Friday, July 31, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data




Only small men discriminate, saying: One is a
relative; the other is a stranger.

For those who live magnanimously the entire
world constitutes but a family.


~ Maha Upanishad, Chapter 6,
Verses 71-72

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions


Breathless on devouring a recently-highlighted essay from writer and ecologist Gary Snyder. Shambhala Sun's July '09 issue revisits Snyder's beautiful piece on wildness and art and nature and ego, "Writers and the War Against Nature." And it's enough to fill a girl's head and heart for days to come.

Snyder - he of the extensive Zen Buddhist background, not to mention the Beat street cred, too - manages to thread together poetic thoughts on impermanence and the A-bomb, growing up wild in the Pacific Northwest, the revealing etymologies of some of my favorite words (like wild, and ecology, and nature), art, politics, and sustainability.

Just taste it:
The wild is self-creating, self-maintaining, self-propagating, self-reliant, and self-actualizing, and it has no “self.” It is perhaps the same as what East Asian philosophers call the Dao. The human mind, imagination, and even natural human language can also thus be called wild. The human body itself, with its circulation, respiration, and digestion, is wild. In these senses, “wild” is a word for the intrinsic, non-theistic, forever-changing natural order.
This is the kind of holistic writing that we need to see more often when we talk about activism, and environmental activism, in particular; the kind that acknowledges the irreparably intertwined sagas of art and death and suffering and ahimsa, the fact that we cannot purport to change injustices without engaging the heart and the mind and the spirit, at once.

Snyder's emphasis on ahimsa, that most yogic of notions, and his return to the theme of egolessness that is so central to so many of the world's wisdom traditions, drive my reading of his article; everything else seems to unfold from there. Even more remarkably, Snyder manages to draw on performativity as key; this very sociological theme, this very postmodern, Butlerian notion, seals the deal for me, fires me up, leaves me nodding here sprawled on the rug as I read and listen and breathe and smell the scent of the tree outside the bay window reminding me that we are so much a part and parcel of one another. Snyder writes that
Poems, novels, and plays, with their great deep minds of story, awaken the Heart of Compassion. And so they confound the economic markets, rattle the empires, and open us up to the actually existing human and non-human world. Performance is art in motion; in the moment; both enactment and embodiment. This is exactly what nature herself is.
How small we are; how potentially dangerously-destructive our footprints can be; and how remarkably revelatory it would be if we all had Snyder's ability to see these thematic braids intertwining in our lives on an everyday basis.

Sigh. Wow. Read it.

Writers and the War Against Nature (Shambhala Sun)

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions





"Art survives within modern civilisation rather like little islands of wilderness saved to show us where we came from."


~ Claude Levi-Strauss

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


Admittedly, this recent article about last weekend's Wanderlust indie rock/yoga festival makes me cringe. ("Say namaste! ... How many of you think Ganesh is fresh?" Oy.) The NYT manages to cover this Burning Man-lite shindig with a measure of both respect and condescension; you can't help but picture some black-clad, coffee-swilling journalist snarling as she writes about kombucha and opening the heart chakra in the trees.

In spite of the cheeeeeze factor, I'm kicking myself for missing this action. Not only did the festival include veritable yogi rockstars like Shiva Rea and John Friend, it was a hotbed of good music, fresh air, and killer mountain views, only a few short hours away. Several of my friends made the trek up to Squaw Valley for the weekend; I'm certainly going to block off my calendar for next year already.

Check out the article; alternately cringe and drool at the description of the bendy rocking action in Tahoe last weekend; set your Outlook to meet me there in '10.

Say Namaste! Party by Night, Downward Dog by Day (NYT)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions


Last week, on one of these blustery winter-summer evenings that we've been strewn with of late, I tucked into a theater and caught (500) Days of Summer, on the advice of a friend who'd seen it and knew.

I was wrapped up in six scarves and a shrug and a cloche and too much lipstick, ostensibly to protect myself from the elements but really because I just wanted to be left alone, and mint-green cashmere shrugs topped with a glossy coat of bombshell red somehow seem to do the trick when I'm craving that solitude the most. But as soon as Joseph Gordon-Leavitt and Zooey Deschanel began their onscreen shtick, I soon forgot all of the wind and the social overload and the exhaustion.

(500) Days' media materials classify it as a romantic comedy, but I'm hesitant to even throw it in close association with the Katherine Heigl/Jennifer Aniston tripe hitting theaters right now. The film was one of the more thoughtful, melancholy, light, quirky, wistful, honest films about anything that I've seen in some time; more specifically, it was one of the most true-to-life depictions of relationships in your 20s that I've seen written, as well. Not to mention the good music, and the darkly-attractive hipster leads, and their nuanced and measured performances. It all made my heart hurt.

Apparently the film was a sensation at Sundance earlier this year. I'm not surprised. See it.

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor.





Another wine- and music-soaked weekend in the redwoods. Best thing ever.

Too bad I can't think of any bad jokes for this one.

Raw, adjective: 1. uncooked, as articles of food: a raw carrot.


This was last Saturday's cake. Carrot spice, which of course you've seen before, but this time I added cloves and all-spice, which made all the difference in the flavor.

We had a few leftovers Sunday at Stern Grove, and after that cream-cheese-frosted action sat in the dappled sunlight for a few hours, nothing tasted better than the warm raisins and toasted walnuts covered in cloves.

Used wildflowers from a recent bouquet to finish; weren't they pretty?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data


Mary Elizabeth Williams has a really great little piece on dude-chick friendships in Salon today. It's a paean to the kind of relationships that transcend years and involve a helluva lot of laughter, liquor and good music.

I'm lucky enough to have a cadre of some of the best dude friends out there. They taught me how to laugh, how to talk about sex like a guy, how to shoot tequila. And they're simultaneously super-smart, thoughtful and grounded. I adore them, not only for the distinct pleasure of their contrasting masculinity, but in part for that, for sure.

Which is no doubt why I enjoyed Williams' article so much. She addresses that whole When Harry Met Sally trope about how men and women can't have real platonic friendships because sex always gets in the way. I like the way she sensibly tackles the whole idea, writing that
Sex doesn’t get in the way of male-female friendship -- sex is just along the way. Even the most platonic of friendships smolder from time to time from the embers of attraction, and sometimes friends wind up becoming lovers (they often make the best ones). So what? Most rational adults can accommodate an array of feelings without acting on all of them. Even when they do, ex-lovers can wind up the tenderest of friends.
Read the whole thing. It's at once unsentimental, well-reasoned and adoring. And I totally agree with her point that sometimes you don't want someone to sit next to you at a bar and talk about feelings; you want him to sit next to you and talk shit about that quarterback who was drafted too early and blew it for the season, and then lean over and order another round of beers without complaining that his belt's too tight. So refreshing.

Guy Friends Rule (Salon)

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.



Bundt Cake Saturday! (Late again.)

Morning: smoky
Mood: no-bullshit
Music: 311

So we're still playing catch-up on some of these old recipes from the last few months. Today we've got a particularly bizarro character. I was hitting a desperate stretch there for awhile, trying to come up with original recipes after nearly a year of these guys, and this cake was a product of that. After conquering a smoky kitchen, some frantic opening of windows, and a little emergency smoke detector surgery, I managed to scrape all the black crumbs off the bottom of the stove, throw the cake in its caddy and hop on the bus just in time to make it to work.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

There's a certain strain of bizarro desserts that emphasize banana and caramel flavors. Neither is exactly my first-choice confection, but the combination of the two - also known as "banoffee" in other parts - usually results in a pretty stickily-delicious taste. I also had two random boxes of banana cream pudding sitting in my pantry for approximately six months, and wanted to find a use for them, sooner rather than later. So, after a little research, I created a hybrid of a few recipes in order to come up with this eventual

BANANA CARAMEL CREAM BUNDT CAKE

Yup. That's it. Kind of summery, no? It all went swimmingly until I overloaded the pan a little. But before we go there, let's hit the basics:

INGREDIENTS

1 yellow cake mix
2 small boxes of banana cream pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup banana cream or plain yogurt (or sour cream)
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup water (or milk, if you'd rather)
1 teas. vanilla
2 medium bananas, ripened and chopped
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 T unsalted butter
2 T milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan. Combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, yogurt, oil, water, and vanilla; beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes. Fold in chopped bananas. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan.

Next you're going to prepare a simple caramel sauce to layer in as a ribbon of caramel in the middle. To do this, melt 1/2 cup brown sugar, 4 T unsalted butter, and 2 T milk in a saucepan until it boils. When it has fully caramelized, pour the sauce on top of the batter and smooth it out; finish by pouring the rest of the batter on top of the caramel layer. Bake for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then invert on a wire rack to cool completely.

Now, two key things to note here:

1) You can substitute a jar of banana baby food if you don't have ripe bananas on hand, or if you have recently discarded the small child in your life. It might taste a little more processed, as there will probably have been preservatives added, but in a pinch, it'll certainly do.

2) DON'T PUT TOO MUCH BATTER IN YOUR PAN.

I wish I would've told myself this before baking this puppy. Because as soon as I proudly put the cake in the oven and patted myself on the back for coming up with such an ingeniously creative recipe, I started smelling major burning, only to return to find my kitchen billowing with smoke. The batter had quickly overwhelmed the pan and was oozing over the edges and through the hole in the middle, landing on the bottom of the stove, where it was burning like a middle-aged spinster in Puritan New England.

It was ugly, and I was afraid the cake would be totally smoked out and taste only of burnt batter. I put a cookie sheet under the pan to catch the oozing batter, and watched it carefully after flinging open all the windows and doors in the house. The cake did finally bake through, but it took a long, long time, and the consistency was still much more wobbly than it should've been.

Lesson learned: don't overload your pan. Leave out some of the extra batter if you have too much. It's better to have some extra (which you could easily throw into a mini-bundt pan and make into a few small additional cakes) than to have Vesuvius spouting in your gas stove.

Once it finally cooled, I drizzled a little more caramel sauce on the top and finished it off with some dried daffodils from an old bouquet from some secret admirer (also known as: myself). It was decently cute and summery.

I didn't expect to love the flavor, but the cake was surprisingly delicious. So if bananas and toffee are your thing, get in there, my friend. Just make sure to take out the smoke detector batteries first.

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions

bluebird

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say, stay in there, I'm not going
to let anybody see
you.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I pour whiskey on him and inhale
cigarette smoke
and the whores and the bartenders
and the grocery clerks
never know that
he's
in there.

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too tough for him,
I say,
stay down, do you want to mess
me up?
you want to screw up the
works?
you want to blow my book sales in
Europe?

there's a bluebird in my heart that
wants to get out
but I'm too clever, I only let him out
at night sometimes
when everybody's asleep.
I say, I know that you're there,
so don't be
sad.
then I put him back,
but he's singing a little
in there, I haven't quite let him
die
and we sleep together like
that
with our
secret pact
and it's nice enough to
make a man
weep, but I don't
weep, do
you?

~ Charles Bukowski

Friday, July 24, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data






sunya: Boundlessness; empty; zero. From the
verb root "su" or "sva" or "svi,"
meaning to swell


sunyata: Insubstantiality; emptiness.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Raw, adjective: 5. crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste: raw humor.

I hear yoga does amazing things for people who incessantly glorify yoga

My boy Matt sent this along this morning, and as I sat here bleary-eyed just now trying to chug enough coffee to get my tired ass down Polk St. in time for the 6am sweatbox, it made me laugh.

Drunk Yoga

:: Slams coffee, grabs mat, rolls out the door ::

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Raw, adjective: 9. disagreeably damp and chilly, as the weather or air


These guys opened for the Indigo Girls last night at The Fillmore.

They were quality. Scruffy, rock-jazz-bluegrass-y, harmonica-playing, auto-harp-strumming, wailing back-up on "Closer To Fine." I was so glad I didn't miss their set.

Check them out at www.commonrotation.com. They're pretty outspoken politically and socially, too. Along with being hot. I dig.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions




"For it would seem - her case proved it - that we write, not with the fingers, but with the whole person. The nerve which controls the pen winds itself about every fibre of our being, threads the heart, pierces the liver."

~ Virginia Woolf, Orlando


(And that's me in Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana in the backyard at the Florida house. One of my favorite asanas of all time, it opens the heart and the throat and the pelvic chakras, bends the back, and stretches the quads, all at once.)

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.


Bundt Cake Saturday! (A month overdue.)

Morning: blueberry-strewn
Mood: almondy
Music: Incubus

Playing catch-up with a few new recipes from the last month or so. Here's one from late June, when blueberries were crazy in-season and relatively cheap. I had a nice pint in the fridge, so decided to come up with a clever way to incorporate berries, almond, and streusel.

I went through a serious streusel phase there for awhile, thanks to a large package of graham crackers sitting on my pantry shelf, and remain knee-deep in a fluttery almond crush, so let's have a happy little marriage of the two in this perfect-for-Independence-Day, red-white-and-blue recipe for a

BLUEBERRY ALMOND STREUSEL BUNDT CAKE

Even though I'm certainly no patriot, the combination of blueberries and red Gerber daises clipped from the bouquet on my coffee table was almost enough to make me forget the fact that America's responsible for the spread of consumeristic imperialistic capitalistic obese Coca-Cola Wal-Mart McDonald's bullshit across the globe. I mean, what? Oh yeah, cake.

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg yellow cake mix
1 pkg instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease and flour your bundt pan. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, sour cream, oil, water and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer for two minutes at medium speed. Fold in washed blueberries, lightly covered with flour to prevent from sinking. Set that aside for a few minutes.

Now you're going to whip up your streusel. The ingredients are easy and fairly flexible, so adjust to your taste preferences:

1 1/2 cups crushed graham crackers
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup thinly-chopped almonds
1 teas. cinnamon
1/4 teas. all-spice
Pinch of cloves

Stir those little guys together; it worked well for me to combine the melted butter and graham crackers first, and then add everything else. Pour half of your set-aside cake batter into the prepared pan; layer in the streusel, pat it down, and then cover it with the remaining cake batter. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Don't be alarmed if it takes a little longer to bake. Whenever you bake with fresh berries, they'll up the water content of the batter a bit, so it may take a few minutes longer than usual. Just keep checking in with your toothpick test and you'll be fine.

Cool for ten minutes in the pan after removing from the oven, then invert on your wire rack until the cake has completely cooled. Then just sprinkle it with a generous handful of powdered confectioners' sugar, and top with slivered almonds for a finishing touch. I added the aforementioned red Gerber daises, and loved what they brought to the aesthetic. Gerbers work well in cakes, and I find that they fade slowly, so they'll last awhile if you need the cake to look good for several hours before eating.

If it's a hot summer day, you might want to wait before adding the powdered sugar, as I've found that it melts into the cake if it gets too hot in the sun. Otherwise, though, it's a great recipe for summertime. I imagine that you could switch up the berry flavor to strawberry, blackberry or raspberry with little-to-no adjustments, as well.

Enjoy.

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions





I have lived on the lip
of insanity, wanting to know reasons,
knocking on a door. It opens.
I've been knocking from the inside!

~

jelaluddin rumi - 13th century
sufi mystic

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.


Bundt Cake Saturday! (Kinda late.)

Morning: not anymore
Mood: wrapped-in-a-hoodie content
Music: that jackhammer outside on the sidewalk

And helloooo again after a bit of time away. We're celebrating the year anniversary of Bundt Cake Saturdays, you know, so in honor of that sacred day, I decided to whip together my own little creation now that I've actually developed the ability to do so.

(Let's wish Hot Llama a happy belated birthday, too, since it was her 30th a year ago that got this whole bundt ball rolling. Hope it was grand, dear.)

Above is a shot of our picnic blanket yesterday at Stern Grove, my beloved Sunday Chron, and my even-more-beloved ruffled apron from Anthropologie. I will totally lift the consumerism ban on rare occasions for something like this gorgeous blue- and cream-flowered apron. You can still catch few lingering shin bruises there from our maintenance adventures down at the FL house.

This week I wanted something classic, something open to variation, something reliable, and something crowd-pleasing. It was a busy Sat. and Sun., so I did my baking on Friday with the intention of making one basic recipe stretch a few different ways. And this one did, much to my pleasure.

So let's get on with it and I'll show you all the things you can do with an

ALMOND CREAM CHEESE BUNDT CAKE

Mmm, yes. The flavor of almond extract reminds me of that old sugar cookie recipe we used to make as little girls, and of wedding cake, and of simplicity. All good things. So I went a little overboard with the almond, and was really pleased with the result.

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg white cake mix
2 small pkgs instant cheesecake pudding
4 eggs
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup water
3/4 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour your bundt pan. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, pudding, eggs, cream cheese, oil, water and almond extract. Beat with an electric mixer for two minutes at medium speed. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Easy, right? Now comes the fun part. I used this recipe not only for a spiral heritage bundt cake, which is pictured here at left, but for some mini-bundts for a birthday cake tower, as well.

For the larger cake, I used a cream cheese frosting and just added 3/4 teas. almond extract, whipped that, and drizzled it onto the cake. I topped it with silver edible glitter from Sur la Table (yeah, edible glitter! Insert dirty joke here) and finished it with dried rose petals. Looks fairly anniversary-esque, right?

I breached my gluten-free, high-raw lifestyle of late and tried a piece of this guy yesterday at the picnic, where we enjoyed a Tupperware full of leftovers. It was delicious.

At right, you'll find a few variations on this theme: in baking these mini-bundts, I used the same recipe, and baked half of the batter per usual, and added half a bag of mini chocolate chips to the rest. I frosted the chocolate chip cakes with a simple almond cream cheese frosting, topped them with edible glitter and dried alstromeria blooms. They were cute, if a little overbaked.

For the simple almond cakes left over, I whipped up a lemon cream cheese frosting using 3/4 teas. of lemon extract and iced those with that, finishing them with edible glitter and dried daffodils on top. For the few stragglers left after running out of daffodils and alstromeria, I added a few sprigs of lavender heather.

Adorable, all. I guess a year of practicing really does teach a girl a few things.

Here's a toast to the cakes to come!

Raw, noun: 13. unrefined sugar, oil, etc.


July 18th marked one year of Bundt Cake Saturdays! Time flies when you're covered in flour.

I'm happy to report that my initial goal of making it a year with a new recipe each week was totally achievable. I've learned so much - about flavors, and ingredients, and techniques, and flowers, and people, and myself - and some 70+ recipes later, feel armed with a stable of resources for future creations. I know, I know; my last several projects haven't made their way onto the site yet, but I'll have a number of recent beauties posted shortly.

In the meantime, here's a quick pic of one recent favorite: chocolate coconut cream mini-bundts, with a coconut cream frosting, garnished with shaved coconut and dried rose petals on top. To make this recipe, just revisit the coconut cream cake I made in April, and substitute a chocolate cake mix and chocolate pudding for the original white/vanilla.

If you have time, do revisit my post from a year ago, which included a stellar clip of radical baker Maggie Gyllenhaal in Stranger Than Fiction. It's worthy of a second viewing. Watching her there, I realize that I've often felt the way she does as she speaks with Will Ferrell's accountant character. Well-intended baking + awkward people = sweet transgression of malleable and insubstantial social boundaries.

Translation: connection. And all because of some dumb little sugar and flour. Wow.

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


Stern Grove yesterday was so much fun. The annual free summer music festival in the redwoods runs June-August every year, and after yesterday's sauv blanc and Brazilian funk, I'm totally committed to a standing Sunday date for the rest of the summer.

What a pleasure: laid-back earthy people, great music with wildly varying performers each week (Joan Baez last Sunday!), jamming kids, cheesy pink wine, fresh fruit, and curling up on a blanket in this cool lush grove tucked into the City. Add another tally to the bazillion reasons I love living in SF.

Read up on all the dish at the official festival website. Next week: hip-hop! See you there, picnic basket in tow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Raw, idiom: 14a. in the natural, uncultivated, or unrefined state: nature in the raw.


Last night Llama and I finally hit up the new-ish La Folie Lounge up Polk St., in the space formerly occupied by La Boulange, before it expanded next door into the fabulously high-ceilinged old Petit Robert digs. (Follow me?)

It was pleasantly more than I expected: mellow low-lit vibe, creative French-inspired cocktails, an intriguing small plates menu, and blessedly free of laptop-toting rich white beautiful athletic people of the sort you usually find in the bars north of Clay St. But what struck me the most were the elegant matte teal blue walls, that perfect calming ocean blue-green that's so prominent in a lot of Art Deco fabrics and paintings you see. I tucked the color away in my mind for future house-painting projects; the blue might be too much for a big room, but for a bathroom or a few kitchen walls, it's stellar.

Reminded me of this ethereal cerulean sky that I snapped at twilight one evening when I was in Palm Springs for the Bikram seminar last month. Even on my crappy camera phone, you can't help but breathe more easily when the sky opens up like this. Ahhh.

Raw, adjective: 2. not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture


And good morning again from San Francisco, where the fog rolled in last night circa 6:45 and has hung around like a down blanket ever since.

Raw whirlwind of a week, lots of driving and nectarines and sweat and crawling around on hands and knees and now, an almond cream cheese cake in the oven as I listen to the City wake up.

Raw muscles from lifting and cleaning and stretching new stretches.

Raw cantaloupes and strawberries and overpriced organic grapes from the Whole Foods around the corner on returning instead of from the farmstand by the side of the road on the edge of the Ocala National Forest.

Raw mosquito and fireant bites now healing from humid morning yoga sessions in the pine-lined backyard. Newts included, practicing handstands.

Raw memories being made, new and old, some ten years ago, others freshly minted. Sisters. And a brother Skyping in from Switzerland. Not bad.

Raw sand in my gritty salt-soaked hair after an idyllic afternoon at Ormond Beach, prematurely cut short by the threatening billows of a thunderstorm blowing in from the west.

Raw humor in the new Sasha Baron Cohen movie; I laughed hard, and often, and out loud, but walked away thinking Borat was better, and less tragic, somehow.

Raw prospects of so many landscaping projects to be done and banana palms to be planted and pear trees and Japanese magnolias and crepe myrtle and the fastest seven-hour flight home ever as I planned seeds to be sown, literal and figurative, in the months to come.

Raw cherries perpetually in my messenger bag; what a good time of year for fruits, and skies.

Raw writings, scrawled unconsciously in the half-light of Deep South evenings, to be turned into polished stones now that I am back here and settled in my comfortably cool grey morning of a life.

It's good to be home, always, SF, my heart. There's much writing and baking and stretching and planning to be done. But first, let me take the cake out of the oven; my house smells of almond, it's still early, and things are blooming.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data


I'm fabulously behind in life, it seems. A quick week back home in SF digesting so much yoga and sweat, and now it's off to another time zone for more sweat, more yoga, more memories, and a few rare days with two women who share the same smile, the same last name, and the same DNA. There will most likely be toolbelts, running shoes and beaches involved. And there will most certainly be fire ants, sunburns, and muggy afternoon thunderstorms involved, too.

Internet connections there promise to be sketchy at best, so as much as I'd like to swamp you with bundt updates and Sarah Palin breakdowns and whatnot, I don't know if that'll happen. In the meantime, I'll leave you with two Hemingway chestnuts that've been heavy on my mind these few days, sandwiched between fog and early mornings and spinach salads and late-night cable car rides:

"The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without." And, "The world breaks us all. Afterward, some are stronger at the broken places."

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Raw, adjective: 11. unprocessed or unevaluated: raw data




Today we did this.












And this.















And a little of this.








And some of us did this.

Others of us landed on our faces with our feet stuck behind our heads. It was awesome. The bruises on my ass are beginning to make themselves known.

There was a CBS camera crew filming this afternoon. It was a bit disconcerting, given that they showed up at the end of our 5-hour practice, so we were all wobbly and dehydrated and loony. We did a few minutes' quick demos of some of the prettier postures, Bikram barked charmingly, adjusted his Speedo and told a few dirty jokes, and that was that. Not sure where or when it's airing. I'd rather not see myself falling out of asanas sweaty and exhausted, anyway.

Advanced series is so different from the regular Bikram series. It's much less cardiovascular, much more intimate; it's quieter, more individually-driven, less authoritarian. At least, that's how it feels to me. Pretty much like a pleasant 2 hours of trying out party tricks with your most flexible buddies. Helping each other balance, adjust your grip, fix your pelvis, etc. It's kind of great. Easy. A natural camaraderie unrolls. You're all struggling with seemingly impossible asanas. You're all falling on your faces. And Bikram sits and watches and listens, lets you fall, get back in; there's a different spirit of experimentation, a trust that you as a veteran know what you're doing with your body; a resting. There's almost a vinyasa flow feeling in the beginning of the series in the Salute to the Gods and Goddesses and the Sun Salutations, followed by a lot of bendy Lotus work and balancing and whatnot, ad infinitum.

In surprising developments, I'm hardly sore anymore. This rocks. I definitely credit the pushing through the pain. It's such a better means for coping with soreness than backing off and leaving the torn muscles alone.

I'm sad to see the week nearing its end. I sat in the moonlight last night on the water listening to tropical birds hooting, working on some new writing projects, and the air was thick and warm and I felt so content and sore and lived-in. And then a gondola pulled up. No joke. (Where the hell am I?) Even now, sitting at my desk looking out the open patio door past my balcony, the mountains hover in the distance and the sun will be setting over them in just a few hours. Charmed life.

Emmy and Rajashree both headed back to LA after this morning's classes, so it's Bikram from here on out. I'm glad. Ready to get my ass kicked again tomorrow, both classes. I leaned back into Camel today to find peering at me from behind Rajashree herself, practicing in the back row, rocking the fuschia spandex. Love it.

I read an interesting mantra in a yogic theory book last night. So much of this philosophy emphasizes the letting-go process, the release, the emptying, the deconstructing; this theme is of course rich across Taoist and Buddhist and Hindu theologies alike, but I find it so central to this yogic project, too. Emptying the mind, clearing the body, flushing the nadis (energy meridians), lightening everything from so much kapha heaviness. And a natural extension of that lightening is an emphasis on childlike humor, the kind of wonder that doesn't take itself or the world too seriously, knowing how impermanent and constantly in flux every element of reality is. So this mantra reminds the meditator to set this intention: "Leave every room lighter than you found it."

How great is that? We've all known that person whose Eeyore energy brings a grave heaviness to a room. And we've all known his opposite, the kind of person whose presence lifts the vibe. Not because of some sunny-ass Pollyanna bullshit, but because they wield a certain lightness. You know what I mean: an openness to whimsy, a self-deprecating lilt. The kind of person who doesn't take herself, or this life, so goddamned seriously.

You can't help but practice that when you're stuck on your back with your feet behind your head like an overturned tortoise on the beach, abandoned. That's the natural built-in good humor of this yoga. When you're swimming in a pool of your own sweat and your ass is hanging out of your too-short shorts, it's just all gravy, then.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Raw, adjective: 7. brutally or grossly frank: a raw portrayal of human passions



I meant to write about death, only
life came breaking in as usual.


~ Virginia Woolf, Diary
17 February 1922

*

The practice of dying little by little,
every day, brings yoga.

~ Pattabhi Jois

Raw, adjective: 6. ignorant, inexperienced, or untrained: a raw recruit.


That is about how I feel right now. Ahhh.

Today, Emmy Cleaves taught both the regular and the advanced series. Emmy is Bikram's long-time right-hand woman, a rockstar in her own right, who happens to be 80-something and still bending into Lotus and sticking her legs in the air. She presided over the group in her bathing suit, and reigned with an iron fist. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to practice under the direction of a woman I've heard so very much about. (Wouldn't mind being able to bend like she can when I'm 80, either.)

The class was much more physiology-focused; Emmy's all about alignment and precision, which was exactly what I needed after two days of just trying to stay alive. Today the heat was considerably less oppressive, which meant that I could actually focus on technique and extension instead of not dying. It was great, and I felt invigorated after the 5-hour session, as opposed to the other days, when I felt like I'd been run over by a Mac truck. In a good way. The bruises attest.

Ominous desert clouds have rumbled in this afternoon and it's, very strangely, threatening to storm. There's news on the franchising front; all of the hubbub over the last several years about Bikram's effort to patent "his" yoga has apparently come to a conclusion, because at the end of class today he introduced his patent lawyers and new franchising director. I'm headed to a lecture about this right now. Incredibly intrigued by this complicated development, given my interests in commodification, spirituality, and the body. We'll see what unfolds in the next few hours. I feel torn about seven different ways about the whole thing.