly after we moved into the house Papa cut the tree back to its stump, because he did not want a tree, which he was sure would become quite large, growing so close to the house. He did not, however, grind out the stump. Next spring a flurry of little saplings sprung up from the mother stump, like baby birds in a nest. He thought the tree would not survive that way, or at the very least, the saplings would not become very tall. Over the years the little forest of treelets has become quite tall and shades the corner of the house in much the same way that the mother tree would have done. It also shades my neighbor's yard, and that is why, I think, her dog likes that spot so well. (The dog "announcement barks" all the guests who come into my patio as well as those who come to her door.)

The tree, cut down once, harbinger of hope has survived to grace my life. She reminds me not to give up.

Here is a picture taken outside

Here is a picture of the flowers.

Hawthorn trees abound in Ireland and bloom with red or white flowers. (The red is really dark pink.) While the pictures here show the red flowers, my tree is neatly divided, with one side blooming in each of the two colors. It has been home to many birds and fed many squirrels through its half century and will have pride of place in my yard for as long as I can remain in this house.

Today is the feast of Pentecost. One of the great feasts of the Christian calendar, Pentecost in its turn is integrally tied to the great theological virtue of hope. For after our Lord's ascension the disciples, forlorn, retired to the upper room and pondered how they were to go on. In a sense, they had lost him, this most beloved teacher, leader and friend twice. The first loss was his death on the Cross and they remembered that he said he would come again but it was not until the stone was rolled away from the empty tomb that they realized he really meant it. It was not until they recognized him on the road to Emmaus that they really knew it. Rejoicing that he had returned, they had only a short while before they would lose him again.

So they waited, forlorn, for the Comforter that Jesus promised to send them. Forlorn, but not without hope. Hope never left them and it was fulfilled on Pentecost.

An eminent British psychiatrist, Frank Lake said in his monumental book something like, Hope delayed too long becomes an illness in itself. (I don't have the exact quote.) Depression, even despair are the other side of hope. Last night as I googled for references to Pentecost and Hope, I found this excellent blog, sacradoctrina in which the author discusses the Thomistic references to hope and Pentecost.

For St. Thomas, hope is eschatological, looking to the future good of the soul's salvation and eternal life in heaven. Hope is not trivial or silly, a goofy smile in all travails, but rather hope is in it for the long haul, recognizing that the road isn't easy but we have to keep walking it. Hope will come along for the journey. The reward will be at the end.

(I think it not unfair, though to comment that along his own journey, like most of us, St. Thomas hoped there would be a good meal and a warm bed and that he was rewarded much of the time.)

Hope, according to sacradoctrina, takes action and that action is communal. I see that it was so for the disciples first in waiting and then in ministry. Perseverance kept hope alive and kept the disciples going. Hope kept the waiting possible and the ministry doable.

Sacradoctrina states it better than I, for it is a longer post. But it is good, I think, to remember this Pentecost Sunday the virtue of hope. That while we live in a depressing era because the very technology that allows us to be "always on" ever ready and to communicate so seamlessly and non-invasively with one another as I am doing right now with this blog post, at the same time we see the ills of all the world before us, not merely those that afflict our little corner.

It is tempting to give up, to shout in anger and then subside into gloom, because not only can we not turn off the oil spilling into the Gulf, but it seems those in charge, who should be able to, can't do it either. Hope requires us to do otherwise and to remember, months from now when the oil flow is turned off, that legislation may still be required to fix how such a thing is handled in the future.

Hope, because it is communal, also requires that we build community face to face as well as online. Church is particularly foundational here, I believe, for it is the community of faith from which our actions spring forth into the larger community around us. It is not enough to meet online, we must meet face to face and break bread together.

I am grateful for my Hawthorn tree, for it's perseverance, for its healing qualities and for leading me to think of hope and not to give up. Grateful too for the feast of Pentecost. even though I cannot go and join in singing, "Lauda Sion salvatorem", I know that it is being sung, and that, too, gives me reason for hope.

The blessings of Pentecost to you. I wish I could send Hawthorn flowers your way or share a cup of Hawthorn tea with you.

(Sorry about the changes that I just made for anyone who might get this twice. I had muddled sacradoctrina and my own reflection, and so want to clarify. Do read that post.)

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Murky May

Today is as cold, cloudy and murky as a day in March, even though it is nearly the end of May. Today would also be my parents wedding anniversary, if they were still alive. I remember them with love.

Today I was treated to a delicious lunch by a young friend who is now half way through college at UC Berkeley. She has matured into a young woman and looks so professional. She also sounds so professional. It was a joy to share time with her.

I realized that I haven't blogged recently even though I have taken pictures and planned posts. A combination of excessive arthritis pain and reading too much is part of my excuse.

Reading posts on Facebook is a time-consumer. Still, I learn quite a bit from what my friends post and then go dive into Internet research to learn more. Maybe some of those planned posts will materialize here, after all.

Reading novels is also time-consuming. I have just finished the best-selling tome, Roses. Not sure I can honestly say that I liked it, but I was certainly drawn into it and heartened to see that the author is seventy-one and that it is pretty much her first novel. This gives me hope that I might finish something yet.

Lately, with the monthly gift of a bag full of library books arriving like clockwork, I have been finding myself asking writer's questions about the the books I read. Does a series grow from one book or is it planned to begin with? Maybe it will work out better as a series if it is planned that way from the beginning and I have one manuscript that, with a great deal of revision, might become the first book in a series.

Readers seem to like multi-generational sagas. I am one of them. I have a multi-generational saga to finish. Reading Leila Meacham's story of how she started Roses only to put it away and pull it out again then repeat that cycle until she sat down to finish it, I am heartened. Maybe today will be the beginning of the end of writer's block for me and the start of starting over.

Certainly today is a good one to plan for a nice cup of hot chocolate later to take the chill off of me. It will feel good all the way from the tip of my nose to the tip of my oh so cold toes to warm up.

I am grateful for the day and for the roses blooming outside my office window.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Mountain Rose Herbs Recipe Contest

Mountain Rose Herbs is one of my favorite sources for spices, herbs and oils for my own personal consumption and herbs and essential oils for my business as well. They are having a recipe contest, which requires the contestant to post the recipe entry on the web. (Blogs count.) The recipe will then be linked to their Facebook contest page. Here is mine. It is intended as an entry in the Culinary Recipe Category.

Several months ago I discovered Mountain Rose Herb's Pumpkin Seed Oil. A rich, thick, dark oil it stands up well to the addition of strong spices and garlic. It has ant-inflammatory properties, which was what drew me to it.

For some time I have been cooking with a spice mixture of turmeric, ginger, chipotle powder and celery seed powder. All of these also have anti-inflammatory properties, as does cinnamon, which I have recently included in the mix. Here are the ingredients (not including the cinnamon, but I also have that from Mountain Rose Herbs.)

The recipe for the spice powder mix is equal amounts of the five spices. I could call this Peggy's Five Spice Powder. For a single serving of salad dressing use about 1/8 teaspoon each of the spices or 1/2 teaspoon of the combined spices. (Measure about a tablespoon of each into a small jar that will give you enough room to stir and shake the mixture to combine them well. Then you won't have to open and shut all the bags so frequently, which will save time and help to keep the spices fresh longer.)

For the dressing, measure out the spice mixture as described above, 1 tablespoon pumpkin seed oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese and one or two cloves garlic, slivered or minced as you prefer. The ingredients, in their little prep bowls, are shown below. For the purpose of illustration, I set the ingredients out separately, but it is quicker and more efficient for clean-up to use just one small bowl.

Combine the ingredients in a small bowl, set aside. Assemble your salad using layers of greens, vegetables and fruits of your choice. Arrange the protein for the salad such as tuna, chicken, hard cooked eggs or sliced or shredded cheese on top of the greens and other ingredients. Sprinkle croutons, nuts or pumpkin seeds on top of the protein, if you wish. Drizzle the dressing over the plated salad.

I have used poached eggs for the protein on a chilly day and the warm eggs and rich yolks add to the salad and combine nicely with the dressing.

This dressing is also delicious drizzled over a plate of pasta with protein and veggies mixed in. Yummy.

Anti-inflammatory foods are of particular interest to me since I have post-polio syndrome and arthritis. A salad, as either my lunch or dinner, is a very healthy, low-cal meal. The pasta is an occasional treat because of its higher carbohydrate content.

Simple, nutritious meals that can be prepared easily and are attractive as well as delicious are also of interest, since I navigate my kitchen in a wheel chair. On the days when I do prepare pasta, I forego the large pot of boiling water, for a smaller quantity in a smaller pan. With a bit of stirring as it cooks, the pasta will not stick together. This makes it safe for me to handle by myself and also conserves water.

I am grateful for these lovely ingredients that make cooking for one person less of a chore. My affiliate link to Mountain Rose Herbs is to the right in my links section. Please do explore it for wonderful ingredients for your own healthy cooking.

My contest link to Mountain Rose Herbs Facebook contest page is

Thursday, May 6, 2010

So My Garden Grows

Amaryllis, left out this year instead of being brought in to be forced in the winter, are blooming now.

The last of the Iris, a beautiful white was blooming against the fence, here

The white iris always makes me think of Victorian ladies at Garden parties trailing their frills and twirling their parasols. Last evening as I went looking for yet more information on the language of flowers, I discovered that the Iris is one of Mary's flowers and it is also the fleur-de-lis, symbol of France. The blue iris in particular symbolize Mary's fidelity.

I have also recently discovered that Hawthorne, a healing herb that is beneficial in its leaves, flowers and berries and is actually a tree, symbolizes hope in the language of flowers. I hope to use some of the dried leaves and flowers from my own Hawthorne tree along with myrtle leaves and berries from bushes that I grew from seed over twenty years ago in wedding potpourri. Probably I will use them in peace potpourri as well.

Years ago, when my family first moved into this house, my father cut down our Hawthorne tree. He was not familiar with what it was and felt that it was planted too close to the house. It is too close to the house, but it grew back in a forest of little shoots. He did not have the heart to kill it out completely and there it stands, this curious tree that grows as though it were split in two with one side flowering pink and the other white. It was only in the last six years or so that my friend who is a master gardener and herbalist identified it for me. It provides life-giving shade in summer's heat and a tonic for me. I have come to love it so!

Finally, the shamrock continues to bloom. Never mind that many would consider them a weed, I consider them a plant promising good luck, because of their association with Ireland and St. Patrick. I always feel blessed when they are blooming.

Gratitude is with me tonight for these joys of my garden. Spring always makes me feel as though a little taste of heaven has come my way, especially when I look out my back windows and see the pink roses blooming along the fence and the poppies now making their color splashes in the planter box.

My apologies to anyone who got the pre-proofread version without the last photo and the corrections that I could not help myself from making. I am more tired tonight than I realized.