Stoking the Embers

Wintering with St. Brigid, beets & oranges - Jan. 8, 2020

Dear friends of Bare Bones,

While the year may be new on the Roman calendar, it’s still the heart of winter. Many dark, cold days ahead before spring’s rebirth (see: mob storms Capitol).

With political change on the horizon, it is a time of promise and — still, somehow — a time of precarious waiting. How are we called to be and create in the heart of what feels like an endless winter?

As descendants of European settlers, our ways of being and creating often rely on force: the human will acting upon and transforming the world around us for our own purposes. While perhaps effective for short-run human gain, it’s a long-run disaster for life at large.

We’ve noticed this mode in the way we make New Year’s resolutions: if only we can will ourselves to drop sugar, or run three days-a-week, or not use Instagram while sitting in traffic, then we will be happy, complete. Bullet journals and tracker apps ready, we charge towards the promised land.

How quickly our resolutions disappear — or simply replace one addiction with another.

(We’ve turned our New Year’s resolutions into New Year’s principles, like “write Bare Bones at the edges of our knowing” instead of “publish four times a month.” Learn more through Kathleen Smith’s article, linked at the bottom of this newsletter…)

This month, we’re learning new ways of “wintering,” to borrow a term from Katherine May, asking how we can synchronize our minds and bodies with the cycles and rhythms of the natural world, seeding the earth within and around us so that healing can take root when warmer winds return this spring.

Dale stops by on Wednesday morning — just hours before rioters storm the Capitol — with a five pound bag of navel oranges. They’re from his friends at the Johansen biodynamic ranch in California. As CEO of Lake Winds Natural Food Co-ops, Dale seeks out independent farmers who practice regenerative agriculture, restoring lands, communities, and human health.

The oranges are a gift, a tart, sweet lift on an otherwise bleak day for our country. Peeling and segmenting the oranges is an excuse to step away from my screens.

The oranges glow in my hands like embers, sparking the image of Bridgid, Celtic goddess of field and hearth. As I peel, I envision ancient Celtic women stoking their hearths on cold mornings like these, to awaken the flame for another day of work. They would have “smoored” the embers with ash the night before, bringing the embers low, but not out, to preserve them through the night.

Food is the currency of trust, a crucial bond in the human family. Its lack is a wound on full display in the day’s events. Dale’s gift is a balm, connecting me to his friend’s California ranch, its broad-shouldered orchards casting warmth into my Midwestern kitchen. It’s as though Brigid, who blesses the fields, thresholds, and hearths, is present in this offering, balancing light and dark, tart and sweet, rough peel and tender flesh. These tensions ignite my creativity, and I fetch my knife and a basket of beets I bought last week at the market. Brigid is also a goddess of poetry.

The recent Grand Conjunction in the night sky is a rare confluence of opposites: Jupiter, the planet of expansion and freedom, and Saturn, the planet of discipline and structure. Creativity requires both, and cooking is a poetry that beckons the earth back into our bodies.

And so, I offer this simple dish of earthy, local beets and celestial oranges from distant lands as a small gift to you. May it ground and enliven your body, mind and soul during this time of pain and uncertainty.

Beet and Orange Salad

Serves 4 to 6

2 beets, scrubbed

2 large navel oranges, peeled

1 large handful dark greens

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice

3 tablespoons hazelnut or olive oil

1 teaspoon honey, to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a preheated 350 degree oven, roast the beets until tender, about 1 hour. Remove and allow to cool enough to handle. Peel the beets and slice ¼-inch thick. Slice the oranges into wheels, then halves.

Arrange a bed of greens on a plate and then pile the beets and oranges on top.

In a small dish, whisk together the orange juice and lemon juice, then whisk in the oil, then honey to taste. Drizzle over the oranges and beets and season with salt and pepper.

What’s nourishing us this week:

  • Break the Cycle of New Year’s Resolution Disappointment: Why therapists recommend principles over resolutions - Kathleen Smith (Forge)

  • Tending Brigid's Flame: Awaken to the Celtic Goddess of Hearth, Temple, and Forge  - Lunaea Weatherstone

  • What If You Could Do It All Over? The uncanny allure of our unlived lives - Joshua Rothman (The New Yorker)

  • What Now? The different ways we change, build, form, or adapt what we believe and how we live when we want to find what is next - The Liturgists Podcast

Thanks for being here! This year, we’re aiming to publish like this once each week, with a meditation, a recipe, and “what’s nourishing us.” At the end of each month, we’ll publish a longer newsletter with interviews, original reporting, and guest posts.

More soon,

Beth and Kip