Monday, June 29, 2015

Eating Omily: The Best Kind of Problem to Have

Ok, so it may not feel like it everywhere (not that I'm complaining, trust me!!), Summer is here! I'm blessed to live at a cross section of a few different growing zones, which means different farmers coming from different parts of the region have slightly shifted growing seasons: I get short-season treats like strawberries, asparagus, fava beans, and garlic scapes for months instead of weeks!

Strawberries stand shoulder to shoulder with dark, sweet cherries, and the first of the blueberries! Cucumbers are begging to be sliced, sugar snap peas are the perfect cool, sweet no-cook veggie, and I'm just having way too much fun with cocktails, which you would know, if you were following my instagram! Easy to remember over here: @emily.hursh

You'll also get treated to pictures and videos of my adorable cats, aerial stunts, and of course, Farmers' Market finds!

All that goodness is enough to leave me feeling a little overwhelmed: should I relinquish the strawberries for the year in favor of those blueberries? Am I really ready for cucumbers? English shelling peas, or fava beans? Young garlic cloves, or scapes?

It may not be a problem you thought a locavore would have. The dilemma of choice is usually thought of as the domain as the mega mart shopper.

So, how do I choose? Well, ideally, I don't. I make a plan that makes a space for each of these exquisite flavors while I have them: strawberries Monday and Tuesday, freezing anything that's left Tuesday evening. Cherries Wednesday...lots and lots of cherries, eaten out of hand with wild abandon, and maybe cooked with sugar and cocoa powder, or preserved with bourbon and syrup...mmmmm...and blueberries next week. Don't even think about preserving them. There won't be any left.

Last week I grate up one of those extra flavorful funny-looking cukes and stored it in the fridge in a jar of sake over night. Strained, and served over ice, it was perfect refreshing!

Tonight I'm sautéing up broccoli rabe with garlic scapes, and pairing it with pre-made crab cakes from the fishmonger.

Tomorrow maybe I'll have breakfast for dinner, and make fava bean puree to spread on the toast. This is a perfect plan because fava beans require time and attention, and breakfasts are the domain of the husband, freeing me up for the perfect, smooth, grassy puree.

The rule of thumb is: eat so much of each thing when its around, that by the time it's not around, you don't even miss it. If the strawberries are sitting untouched for more than twelve hours, stop buying them. It's over. If those garlic scapes are reproaching you from the fridge nearly a week later, go back to buying cloves.

Eating locally and seasonally can never succeed if its based on what you can't have. But it can if it's based on a wildly decadent hedonism: this year, we ate a quart of strawberries. Each. In one sitting.

We also pounded them into strawberry mint juleps that were too perfect for words, and drowned them in vodka for weeks at a time, resulting in a ruby-red elixir that's as sweet and summery as it is potent. We also packed our freezer with them, waiting patiently for the free day to make jam, and I cooked down the few, pouty, sad ones into a simple sauce, perfect with pancakes.

I pound cherries like I'm going for some sort of world record, and I freeze blueberries like this is the last year we'll ever see them. We eat asparagus daily for weeks while we can, and I sneak into the kitchen at all hours of the day or night for a few slices of cucumber, or nibbled sugar snap peas. My wooden spoons are stained pink from rhubarb concoctions.

In another month tomatoes will have stained our cutting board, and bell peppers, roasted and raw, will flavor everything. I'll serve nothing but raw sweet corn cut from the cob and tossed with halved cherry tomatoes for dinner, and we'll eat in silence, too busy feeling each kernel burst in our teeth to talk.

I guess my lifestyle sounds high maintenance: food shopping three or four times a week, meal planning, cooking, preserving...but to me, to give it up would mean a way bigger loss in quality of life than I would gain in time, to say nothing of of the loss of living out of integrity with my principles.

If you've never been to a Farmer's Market, now's the time to go! And if you stop by every now and then for one or two things, now's the time to challenge yourself to see if you can let the grocery supplement the market, instead of the other way around.

Let me know how it goes! I'll save a cocktail for you. ;-)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from God[dess]

This isn't the sparrow I found. I didn't take any pictures. At first I wished I had. But then I was glad I hadn't.
Several weeks ago, I was walking down 17th street from 5th avenue, toward Union Square, planning to swing by the Pret at the corner of 17th and Broadway for a large English breakfast with lots of milk and sugar before my doubles trapeze class at Om Factory when I heard the sound of something hitting the ground. Not a crack, not a crash...a soft, but solid thunk...I didn't think about what made me turn so suddenly to see what it was at the time, but I think my animal brain had already recognized that particular sound: a body hitting pavement.

A very small body.

A fledgling sparrow.

I hurried over to it, knelt down for a closer look, then looked up. A chattering bluejay hopped back and forth on the awning, triumphant. "You bastard!" I hissed. It's my go-to insult for parties that won't/can't hear to when I was a little kid...but I'll save that story for another time.

The sparrow wasn't moving much, and it it was bleeding. I could see its tiny heart beating through its skin. I picked it up and cradled it gently in my hand. It didn't struggle.

"It's too late," said a middle-aged man, who must have seen the whole thing as well.

"I know." I said. And I knew that it was. Even if the bird's injury's weren't fatal, I couldn't get it back to its nest, and though it looked close to old enough to survive on its own, it was too injured to avoid predators or look for food.

But I couldn't just leave it there.

I stood up and started walking, wrapping my arms gently around the little bird, trying to send it reiki, love, comfort, anything. Just to let it know it didn't have to be afraid. I had a vague idea that I would take it to the park, somewhere green, maybe I could hide it well enough so that no predators would bother it until it had died. When I stopped for the light at the corner, I checked on it again. Its beak had stopped moving.  I concentrated on my fingers, willing there to be a pulse there. There wasn't.

The little sparrow had died. "I'm sorry." I whispered.

The light changed. I crossed the street. I ducked my head a little, not wanting to share the tears leaking from my eyes with the ocean of strangers in Union Square Park. I went up the first staircase, past the cafe tables, climbed over a low fence, tromped through the mulch, knelt down by a dense bush with big leaves.

For a moment I hesitated, afraid I was wrong, and the bird was still alive, but its body was already cooling. I gently lay it down under the bush. I paused. 

I thanked the universe for the life of this sparrow, and I asked that its energy come back into the earth as more love for all of us. 

I prayed the prayer my grandparents had always said, at the end of grace before meals:

"Eternal rest grant unto them, oh Lord, and let the perpetual light shine on them. Amen."

I covered the sparrow with a leaf. I noticed the blood on my hand for the first time. 

"I'm sorry." I said. I swallowed my tears. I walked back to Pret. I got my tea. I went to class.

And because it's Om Factory, Syl asked me how I was, and told her I was said, and she asked me why, and then, to my surprise, I started crying. Hard.

There are two distinct truths at work here:

One: sparrows are plentiful, and jays are known to raid nests and kill the young there, to protect and expand their territories. Mother Nature played out a familiar chain of events, a chain of events that hurt no species, and perhaps even long-term helped the species by ensuring the survival of only the fittest sparrow young.

Two: a tiny, innocent life was ended in a violent way. There was nothing I could do to save that life. All I could do was be there, to try to offer comfort to ease the passage, to honor this life.

I've been challenging my heart to be open to both of these truths, to live both of these truths, ever since.

I choked out the story to Syl, blew my nose, splashed water on my face, took a deep, shuddery breath, and said,

"You don't usually get confronted with death in your daily life."

She told me I did a good thing, that I was there for bird in its last moments.

I believe that. I want to believe that.

You don't usually get confronted with death in your daily life. But without death, there is no life.

Live Omily,

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Omily Tarot: What Was the Answer Again?

Last time we did a tarot blogpost, you may remember this spread...
This blogpost, FINALLY, we're going to interpret this business! That means this is your last chance to draw your own conclusions about what these cards mean in these positions before I spill the beans. If you don't remember, or missed the post on the question behind this spread, then click here to read my previous Omily Tarot post: "What Was the Question Again?" Go ahead; I'll wait.


So, at first glance, all I could see in that three of swords was how I was feeling: disappointed, hurt, and, irrationally, even a little bit betrayed. I thought maybe reflecting such uncomfortable feelings back at me was the tarot's way of telling me it was time to let ago and try something else...but then I zoomed out a little. Um...a tarot card depicting a hard being stabbed by swords? About whether I should continue my work with the broken hearted? Suddenly the three of swords started to sound like a resounding, YES! Like, yes, it's tough, you don't have to deny that. But this is NOT the time to give up! This is the Goddess Tarot, so naturally, I took a peek in the book it comes with to see if there are any particular insights for me. I was intrigued by the explanation for the eye in the center of the heart: 'an eye-opening experience that can bring tears or insight...sorrow that can enlighten, or debilitate'. I have a choice, here: I can let myself get discouraged and give up all together, or I can seek to learn from my lack of success so far, and keep moving forward.

Next, I turned my attention to the Six of Staves. This card is a card about victory, about successfully moving past a big challenge, and celebrating that fact. This was a little confusing at first. I should focus my goals and energies on...celebrating what I had already succeeded at? It didn't take long for the light bulb to go off, though. The message is, I can learn a lot more from my successes than from my failures in this case. I need to focus my energy on what's working, try to discern why it's working so I can apply those principles to the areas where I'm stalled. I need to turn off my negative mindset that's making me feel so discouraged, and focus on where I'm finally seeing success. I also took note of the fact that this card immediately follows the Five of Staves: a card about learning to collaborate, and share resources for everyone's greater good. That was my card of the year for 2015, so any reference to it, no matter how oblique, usually turns out to be relevant. I'm going to keep my eyes open for chances to collaborate with others to further the reach of my program, and just for ways to help others succeed, remembering that it's not a zero sum game.

Next up, the Ten of Cups: a beautiful, blissful card of completion and new beginnings. Somehow, this joyful card didn't immediately make me feel good like it usually does. What was it doing in the position of 'What's missing in my current approach?'? Um, success? Way to rub it in, Subconscious!! But what I was really seeing was an echo of the message from the previous card: I need to keep a positive attitude. I need to believe that just by putting together this program, I've accomplished something big. I've found my rainbow, and all I need to do is keep my eyes looking up at those bright colors until I get to the pot of gold at its end. More specifically, I need to believe in this program, and I need to believe in how it can help others. If I approach others from a place of service, they'll respond positively. If I approach them from a place of uncertainty, like I'm selling them a car I haven't tried to start yet, they won't.
We've made it to the bottom row! Next card up is the Ten of Pentacles! Wow, two tens in a single reading?? There's a strong message of abundance and success here. It's great to see such a positive coins card, too, since I'm concerned about the practical, financial viability of offering this program. In a way, this card seems to be reminding me that it takes money to make money. I need to conquer my fears of making carefully considered wise investments as needed to help my business grow. Perhaps even more so, I need to conquer my fear of making a lot of money! I frequently run up against the idea that there's a dichotomy between people who have lots of money, and people who care about others, and the planet. I know it's not true rationally, but I need to feel its true in my heart as well. The Goddess Tarot booklet also talks about the completion of business plans, and expansion. Maybe I need to sit down and spend time working on the more practical, day-to-day portions of my business before the clients will start rolling in. Maybe the universe is doing me a favor by keeping them at bay because I'm less ready for them than I think I am!

The last card in the reading throws this pretty picture for a bit of a loop, though: it's a major arcana card, and it's reversed,'s number 13...Death, or in this particular deck, Transformation. Could I be in my own way because I'm in too big a hurry to make changes and try different things? Am I looking for too sudden and dramatic a change in my lifestyle as a healer and facilitator, rather than trusting the universe that I'm on a steady, upward slope? This being a Major Arcanum indicates that this is an important aspect of the reading. The Goddess Tarot booklet suggests that the issue is a big change that has to occur. The reading seems to have made it clear that I should not change my program at this whats this big change that I may or may not be resisting? Or is my urge to MAKE a big change, and abandon this program for something more fruitful though I don't know what that could be the very thing that's holding me back? Transformation is exactly what I promise for my clients. Maybe it's the last thing I need in my own life right now. After spending years putting myself out there as a healer,  and training HARD as an aerialist, I definitely sometimes feel entitled to lightning strike success, like things should just WORK already. But that's not a super helpful attitude. I'm not entitled to anything but my own efforts, but if I trust in the divine, and follow my intuition to stay on the right path, I will receive all that I need, including material affluence. It's time to take deep breaths, and trust the process. 

For any number of reasons, my program didn't immediately take off into the stratosphere, but it's still important work, and if I keep my attitude where it should be, and devote time and energy to my program being the best it can be, and being ready for my clients, they will come, slowly but surely.

So, how did this compare to your interpretation of the cards? Did this reading have any relevance or advice for you on your own journey? Think you'll be able to use this spread for yourself? I hope that it was interesting for you to observe how I make use of traditional tarot interpretation, the interpretations suggested for a particular deck, and my own understanding of the cards to find the most relevant and resonant message for me in any giving reading.

Happy Taroting!

Monday, June 8, 2015

Eating Omily: Confessions of a Kitchen Witch

Ah, these precious early days of the growing season are so fleeting...a friend of mine's daughter recently turned two, and in her mix of nostalgia, awe, and bittersweetness, I detected a reflection of what I felt today when I a friend asked me if I was still seeing ramps anywhere in the market, I couldn't find any asparagus, and my farmer friend Ed warned me that he thought there would only be two more weeks of strawberries.

No more asparagus and strawberries?? How can it be?! Oh, it can. And it's a big part of what makes strawberries so sweet, and asparagus so scrumptious. And, it's why preserving is such a big part of the lifestyle if you're living la vida local!

Frozen asparagus, pickled ramps, and strawberry jam...they're all deals with the devil. Magical alchemy that turns vinegar and/or sugar, heat and/or cold into time capsules of a specific time of year.

If you do much preserving, you just might believe in witchcraft...or take the title for yourself. I mean, it's pretty though to think of it as a metaphor when you're stirring a bubbling caldron!

Participating in the cycles of nature feels incredibly empowering, and preserving foods in season isn't the only way to do it.

Composting feels great, too, and doesn't have to entail a heap in your backyard, or a bin of worms in your kitchen. I keep a gallon bag in my freezer, and put all my kitchen scraps in there. Once it's full, I take it to the Farmer's Market, where there's a compost drop-off. I buy compost and compost-enriched potting soil back for $1/pound! You might be surprised to learn that a compost drop-off program, or even a compost pick-up program, exists where you live. Do some googling!

Doing a little foraging can be a fun exercise in connecting to nature, too. There's a certain patch of raspberries I spotted a few years ago in Prospect Park, and each year I try to time it just right to pick a ripe basket-full before birds and other Brooklynites scoop them all up. Thankfully, raspberries being the tenacious plants they are, that little patch is getting bigger and more fruitful every year!

This coming Saturday, I'll be doing some witchcraft/kitchen alchemy/preserving myself: making a couple different kinds of strawberry jam, and some rhubarb chutney!! I'll have lots of fun pictures for you in my next Eating Omily Post, but if you can't wait that long, you should start following my on instagram: @Emily.Hursh, and vine: Emily Hursh. You'll get to see the magic by Saturday afternoon!

Of course, making jam and pickles from scratch, and then canning those things for shelf-stabilization is a somewhat complicated process requiring very specific techniques and tools. Freezing is more accessible, and a great way to start!

You'll want to freeze your produce individually, spread out in a single layer on baking sheets, so that you can take a little or a lot, as you need it, any time. Give your produce at least twelve hours to freeze all the way through. You can let it hang out on the cookie sheets in the freezer for up to forty-eight hours. Don't leave it much longer, or it will start to dehydrate, and absorb flavors from the air in there, both of which do not make for tasty alchemy. Move the produce to an air-tight container, and remove as much air as possible from the container. Zip-top bags are the easiest way to do this. I reuse them for compost until the zipper wears out, then rinse them out thoroughly, and drop them off at Whole Foods, where there's a recycling container especially for plastic bags and other stretch plastics.

Got specific questions about preserving the magic? Speak now, or forever hold your peace! Or, just ask about preserving cherries, and peas! Those are what's next on the horizon!! :-D

Monday, June 1, 2015

Cringe-worthy, or Cracking Up?

In case the embedded video doesn't work:

Bam. That's it. That's today's blogpost. Mostly.

So, what do you think about it? My reaction, encapsulated by the comment on the Facebook post I first saw it in was, "giggle...snort..." How about yours?

Does it suck that spiritual people are being made fun of...or does it suck that there are so many 'spiritual' people that you recognize in this character? Unless of course there aren't...Can we sometimes relate to this character? Can we ADMIT that we can sometimes relate to this character?

Can it be OK to relate to this character? I mean, it doesn't make you a total asshole to revert to chakra babble you don't really understand when trying to explain why you love doing a really tough yoga pose, right? Buuuuut, does it make you an asshole to make fun of someone else for doing that? Is it better or worse if you have a really thorough grounding in the chakra system, and can therefor talk about it intelligently, and know exactly what's incorrect when someone else doesn't?

What about his videos on gluten intolerance and vegetarianism, and open relationships? Maybe we can laugh at some of them and not others?

I'm not proposing any right answers to any of these questions. To me, intentionally or not, this guy is holding up a mirror to a lifestyle I tend to consider irreproachable. It's a chance for Svadhyaya, my favourite Niyama: self-study. You can learn a whole lot by observing your reaction to this video, and then exploring the thought patterns behind that reaction.

So, what do you think? What can you learn? And can you find a place of compassion from which to respond if you experience a strong anger reaction?

Live Omily,