Thursday, October 29, 2015


Work has been so stressful lately that I haven't been sleeping, and I can feel my health going down.  I've been doing a slow breathing exercise, taking my breaks and trying to respond differently when the hard stuff starts to happen.  Sometimes it's hard to follow through. It would be so much easier to just stumble through the day. I feel stressed and discouraged and I wonder, is it working?

This morning I sat down at my desk and opened my computer, logged on and went to email.  It's a ritual I've done every work day for many years now.  Catch up on emails, update my to do list, review the day's calendar.  Then I go for coffee.

Today something else happened.  As I read my emails, I noticed myself speeding up inside. The feeling was fast and tight. I could feel my shoulders tightening up, my breath getting short and fast.  There were emotions too.  There was anticipation, excitement and familiarity, because I love my job.  But I also noticed tension tinged with dread, the way you might feel if you were stepping into the ring for a boxing match.

I pushed my chair away and sat back, just noticing the tightness, the short breaths, and the dread. I brought my attention the moment. There was sunlight just beginning to color the sky, and I could hear people in the lobby, greeting each other, starting their day.  And I realized, felt in my body, that this moment was such a good moment, a sweet time.  I felt myself slow down inside, felt the dread dissipate.  There was stressful stuff today, but there was a small, still place in me.  I noticed how meaningful it is when I answer a question or give encouragement.  And on my break I noticed how the maple leaves are only beginning to turn red, and some are still varied shades of green.

Is it working?


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mole Sauce

On Sunday, I made Mole.  Mole is a sauce used in Latin-American cooking.  The main ingredients are tomatoes, peppers and unsweetened chocolate.  But there are also lots of spices, and the process of making mole involves steps and processes that balance all the flavors.

I began by turning on the music, as I do every time I cook.  This morning it was jazz, brought to me by our local public radio station here in Eugene, KLCC.  To the haunting voice of Sarah Vaughn, I toasted Ancho and Guajillo peppers, sesame seeds and slivered almonds.  Then came Cumin, Cloves, Thyme and Oregano.  Then onions, garlic and tomatoes, all in the proper order, all with their own process.

The house began to smell like magic.  Charlie Parker’s sax provided background as the spices muddled.  Outside, the sun shone with autumn clarity as I sautéed and simmered all the subtle ingredients.  My home felt warm and spicy as I sprinkled chocolate into my simmering sauce, the last step.  I dipped out a small taste with my wooden spoon.  It was perfectly balanced, thick and tomato-y, the spices coming through in layers.  I ate some more, right out of the pot, just to savor the way the spices happened in my mouth, one after the other.

Three hours had gone by since I started.  It is a very curious sensation, when time goes away.  Tasting my mole, I had the sense that I had a put in a lot of work, done many steps.  But I had no sense of those three hours passing.  I put the mole away, put on my jacket, and walked into town under soaring maple trees bright with autumn leaves.