Hibiscus Coriander Spelt Bread And Foregone Days

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This morning we finished the accumulation of praises to Tara that I mentioned back in January when we began. When I wrote a friend back in February that things were busy, he joked back that it was no wonder, considering we were soliciting a meditation deity associated with activity and prompt reaction every darn morning.

Well, it’s been three months and they’ve been very active. In addition to all the studying and cleaning I’ve moaned about a bit, I also joined the web and communications team. Part of my role has been helping to start Dhagpo’s first blog, a chronicle of the events at the center related to our fortieth anniversary. And guess what, it exists in English too! Curious about what we’re up to? You can read along here. If you click on an article, you can switch the little country flag in the top right corner to read in English. We’re still working out a few kinks with the translation plug-ins, so the whole site isn’t available in English yet.

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Working on web and comm business, I’m learning a lot lately about hard work that goes unseen. Most of time when we’re on the internet, things are streamlined and reliable. Typos and broken links are considered affronts, signs of people or organizations that don’t know what they’re doing.

Having spent the last week entering the new program into Dhagpo’s website, hand copying each course title and changing the dates in the website platform software, I’m starting to see how carefully created the online world is. I’ve been writing this blog for almost three years, and I basically just picked a layout and stuck with it. I never really took the time to explore the complexity behind it.

Joining the web and communications teams at the center shows me just one minute example of the hours of meticulous effort that go into making this place run. It starts me thinking of all the long and serious labors of love that people here carry out that never get noticed or acknowledged. Sometimes in a volunteer community, there are moments when I’ve asked myself or seen other people asking why something isn’t done (why isn’t the community fridge clean; why didn’t you write back to my e-mail, etc).

With a few exceptions for legal reasons (the cook and accountant mainly) nobody’s paid and we’re here because we want to be. Sometimes when we’re working extra hard to make a certain project happen or because it’s a busy time for one department or another, we tend to wonder what the heck everybody else is doing. Just barely poking my nose into a new department, I get the feeling that if we looked into details anywhere, we’d be amazed to see all the hard work and care that go into every aspect of what happens here.

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When you care about something, there’s often a tendency to want to see it constantly improving and there can be impatience about the things that aren’t the way we want them. I see it all the time here: why is the logo a bit dated, why aren’t the electrical connections in the temple that cause occasionally blinky lights fixed yet, why isn’t there a lounge for course participants, why is the hill behind the Institute only partially landscaped? We have a tendency to think somebody must be slacking if things that seem important aren’t done. But I’m starting to think that nobody’s slacking. We’re all applying ourselves with loads of dedication and this is just what’s possible for the moment.

Sometimes, when I work hard and I just see lots more hard work ahead, the days feel foregone. It’s a long damn road. But then I remember that this is how most things get done in life. Not by magic or sudden cataclysim. By regular effort over long days or months or years. When I remind myself of that, I find there’s also something comforting in the rhythm; there’s a stability in hard work. I know that through my daily efforts I’m adding something to the world around me and developing endurance and resilience within myself. It’s a different kind of daily bread than the common sort, but just as nourishing if not more. And I’ve got actual daily bread to keep me going for the rest.

For kicks this week, I included hibiscus petals in my bread and found they add a subtle fruity kick to breakfast. I threw in some coriander for a little spice and brightness and used spelt flour because it’s gentler on the tummy. Nourishment for the long road; it’s a good thing.

A little musical nourishment, too…here’s my bread making and internet updating soundtrack for the evening. Clifton Hicks and Julie Chiles playing a cradling, twanging folk tune called Rocky Island. I’m a bluegrass nerd, if you didn’t know.

Recipe…

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Anticipation And Spring Blossom Panna Cotta

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I am sitting at my desk in the office, tapping away in the ever-too-few minutes before dinnertime. Dinnertime here is a fixed affair. If you don’t show up to the dining hall between seven-thirty and eight in the evening you’re out of luck, your soup and salad and quiche or other go to some hungry Jack on the prowl for leftovers and, what’s more, you get a light slap on the wrist for missing a meal you signed up for. Thus, this time is precious, as it is limited. Whatever activity I choose to engage in must be done in twenty-six minutes. I can stretch it to forty-six if I don’t mind dirty looks or guilt-inducing jokes from the kitchen crew for showing up at the last minute.

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Not that I mind, just that I’m conscious and try to be conscientious of the fact. Which isn’t easy on a day like today, when my brain jangles with ideas edging their way hurriedly toward the exit, but my fingers can’t type fast enough and the thoughts seem to risk disappearing out my ears or back into the vortex of dark matter that is my cerebral functioning or intangible mind or whatever you prefer according to your tradition.

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Apparently, sudden doses of concentrated sunshine makes me slightly high, if we take this rush of thoughts and words to be the effect of springtime. Could also be that I just got handed the schedule of events for this summer, and the anticipation of future activity revs my excitement-ometer far beyond its recent norm.

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Last week I wrote about sadness and hardship and an ineffable vision of pain. I also made a remark about how joy seems to be deeply entwined with future happiness. Now, I’m noticing some nuances. The levity I feel today comes both from this and from the simple fact of being occupied. My thoughts have things to do other than observe the parts of themselves that are rooted in fear and doubt, which is what they seem to do when they lack distraction. Also, my vision of the future is tied to meaningful work. Summer means lots of visiting teachers, lots of coordination and big, fancy meals and content people with sated appetites and tickled palates. Summer means using the random assortment of talents and skills I’ve got in this life for the easily-observable benefit of others. Summer means affirmation.

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It also means working like a crazy person until I fall on my face, come Semptember–in a caffeine-and-possibly-sugar-induced stupor and the waves of befuddled loss that accompany too much free time after having none at all. Interesting fact about vision, at least at the level at which I’ve got it: seeing what happens inside of me doesn’t change what happens. At least not very fast. Understanding the source of my anguish, when it arises, doesn’t make it go away. Realizing the temporal nature of my anticipation doesn’t make it any less consuming. But perhaps it does give me a bit more patience with the ups and downs and ins and outs.

And this is a worthwhile affair. Because whether I’m overwhelmed with anguish or carried away by joy, there are things to be done in this life. And it is useful to be capable of action, regardless—no, not regardless—with great regard and kindness for the storm inside.

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In the meantime, it is springtime, and impermanence is showing its finer features in a sudden flurry of fleeting floral display. Possibly too much alliteration; I apologize. In any case, as a cook, springtime means to me short windows of awesome flavor potential. Trees that have edible fruit also have edible flowers, and many that don’t have edible fruit also have edible flowers (but in this case it’s best to ask some one who’s very well informed). Springtime flowers taste at once familiar and unexpected. We’re all used to vanilla, which is, at its base, a floral flavor, and many of us have also come to know orange blossom, lavender, rose, and others that have recently become popular. So why not walk out your front door and try the neighborhood special?

My favorite way to capture a clean flavor in a dessert without it getting lost in a bunch of caramelized sugar/flour/cake madness, is in a cream. Panna cotta is the simplest, purest way I’ve found, and it’s also ridiculously easy to make. I used the flowers of an ornamental Prunus variety, a close relative of almond and apricot trees. The flavor is lightly astringent and well…flowery. Basically, find a flower that smells great and comes from a plant that produces other things you can eat. Be bold; have fun; it’s springtime.

(Four minutes to get to dinner and hopefully not too many typos!)

Recipe…

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