Slow Sunday, dogs & sticks & beautiful beetroot
The windows were covered in raindrops but now it looks as though we may get a sunny day.
I enjoyed this underwater autumn beginning. The pre-dawn darkness kept street lights shining warm on the wet road, cosy. And then, as the light started to appear, deep charcoal clouds changed into pinks and golds. And the seagulls swooped and dived and rode the air currents.
I have my hearing aids in, but it’s very silent, except for the sound of a magpie on a fly by chatak chataking. Then a few minutes later I hear a crow in the distance, and another. That sound takes me back to when I lived in the Midlands—UK—for a couple of years as a kid.
We lived in two villages, Bugbrooke and West Haddon. In Bugbrooke we rented a big old house with window seat window sills and bell rings in all the rooms, on long swishy bell hangs.
We’d never lived somewhere with so much space—born in London, Stoke Newington before it was gentrified, shared a house in Forest Hill then bought our own in Charlton. It had a black and white door that matched our black and white cats, and a garden with orange calendula and crimson peonies. And wasn’t far from the football ground where my sister took me on her shoulders singing, “when the red red robin goes bob bob bobbing along”. Then when I was 7 we moved to an old, rambling stonehouse in Bugbrooke.
Painting of Bugbrooke High Street by Stan Clark
My sister played Cat Stevens and I ran about the garden. The gardens were huge and had a disused hayloft and a pigsty full of stinging nettles.
The crows there, they were plenty. Always on a mission and always cawing. Our four cats loved that garden where in late summer, the plants were covered in caterpillars, and the sun shone low in the sky at the end of the day making the colours of everything rich, deep and vivid, like you could dive into them.
After a few months we left this old stone house and moved into our little modern one in West Haddon, which had been built on ancient land where people rioted with fire to remonstrate about the enclosures in the 1700’s.
We found fossils in the garden and pieces of old clay pipe. The birds were smaller, but there were lots of them and very chirpy, whistling and trilling, unless our cats were out a prowling. We had four, and they would all lie across me when I lazed on the sofa on Friday evenings if I got to stay up late, purring to different rhythms.
Dogs & sticks
There’s a lovely story that I came across, which demonstrates the Buddhist view of how thoughts can trip us up. It’s about throwing sticks for a dog; the dog will always chase the stick. But if you throw a stick for a lion, it will turn and look at you, and you will not throw the stick again.
When it comes to thoughts if we are like the lion, looking back at the mind from where the sticks are thrown, there’s less likelihood of the disturbed emotions being generated, and if they are—because the chemistry that causes them is created quicker than you can click your fingers—well you’ve got some space in the mind to decide not to pick those sticks up either.
And so, I was thinking about how the newspapers and social media can turn us into dogs chasing sticks.
Dogs are lovely, but I don’t want to spend my life picking up sticks, I’d rather turn and see where those sticks are coming from, within my own mind and out there in the world. So I can choose my thoughts, the feelings they generate, my behaviours and perceptions. Or, simply witness, all of it, while my peaceful mind swims silently all around me.
That’s where learning about the gunas of Ayurveda can be useful. This knowledge lays out a clear path for cultivating the mind, through understanding that the habits of our mind are determined by the qualities of the things we take in through our senses, and the sticks we chase after.
Today, I’m going to take in sattva guna, and I’m doing it right now as I look up and stare at the tree out front, through raindrop windows. Noticing red leaves across the road, bright cherry red, still on the tree.
We have lots of beetroot in the garden out back, this pinky purple colour. So I thought I’d roast some up in olive oil to use in different ways. I will make a purée to plate up baked orange sweet potatoes on, some will be for a soup, others I’ll use as a side dish with a dressing, and some for a hummus. Then, I shall roast more sliced rather than cubed, for tarts and quiches. And perhaps, I’ll make beetroot chips.
I’ll pop up some of the recipes as I make them, but I wanted to share the beauty of the beetroot!
Beetroot with sweet potato, sautéd chard, & creamy leek mash
A very simple supper. I just roasted the beetroot and sweet potato in toasted sesame oil and combined these with rainbow chard, that I had sautéd in ghee and freshly grated ginger and a little tamari. I served this with mashed potato that had finely chopped leeks sautéd in garlic butter, mashed through with double cream, butter, salt and black pepper. Then a little squeeze of lemon over the lot. If you know your Ayurvedic constitution this is great little supper for vata types, pitta types use freshly squeezed lime, far too much oil for kapha types.
And so, I’m off out into the day, to see how much Sattva I can spot, as the tree out front, it waves at me.