The hunter's moon came and went this past weekend. I was in Pennsylvania, staffing a women's retreat that left me feeling humbled and open. It's an experiential transformation workshop run by an organization called Woman Within International that provides a space for women to process whatever it is they're carrying around, and I forget sometimes that every person I walk past down the street has some dark shadow in their lives, some unexpressed grief, something from their past, something that leaves us lighter when it's released. The weekend reminded me of going to a birth: preparation, excitement, patience, hard work, anxiety, harder work, touching that hardest place, then release and unimaginable lightness and joy. I haven't blogged much over the past two months; I'm taking anatomy this semester at Harvard and remembering what it was like in high school, cramming obscure scientific facts for quizzes (wondering: why am I doing this to myself again?). Between that and my midwifery course, a full time job and teaching childbirth classes in the evening, family visiting, and traveling for the past few weekends, I haven't had time to myself. I turned 30 this month, and all I want is to carve time to look back and look forward (winter facilitates this; I'm eager to turn inwards).
What I know about me being 30 is this: I am less likely to run off, to remake myself so completely, to disappear to another country on a whim or fervent desire for remaking, than I once was. But while I embrace and love my life, I’m mourning the death of a kind of wildness that was in me, and I know that there are lives that could have been, lives that got away. Tomas Transtömer writes: "It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real."
But I also know that the wildness was the fruit of a yearning that closed its howling mouth in recent years (in large part because of the work that I've done with the aforementioned organization). I have less patience for things that take me away from the work of living. I know more of who I am, so much so that I can disagree, that I can advocate for myself and others, that I can follow my instincts, stick to my guns.
So, years pass, seasons change. Fall is here, despite the warm weather. We went to Vermont for a weekend, hiking mountains and picking apples. I came home and pulled up all my summer herbs. They're drying in the kitchen now, hung from the ceiling. I have black walnut oil infusing on the counter, a jar of vitex beside it. It's time to start whipping up thick body cream for the cooler weather, which my skin drinks up when its cold. It's also time for immune tonics and medicinal chicken soups, half-pint jars of which pack my freezer and make a good quick soup base that is beyond superior to anything I might find in the grocery store.
Medicinal soup broth
- Bones: I use chicken carcasses, after they've been roasted and picked over, plus a nice beef bone, and if I'm lucky, 1-2 chicken feet thrown in. The farmer at my meat CSA is very generous with the chicken feet, perhaps because I'm the only person who wants them! Getting the meat from my favorite farm where the chickens wander around in the forest and shade themselves under giant burdock leaves really does make it chicken soup for my soul.
- Veggie scraps: Anything left over from chopping vegetables gets tossed into a bag in the freezer. Those go in the stock, as well as any other traditional stock veggies in the drawer, plus cheese rinds and other random goodies that would otherwise go into the compost.
- Flavor herbs: peppercorns, bay leaves, and whatever else you'd put in a broth.
- Immunity-building herbs: I like to add reishi and/or maitake mushrooms, astragalus, eleuthero to the broth while it cooks, and then calendula a half hour before I stop simmering it.
My favorite soup
- 2-3 pints broth
- grated ginger to taste
- 2-3 cloves garlic (or more, or less, however you roll)
- small handful dried mushrooms
- 1 chopped carrot
- 1 bunch bok choy, thinly sliced
- Rice noodles (I like the delicate, hair-thin kind)
- 1-2 soft boiled egg, carefully peeled
- Dulse (seaweed) flakes
- soy sauce
- hot sauce
Bring the broth to a boil, add the garlic, ginger, mushrooms, and carrot. When the carrot is almost soft enough to eat, add the bok choy and rice noodles, which only takes a minute or so to cook. When ready to serve, toss in the soft boiled egg (believe me, it's the best thing ever), then add soy sauce, hot sauce, kimchi, and dulse flakes to taste. You can also omit pretty much anything or add anything (other kinds of greens, for example), go crazy and make it your own. This soup is exceptionally warming, and I feel like I eat it almost daily in the winter. The recipe above should make about two or three servings.