Photography As Prayer

Simone Weil said: “Absolute attention is prayer.”

I agree.

To be continued.

~~~

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Honoring Mary Oliver

People who know me well, know I love the poetry of Mary Oliver. I am not sure when I first discovered her, but I am going to guess it was in December 1999 when The New Yorker published her poem “Winter At Herring Cove.” I clipped it out of the magazine and it finds a home in whatever Oliver book I am reading at the time. I usually read a poem by her everyday! I bought many of her books. Susan bought me one, “Dog Stories.” And her mom bought me one, “Blue Horses.” My writing has been influence by her—and others, Gary Snyder, for example, and the Bible. In remembrance of her:

Here are a few inspiring quotes from Mary Oliver, along with some photos of mine.

Instructions for living a life.  Pay attention.  Be astonished.  Tell about it.

There are so many stories, more beautiful than answers.

Well, who doesn’t want the sun after the long winter?

And again this morning as always I am stopped as the world comes back wet and beautiful.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life  I was a bride married to amazement.  I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

I tell you this to break your heart, by which I mean only that it break open and never close again to the rest of the world.

I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us.

Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.

The dream of my life is to lie down by a slow river and stare at the light in the trees – to learn something by being nothing.

Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as well as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?

And this poem, “Wild Geese.”

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

And, “I Ask Percy How I Should Live Me Life:”

Love, love, love, says Percy.
And hurry as fast as you can
along the shining beach, or the rubble, or the dust.

Then, go to sleep.
Give up your body heat, your beating heart.
Then, trust.

 

 

 

Roasted Eggplant, Lentil, Orzo Stew

A few days ago, I arrived home from the grocery store with 5 or 6 bags of groceries, mostly vegetables for our “Soup Every Day Project.” I shop twice every week and I know most of the cashiers by name and they know my name. Some even know our dog’s name, Freddy, as I have given them his business card. Yes. He has a business card because he is a very good boy and cute as a button.

Anyway, Susan saw that I had bought an eggplant and she said “Bruce, what do you plan on cooking with the eggplant?” I answered, “I thought I might make eggplant parm or moussaka.” And she said, “I just found this interesting recipe for eggplant. What not take a look at it.” And I did and I said, “Susan, that sounds delicious.” And it was delicious.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant (2 small or 1 large, skin on, or peeled, if desired), chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup dried lentils (green, black or brown)
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
  • ½ cup orzo or other small pasta, such as ditalini, stelline or macaroni
  • Zest and juice from 1 lemon, plus 4 lemon wedges for garnish
  • ¼ cup shaved ricotta salata or crumbled feta

Preparation

  1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. In a large bowl, toss the eggplant with 1/4 cup olive oil and crushed coriander seeds until coated; season with salt and pepper. Arrange in an even layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and roast until eggplant is tender and golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes, giving the baking sheet a shake halfway through roasting to toss the eggplant pieces for even cooking.
  2. In a large skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium. Add the carrot, onion and celery. Season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until tomato paste begins to darken on the bottom of the pan, about 5 minutes.
  4. Stir in the lentils until coated. Pour in stock or water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to medium and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the type and age of lentils you use.
  5. Stir in the orzo and cook until softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon zest and juice.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with the roasted eggplant pieces and large shavings of ricotta salata, and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing.

All Cats Go To Heaven

It is early Wednesday morning
January 3, 2019
Dark and cold
I am walking my dog
Freddy, a mini-labradoodle
I am thinking of my cat
I had a cat
We had a cat
Nadine
A Calico Cat
It has been four months
Since she went to our Father in Heaven
We missed her at Christmas
I thought we had lost her
This past summer when she escaped
From the house and wandered
Nearby our property
A neighbor found her the next day
I picked her up and was struck
By how much weight she had lost
How her body was just skin and bones
She loved the outdoors, roaming around
In the backyard, sometimes near Freddy
But more often than not
Alone in the garden or a flower-bed
She came to me twelve years ago
I lived in a loft then and she delighted
In climbing the beams below the ceiling
And when Nadine and I moved
In with Susan she seemed happy here
Exploring new territory, new chairs
And tables, and beds, and late in life
Darker places–underneath the ottoman
In the sitting room or the end table
Still she sat
Near me, her paws
Placed softly on my legs
Quietly purring
Still I see her out of the corner of eye
Still I hear her early in the morning
At the bedroom door, more moaning than purring
And she would come running
Whe she heard me opening a can of tuna
Freddy doesn’t seem to miss her but
Who knows; he often crawls under the ottoman
And scratches at the rug still covered just a little
With her hair. Nadine was so often a muse
There are thousands of photographs
Of her, and I think of her, yes, I see her
Throughout the day wondering
If she will some how just show up
One day. I give thanks
She lived so long with me
With Susan, with Freddy.
All cats go to Heaven.
Right?

A few photos:

 

Inventory

Inventory

This is the day
The first Day
Of the new year.
There is a wind advisory
Today. I am sitting
At my desk. A framed photo
Of my beloved. Inspiration.
A row of books. New Spirit-
Filled Life Bible. I am
Again studying the Bible:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
“Learn to do good. Seek justice.
Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.”
Isaiah 1:17
Wise words
Written in this book:
Called to Create by Jordan Raynor.
“God was the first entrepreneur.
He brought something our of nothing.
He established order out of chaos.
He created for the good of others.
We are made in the image of the First Entrepreneur; thus
When we follow his call to create…….we are not just doing
Something good for the world, we are
Doing something God-like. To do
The creative work you do……you
Continue that work as a service
To the world around you.”
And in One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp:
“And when I give thanks
For the seemingly microscopic,
I make a place for God to grow within me.”
A dare to live fully
Right where you are.”
There is the book of poems
Susan’s mom bought, a Christmas Gift
For me. Blue Horses by Mary Oliver.
Poetry books by Anne Waldman,
Gary Snyder, James Dickey
And Elizabeth Bishop.
There are file folders
Filled with recipes from
Butternut Squash Soup
To Meatloaf Puttanesca.
Spiritual Pamphlets, crosses
And a Hula dancing woman,
A gift from a participant
In the Miss Teen America Pageant,
Which I photographed
A number of years ago.
Cameras and cups
Filled with pens, pencils
And paint brushes. On one mug
A painted sunrise, and this:
“This is the day the Lord has made;
Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
Psalm 118:24

 

 

Dried-Fruit Fruitcake

I am not joking. Oh, I know, people always joke about The Fruitcake. I have made this every Christmas for the past three years and it is absolutely delicious! Trust me. You’ll love its sweet taste!

Portrait of a Young Woman

Thanksgiving. Spur-of-the-moment. Grand-niece.
Star Student-Athlete. Wonderful person.

Sonya7R
35mm
f/4
1/160 sec.
ISO–1250
Window Light
Alienskin Software

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Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs with Buttermilk-Mustard Sauce

We have been cooking with chicken thighs here quite often.

A few days ago, I made Braised Chicken Thighs with Dates and Apricots—so delicious.

And last night (pictured here), I made Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs with Buttermilk-Mustard Sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 4 (6-ounce) chicken thighs, skinned
Directions
Step 1

Preheat oven to 425°.

Step 2

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a small microwave-safe bowl. Spoon 3 tablespoons buttermilk mixture into a shallow bowl; reserve remaining mixture.

Step 3

Combine the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese in a small bowl. Dip chicken in 3 tablespoons buttermilk mixture; dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Chill 15 minutes. Lightly coat a baking sheet (or oven-proof chef’s pan) with cooking spray, and place in oven for 5 minutes.

Step 4

Place the chicken on baking sheet. Bake at 425° for 24 minutes or until a meat thermometer registers 180°, turning chicken after 12 minutes. Microwave reserved buttermilk mixture at high for 20 seconds or until warm. Drizzle the sauce over chicken. Note: I baked with for 30 minutes, turning at 15.

Next time, I might use Panko instead of bread crumbs and old style grain mustard.

Anyway, it was delicious. Served with lentils, roasted Brussels Sprouts and walnuts, homemade cranberry sauce.

Based on a recipe from Cooking Light.

Belonging

On Wednesday
I went
To the park
Down the street
From where we live
Mittineague Park
I went to photograph
The field
But there was a woman
Walking slowly
Across the field
And I waited
And I waited
I said my Mantra
And I waited
For her to move
Off the field
The leaves are gone
It is November
I am
Waiting no longer
Click Click Click
She is in the photograph
And when I arrive
Home I see
She belongs
There
Here
In this field
In this photograph

 

 

Curried Cauliflower with Dahl

I don’t often cook with cauliflower. It’s not that I don’t want to, I like eating cauliflower, but cauliflower seems to turn brown if you don’t use it the day you buy it.

However,  here are two cauliflower meals I have made and both were delicious:

Roasted Cauliflower with Pomegranate, Mint and Tahini

Seared Scallops with Cauliflower, Capers and Raisins

And I have often substituted it for broccoli in pasta dishes.

A few  days ago I saw orange and purple-colored cauliflowers at the grocery store and I actually had a hard time choosing between the two colors. But, the orange cauliflower called out to me as a big ball of sunshine in the produce aisle. When I got home, Susan said “You bought cauliflower! I love cauliflower. What are you going to make?”

Quoting from the book (beautiful and informative book):  Produce, A Fruit and Vegetable Lover’s Guide:

“Cauliflower is hardly the most glamorous of vegetables but, like its siblings, the cabbages, it has been enjoyed through the ages. The ancient Romans doted on it, and then it fell victim to the barbarian scourge, disappearing for centuries. The Renaissance brought a reflowering of many things, the cabbage flower but one. And if we needed evidence that it finally arrived, a bit of culinary flattery would do it—and eighteenth -century French chef created a dish, probably a puree, that would forever link cauliflower with Louis XV’s Madame du Barry.

“Mark Twain called it ‘nothing but cabbage with a college education’ and he was reasonably accurate. Cauliflower is simply a cabbage that has been trained to produce firm bunches of flowers, and some modern varieties have even been educated to shelter the curd (the technical name) from sunlight by wrapping leaves around it. Less precocious varieties have been tied to effect the necessary blanching that produces a pale, delicately flavored result.”

Okay. Enough history and science. There will be no quiz. Let’s get on with the recipe!

This is really a recipe of curried vegetables from a great cookbook, Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups red lentils or yellow split peas (I used red lentils.)
4 or 5 cups water (I used my homemade chicken stock.)
1 onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 fresh green chile, minced (I used a jalapeno, seeded, from my garden.)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee (clarified butter)
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 4 cups)
1 tablespoon mild curry powder (I used 2 tablespoons.)
1 teaspoon ground cumin (I used a heaping teaspoon!)
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger root
2 cups water
1 head cauliflower (about 4 cups florets)
2 green or red bell peppers, chopped (about 2 cups)
10 ounces fresh spinach
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste

Directions:

Rinse the lentils or split peas. Lentils cook faster and absorb less water than split peas, so use 4 cups of water for lentils, 5 cups of water for split peas. In a covered saucepan, bring the water and lentils or peas to a boil. reduce heat, uncover, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until tender.
In a large soup pot, saute the onion and chile in the oil for several minutes. Add the sweet potatoes, curry powder, cumin, and ginger and continue to saute for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring often. Pour in the 2 cups of water. Cut the cauliflower into florets and add to the pot. Add the bell peppers, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
While the vegetables simmer, rinse, stem, and coarsely chop the spinach. Pour the lentils or peas and their cooking liquid into a blender or food processor, and puree for 2 to 3 minutes to make a smooth dahl. (I didn’t do this as the lentils were very much broken down.) When the cauliflower is tender, stir in the spinach, the dahl and the lemon juice. Simmer just until the spinach has wilted. Add salt to taste, and serve immediately.

4 to 6 servings