Too many things

Last week I finished a masters degree that I’ve been doing on and off now for four years. It’s a degree that I’ve enjoyed immensely at times, and loathed at others, but that, overall, I’m so glad to have done.

I wasn’t sure what to expect of myself when I finished. I guess I expected some relief, and maybe some sadness. But actually what I’ve ended up with is a kind of confusion about what to do now, and about a million suggestions from within my own mind about how to manage that confusion. Since Thursday (the day of my last class), I’ve had this odd excitable (bordering on manic, actually) energy.

“Energy”, when your day job is teaching people yoga, is a troublesome word to use. When I say it, people sometimes look at me strangely, thinking, I suppose, that I might start talking to them about hippy-dippy energy healing or something. I do know (and respect) people who work in that kind of therapeutic field, but when I use that word, I’m aware of those links, but that’s not really what I mean. I’m just talking about the feeling that tells you whether you’re tired or sluggish, or likely to burn through a long To Do list in five minutes flat. And for the last few days, my energy has been the latter. Well, it would be if I could only pin it down long enough to focus on something.

Yesterday morning I half-made myself three separate breakfasts because I couldn’t focus long enough to decide what I wanted. I made plans for some exciting stuff happening later in the hear, I did some reading for some writing work I’m about to start, and i planted some new green-leafy stuff in my garden. Today I made pies for some friends for afternoon-tea-lunch, but I also made a loaf of bread and a bunch of other small things. And walked around in circles in the kitchen because I kept forgetting what I was doing. Tonight I’ve started no less than four writing projects, some small, others not so. I’ve started reading about three different books since Thursday.

As I wonder which of these various projects I’ve started will actually get off the ground, I’m reminded of this talk on the paradox of choice. Because right now I feel a little like that’s what finishing uni has left me with—too much choice (yes, I know: first world problem).

I worry too that at some point I’ll crash, because that’s usually what happens for me. In fact, I’m a little surprised it hasn’t already. What I would love to learn is how to sit still with this energy and just watch it, but I so often feel like I need to use it while it’s there. I wonder how much that feeling is dependent on the pattern of energy-burn-crash-energy-burn-crash, and if I could learn to even it out a little.

This is why I do yoga. Focus. Learning to sit still. Learning to do nothing. (Which, incidentally, is what my essay in this lovely book is about.) Or, at the very least, to be aware of what’s going on and try to work with that. I wonder if it’s something I’ll ever be good at.

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Settling in

Last week was an odd one. A few weeks ago, I drafted a post about how I’d realised that rhythm was really important to me—my work hours are different every day with teaching, and often from week to week with writing, so it’s almost impossible to find something as structured as a routine. The word rhythm seems far more appropriate.

Moving house, of course, changes that rhythm in small ways and in larger ways. The route I take to get to all my classes is completely different, and often means I need to leave the house at a different time. The places I often found myself writing—whether at home or out and about—are now much further away. It’s both an exciting and disconcerting experience to have to find a new rhythm to settle into.

I realised a couple of days ago that one of the ways I settle into new places these days is to cook. For me, the kitchen is such an important part of how a house functions. Getting to know a new kitchen by cooking in it is a wonderfully settling activity for me.

I spent last week cooking familiar things in the so far unfamiliar kitchen, and it really helped me settle into the idea that this place is home. On Saturday morning my new housemate and I went to the Eveleigh Farmers’ Market and bought some produce to add to the box of home-grown stuff her parents (who stayed with us a few nights last week) brought us from their property, and in the afternoon I attempted to cook a few new things. Somehow, cooking something new in a new place fits with the idea of a new rhythm. There’s something in the potential for this particular new dish to become an old faithful, like the new routes to work will eventually become so familiar.

The weekend’s new dish was baked beans in the slow cooker my Mum gave me. For me (and, incidentally, for my new housemate), baked beans are one of those comfort foods—along with things like porridge, they’re the food I’ll eat when I can’t be bothered cooking, and I need something familiar, tasty and warm. So the combination of familiarity with the new experience of making them from scratch (rather than opening a can) seems an appropriate meeting of experiences.

They turned out pretty well, for a first try. We had them with toast and an egg for dinner last night. Exactly the kind of comfort we both needed after what proved a very busy week.

(Unfortunately, in my haste to eat the beans, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product. Next time.)

Recipe
(The original recipe I found here, and added a few things — next time I plan to also add some kind of herb, possibly rosemary, right before serving.)

200g cannellini beans (dry weight)
1 large tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp dark muscovado sugar
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp mustard powder
1/2 tsp marmite/promite/vegemite
1 good slug of Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chilli powder or flakes
salt and pepper

Method
Soak the beans overnight.
Boil them for 10 minutes before using.
Add all the ingredients to the slow-cooker. Stir and mix through thoroughly.
Set the slow-cooker to low.
Cook for at least 6 hours (I put too much water in, so I ended up having to cook mine for about 12 hours).
Serves 2 as supper.
Serves 4 as part of a cooked breakfast.

Adventure

Looking back over the last few posts here, I’ve realised that I seem to spend an awful lot of time writing here about not doing things. Or at least about needing to do nothing because I manage to keep myself busy and occasionally need a rest. But I rarely write about the things that I actually am doing.

So I thought today I would write about something that I’ve actually done. Today I went adventuring with a friend — a kind of research project for both of us. We caught the bus from Newtown to Coogee with no real plans, except to look around and maybe find somewhere we could eat pancakes. We wandered along the beach, in the rain, and took pictures of sand, boats, trees. We found a cafe in which to eat pancakes (yum!), and we wandered around a local green grocer without shopping baskets, trying to resist the temptation to buy any food. We walked up hills into the residential streets, gazing at all the interesting houses and interesting gardens.

We talked a lot, and I got damp toes. And we took pictures. Here are some of mine.

Your Words Can Change the World

As part of my research into urban agriculture, I’ve just stumbled across The Lexicon of Sustainability. Lots of fascinating people doing a huge variety of different and interesting things to find and produce food.

This is their ‘About’ video. And the last sentence really struck me: “Your words can change the world.”

Introducing … The Lexicon of Sustainability from the lexicon of sustainability on Vimeo.

The idea is to try and explain some of the terms we see bandied around — ‘sustainbility’, ‘organic’, ‘locavore’ — in a way that’s accessible, and lovely to look at. I have to say that I’ve often found that this kind of information is not presented in a way that makes you want to keep looking at it. Which I’ve always thought is counter-productive. The Lexicon, however, manage to be informative and beautiful at the same time.

Take a better look here.

I have a feeling I might end up playing around here for hours…

~

PS. I found this through Milkwood‘s blog. They’re a small organic farm just near Mudgee, who also run a permaculture education, design and consultancy firm. I’d love to visit them sometime soon.

Busy

Lately I’ve been busy. It’s easy to forget that I’m busy sometimes, when I’ve got whole days at home, spent in my house clothes, drinking multiple cups of tea. I forget that I’m working on those days too — planning and writing.

Other days I leave and re-enter the house three, four, sometimes five times a day. I spend lots of time outdoors, and my shoes are well-worn.

I have a whole list of things that have fallen by the wayside, waiting (sometimes not so) patiently for a quiet week.

I’m tired. I don’t sleep well because I dream all night about the things I have to do in the coming days: banking, catching buses, doing laundry. Process dreams, I call them. My hips, my knees and my shoulders buzz, reminding me to stop every now and then. I find myself sighing when my work day is over.

But I like being busy. Especially because I’m doing things I love. My days are filled with yoga and reading and writing. I just need to remember that it’s okay for me to sleep in occasionally.

Gardening

I never thought I’d be a gardener.

The house I grew up in had an enormous front and back yard, and my brothers and I spent many hours playing in the garden, making cubby-houses out of bushes and soup out of mud and berries. A trip to the local nursery on a weekend with Mum and Dad was a fairly regular occurrence. But I never really understood the appeal of being on hands and knees, with dirty hands, at risk of attack from any number of nasty creepy crawlies.

And yet, as an adult, most weekends I find myself looking forward to spending some time in the garden. I get distracted by nurseries. I notice when my neighbours have planted something new, or pulled something out. These days, gardening for me is very much like yoga: it requires a regular commitment, is full of frustration and disappointment, but made entirely worth the effort by the joy that comes with any achievement, no matter how small. Gardening, like yoga, gives me a chance to really appreciate small things.

The switch from non-gardener to gardener has been a gradual one, and I can’t say exactly where it started. My Mum, a certain former housemate and a few other people have helped me along the way. Hey, maybe I was never really a non-gardener in the first place.

My love of gardening can be directly attributed to my love of food — most of my garden is edible. (Except the jonquils. They’re just purdy.)

In some of my research for a writing project on food and culture, I came across this article on The Conversation (an independent source of information, analysis and commentary from the Australian university and research sector, launched earlier this year):

“Food. It is the great unifier of place and race, the common ground sustaining our very existence. Why then, does food production feature so minimally in public space and urban design?

Under the weight of looming threats to energy, population and economy, the time is ripe to rethink our design focus.

Traditionally, urban design has been dominated by the use of ornamental exotic and indigenous plants while edible species have been minimally utilised.

Now, as we move towards a potential crisis in food production it is more important than ever to rethink our design practices.”

(Read the rest over at The Conversation.)

I firmly support the idea of bringing some food production into cities. It’s unlikely that cities will ever support themselves entirely, but I don’t think that’s the point. My garden does not produce enough to be my sole source of food, but it does contribute to what ends up on my plate. Perhaps more importantly, it gives me a much better idea of where the food I do buy has come from, and the kind of work that’s gone into producing it. That increased awareness, I think, can only lead to good things.

So much of any yoga practice is about noticing what’s there — often below the surface. Food gardening, for me, is another way of practicing yoga without a mat.

~

This is cross-posted over at my yoga blog, om gam yoga.