I’ve very strongly felt the gathering darkness this Michaelmas season. It feels like humanity’s darkest shadows are swirling in the winds of change – Fear, Greed, False Virtue, Revenge. In my heart it reminds me of the dark times that still live in the ancestral echoes in my cells – times when the ancestors were burned alive, tortured and slaughtered, their wealth plundered, in the name of ideology. Something inside me feels the beginnings of this upheaval and seems to whisper – not again.
It has still been very hot between a few breezy fronts of cool weather, and everything has been feeling oppressively rank and noxiously tropical. The peppers are fiery, the eggplants are bitter, and the mustards are spicy. The cassava towers jungly and toxic over the wild, snakey sweet potato vines.
I fight and struggle among the wild vines with scythe, shovel, loppers, and saw to clear the way for the next season. Mowing the snarly fence lines, chopping weeds way over my head, slicing through huge woody pumpkin vines. Fire ants are King here.
I never used to work so hard! I haven’t been able to put the pigs in the garden to clear and root and do all the hard work for me for two years now because of seed-saving projects. I need another garden! In fact, I am making plans for one to help with the overlap of the seasons. But for now I arm myself with steel blades and go out single-handed to fight.
It’s good, satisfying work to be clearing. You look back at the landscape that has been revealed, and feel the new breezes that can circulate, blowing away what is old and stagnant, the wild green revels of the summer. I feel that inner things become revealed to me too as I work.
I had an interesting experience recently. I was at a little gathering and saw someone who looked familiar – I assumed it was the many friends of my mother’s who know me by name, but I am always unable to recognize how. I sat and had a great conversation with this person around a table with three other women. When this person left for the evening, I said it was great to see them again as they got up. They gave me an unsure little look, and said yes as they left.
It was only on my way home I realized who this person was! She DID know my mother and Ethan and I had a conflict with her after Rose was born. An acupuncturist, my mom had arranged for her to come over for a treatment for me after I had given birth. She refused to take off her shoes – stepped all over the handmade baby quilt I had spread as a changing area on the rug (making more laundry, which, needless to say with a cloth-diapered newborn, was already a big deal), didn’t really do anything, said extremely rude things to my husband, and was really demanding about the time she showed up.
I had written her a letter to tell her how difficult it had been to accommodate her into our home right then and advising her to be more sensitive to families who have just welcomed a new baby if she did “treatments” like that often. She wrote back telling me I was just insane because of hormones and she wasn’t going to take me seriously at all (yes, that was actually what she said).
So, if I had made this association earlier, I would have felt so tense being at the same table! As it was, I felt totally calm and happy. We laughed and talked together. This, I guess, is the beautiful virtue of “forgiving and forgetting” (especially the forgetting part!). It’s amazing how YOUR reaction can completely change how your interaction will be with other people.
Fear, anger, defensiveness, and mulling over past hurts only serve to separate us. It has inspired me, in this Michaelmas season, to really clear through my own emotional tangles to reveal a true path.
Meanwhile, I have my counter-garden going with sprouts, making up for my sad failures as a gardener – I probably already mentioned several times that, heart-breakingly, all my gorgeous starts got eaten by something as soon as I planted them – I’ve got trays and trays re-started, and I’m afraid still to plant them yet. So we are subsisting off of sweet potatoes, ginger, garlic chives, sweet potato leaves, cassava leaves, pumpkins, eggplants, and very, very spicy peppers.
This recipe might be the best I’ve ever come up with. It might sound like an unlikely combination, but it tastes amazing, is pretty easy to throw together, and makes a very satisfying meal. Even the Teenager, who “hates pumpkin” thought it was pretty good.
For the Sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 Tablespoon fish sauce
1 Tablespoon sweet sherry, or coconut aminos (I like the flavor of this best!)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
A pinch each of white and black pepper
1 Tablespoon arrowroot flour mixed with
3 Tablespoons water
- Whisk up all the ingredients in a little pot and cook, stirring until the sauce is thickened. Set aside.
For the rest of the recipe:
1 small Seminole pumpkin, or half a medium-sized one (you could also use another sweet, dense Mochata-type squash like butternut or something)
A nub of ginger, peeled if it’s from the store, and minced
fat for frying (I used rendered chicken fat, but lard, olive oil, even butter or ghee)
1 teaspoon salt
1 onion, sliced
a pinch each of white and black pepper
2 garlic chives, chopped
1 cup mung bean sprouts
2 lbs shrimp, peeled and de-headed
A little water or broth on hand if the pumpkin cooks up too dry
- Slice and peel the pumpkin, saving the seeds to plant, or for eating. Cut the pumpkin in to small, bite-sized chunks.
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil and fry the onion and ginger until the onion is clear.
- Add the pumpkin chunks, and season with salt and pepper. I put the lid on here and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is soft.
- Add the mung bean sprouts, and stir. Pour the sauce on top. Then pile the shrimp on in a layer and sprinkle the chopped garlic chives on top, and cook gently with the lid on for just a few minutes until the shrimp