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Monday, March 10, 2003

Uncover and serve

Another sunny patch.

I cut and stacked wood, all the while mindful that woodburning, which is how this family has heated its dwellings for twenty-seven years, is increasingly frowned upon.

Using a noisy and polluting lawn-mowing device, I shredded the leaves and hay that have been lying heaped about the garden. Then, using seeds acquired from a company owned by a Fortune 500 conglomerate, planted michihli, more beets and kale, white radishes, and three kinds of tomatoes in flats in the greenhouse.

Hung Tzu-ch'eng, writing about 1600, said that "Mountains and forests are scenes of wonder. Once they are frequented by people, they are debased into market-places. Calligraphy and paintings are things of beauty. Once they are craved by people, they are degraded into merchandise."

The trick, unless I hope to move to a desert island (which would, as Hung could point out, immediately devalue the island), is to wok primarily on one's mindfulness, to become, through re-training of my own mind, not a merchandiser nor a buyer of merchandise where Jasper Mountain is concerned. It should be simply there, as it has practically always been, of interest to this short-lived creature but not to be possessed by it.

There is always the hope of extending this non-possession to a wider and wider range of experience.

A life caught in the web created by the merchandizers need not be lived in vain, if one's mind accepts that there are circumstances and actions, and one can accept the one while carrying out the other mindfully.

Example: a supermarket is a dreadful combination of market forces, the use of bright lights, activity, noise, and the arrangement of goods to tempt us into buying more things than we need, more expensive things than we need, and more processed things than we need. Yet we can enter and buy rice, tofu, pok choi, green onions, mung bean sprouts, a zucchini, and a bell pepper, pay for the items, and walk out again, leaving the vast array of very bad items, nutritionally speaking, unbought and unconsumed.

Choices.

Hung says: "To concur with a web of circumstances is to dismiss it, and is like the harmony between flitting butterflies and fluttering flowers. To accord with an event is to nullify it, and is like the perfection of the full moon as round as a basin of water."

A few years ago, I lived briefly in what is known around college campuses as a "quad." For my $240/month I had the exclusive use of a breezeway, a mailbox, a porch light, a locking exterior door, a 12X14' room with a sliding window, curtains and blinds, a table, two long bookshelves on the wall, a bed, two chairs, a nice vanity with a round sink, hot and cold running water, a closet, several drawers in the built-in vanity cabinet, an overhead light, a telephone jack, and three sets of electrical outlets.

Heat, light, power, and water were included in the rent. A lockable interior door led to a corridor with three other such doors, a bathroom, and a small kitchen with four cabinets and two refrigerators, for the shared use of four residents.

I was within walking distance from my job, groceries, laundry, entertainment, and public transportation. Add a bicycle, a few blankets, books, changes of clothes, a laptop with CD player and headset, toothbrush, soap, a clock, and a few dishes and utensils, and I was set.

My eating habits in this environment became so simple that I seldom met my neighbors, as I pretty much used the kitchen only for storage. On my small dining room table stood a rice steamer with a built-in timer, bought new for under $25. With one of these, you can add a few cups of water to the inner tank, and about a cup and a half to the rice dish, pour in a cup of rice, and set the timer for 35 minutes.

After 20 minutes, snap a stem from your pok choi, trim the greens, and dice up the stem. Take about an inch off the end of your tofu and dice that up as well. Throw these, minus the greens, into the steamer. Take about three inches off the end of a small zucchini and dice that up, leaving a bit of the peeling on each chunk. Throw that in. Dice up some bell pepper and do the same.

With five minutes to go, chop some sprouts up a bit, and, with the pok choi greens, and chopped onion greens, throw all in. Add some basil flakes from a spice jar. When the bell rings, uncover and serve.

Have a glass of water with your dinner.

Leftovers can go toward breakfast (instead of oatmeal) or lunch (with or instead of an apple).

This regimen will give you enough calories and nutrients to sustain you reasonably well for a long time...

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