Today I am just happy.
When I look back at this week, it has been so full. Weekdays can barely be distinguished from weekends but somehow there is a balance amidst all the activity. Meetings beyond count. 20 hours and 800 lines of event budgeting. Driving lessons. Dinner out with friends. Time spent working with the construction team on the new kitchen; time spent constructing the plan for Karmapa’s visit with the kitchen team. The community mini-retreat that is our monthly morning of group practice. A talk with my sister; e-mails with my parents. The first of a series of community discussions about our Future, capital F and what we’d like to share about it with Karmapa when he comes.
No moment has lacked richness. I did so incredibly many productive things and somehow still had time to make this cake and have a cup of tea with friends this afternoon. I know my two a.m. budget finish line from last night will make me tired tomorrow, but mostly I’m stunned that I’m not already flat on my ass.
This same amount of busy-ness and activity in the past would have knocked me over. I’d have been sick and tired and grumpy as hell. I think partly I have learned how to do more, but also I have learned how to fret less. When I see a whole crap ton of things to do coming, I’m not immediately petrified that it is totally impossible for me to do them and thus not immediately incapacitated and totaly stressed throughout it all. From all of the doing that I’ve been doing at Dhagpo these last two years, I’ve developed some confidence that…I can accomplish things.
And that if I can’t, I can say so and find a way to work with that.
There’s also another aspect. Which is this place and its people. There’s something in the water, or the trees, or the history, or maybe something much less abstract than that. I think it’s what we call blessing. That often sounds so mystical, but Jigme Rinpoche is quick to remind us that blessing is anything but mystical. It’s practical.
As I grasp it, blessing works like this: understanding leads to change, and both understanding and change develop exponentially more with a group, and multi-exponentially more with a qualified guide who can point you in the right direction to help you refine your understanding.
At Dhagpo, we have all the pieces. We are blessed. Hard work becomes less hard because it is meaningful and shared, and what we normally think of as not-directly productive (ahem, lieeesure) becomes productive because it supports the bonds that help us work well together. Even cake is a practice when it is an offering.
And so, I’m both grateful to be able to and quite happy to offer you this springtime version of French spice cake. Like typical French pain d’épices, this cake is honey-rich and has a good dose of ginger. But unlike typical French pain d’épices this cake does not have the I-suppose-nostalgic-but-always-disappointing texture of cardboard. And it does have a touch of allspice for additional depth and a generous spread of sour cherry jam for that springtime boost. Moist, surprisingly light, and delightfully simple to make (No creaming butter! Yay for French baking techniques!), it’s perfect for a Sunday afternoon on the deck, or however you like.
All of a sudden, I’m in charge of things. Though the official decree hasn’t come down the official chain of communication, in real world terms, I am now co-responsible for the workings of the Lama House kitchen. And since my other half is in Germany for nigh on three weeks, and three master teachers are cruising into town with their entourages next weekend, that makes now, officially, the time to put on my big-girl pants. I may or may not be currently wearing pastel-colored leggings with pictures of pine trees and the Northern Lights on them. Grown-up is a state of mind, right?
I can make an Excel spreadsheet just as well while wearing tree pictures as any fool in a two-piece suit. This is what I tell myself and this is my goal. I am writing menus, planning purchasing, connecting with my team, staying in contact with the event organizers, and devising ingenious plans for how to cook food for ten people in a kitchen that sometimes struggles to feed two. When you have an oven the size of a postage stamp that only heats on one level, things cooked in pots are your friend.
In between sending out Google drive links and peeling a crap ton of shallots, I am still making time to attend rituals, practice keeping up with prayers in Tibetan, and, ya know, make pie. We’ve had a real string of ceremonies lately, which makes for a lot of blessed snack food hanging around the center.
While the chocolate, cookies, cheese, and crackers go pretty quickly, I guess people aren’t that hot on raisin medley or melba toast. However, these same items become magical when combined appropriately with a good dose of strawberry jam and some puff pastry. There may be a small quantity of butter and sugar involved as well. And even if your ingredients aren’t blessed, I’d wager you’ll feel a good deal of benediction when you bite into this. It’s a winner.