Perfect Health

“Mother Earth,” by Jonathan E. Russell

I feel in perfect health whenever the ocean breeze catches me by surprise – especially in Ireland, where that breeze has traveled over thousands of miles of ocean, and there’s something especially clear about it. I feel in perfect health whenever I’m really, honestly laughing. I feel in perfect health the first many times I smell dirt in the spring (after all that crisp, almost-scentless winter air). I feel in perfect health when I act spontaneously. I feel in perfect health when I first catch sight of a good friend. I feel in perfect health when I fall asleep easily after a long day of fresh air. I felt in perfect health every day I can remember waking up in my grandmother’s house by the ocean (where we spent summers during my childhood, where we spent long days outside, and where we didn’t worry about money or schoolwork or logistics).

I feel that perfect health has both a sense of connection and flow: Connection to the moment, to the environment I’m in, to the people around me. Flow, because in all these times I feel that I can respond fluently to the situation, whether that means physically (being fit and balanced enough to jump down to that rock that’s closer to the waves), mentally (to take part in the banter and make my friend laugh in turn), emotionally (to run with the conversation wherever it’s going), or logistically (to give up the day’s plans for something better).

In most of these situations, being outdoors in the environment figures strongly, too – I know that being near the ocean or at least in a beautiful setting helps me stay in the moment and feel physically stronger. I also feel more nourished (physically and mentally) by the patterns/sounds/smells/textures in nature (light through tree leaves, mountains on the horizon, running water) than by all of the square angles in contemporary architecture and the humming from appliances and gadgets.

(This was originally written in response to a question on Rosemary Gladstar‘s Science and Art of Herbalism course.)


Mother Nature’s Easel: Some Thoughts on Jonathan E. Russell’s Art

Mother Nature’s Wild West, by Jonathan Russell. Used with permission.

When I first started VaguelyBohemian.com, part of the impetus was that I know so many cool people – many of them with nontraditional careers or callings like acting, dancing, juggling, writing, and art.  Now that I’ve got a few blogs under my belt, and a website design that doesn’t make my head spin, I think it’s about time to start paying some virtual visits.

Mother Earth, by Jonathan Russell

Jon and I were already dating by the time I saw his artwork, so you can guess how relieved I was that I loved it.  His style reminds me of stained-glass windows, and I once had a dream about a room completely surrounded by stained-glass versions of Jon’s work.  I think it’s both the shapes Jon uses – which remind me of cut glass – and the gradients of color.  I have “Mother Earth” here at home, and, on those rare occasions when I’m up early, I love to watch this painting as the sun rises:  first just the white edges seem to glow, and slowly, the colors light up too.  It’s almost like watching the sunrise itself.

Waterfall, by Jonathan Russell

“Mother Earth” is part of a series Jon’s been playing with for a long time, where he incorporates the female form into a landscape.  I love the premise for these, and I also love the execution:  While the lines and colors of the paintings are dynamic, there’s also a certain simplicity:  Here are the lines of the body; here are the lines of the landscape.  They’re beautiful as they are, without added sentimentality or (I can personally vouch) without being idealized.

Jon’s Elements series is newer, dating from just the last couple of years.  Most of these pieces are quite abstract – a sort of on-canvas distillation of fire, or water, or ice – but they still contain those dynamic lines and glowing gradients.

Fire, by Jonathan Russell

Like his other work, they also have a wonderful ability to make me look more deeply at the natural world.  When I look away from some artwork, I wish things were different – that I had perfectly-flowing hair, for example.  When I look away from Jon’s work, I’m even more intrigued and impressed by the world that is:  I wonder what it is that makes fire fiery.  I peer at the landscape and try to see the shape of a person lying down in the hills.  I look at the trees and admire the tones and colors of the light coming through their leaves.  Jon’s art doesn’t just make my life richer by brightening up my walls: It also stimulates my imagination and my observations.

I hope you’ll check out Jon’s website and, if you’re so inclined, “like” his Facebook page.  You’ll be able to see more of his paintings and keep up on new developments.  Jon’s work is currently on exhibit at The Gallery at Phoenix Books here in Vermont, so if you’re in the area, you can even see his work in person!


Vermiso Soup

Miso soup is my go-to food whenever I’m feeling a little bit overindulged, motion sick, or just plain queasy.  It helps that it’s yummy and nourishing, and I love to eat it anyway!  Most miso soup contains seaweed, and we don’t have local seaweed in Vermont (what with being landlocked).  But we do have lots of kale!

Vermiso Soup
a little olive oil
1 bunch kale, rinsed and cut into small strips
a leek, chopped
8 cups boiling water
8 tablespoons miso paste

1.  In a large frying pan or wok, saute the kale in the olive oil until tender.
2.  Add leek to kale.
3.  In a separate bowl, measure out miso paste.
4.  Pour most of the water into the frying pan, and enough into the bowl to cover.
5.  Mix miso paste and water.  When it’s all mixed in, pour it into the frying pan with the kale.
6.  Enjoy!

Reheat carefully, without boiling.


Yummy Crunchy Delectable Food: A Post for Blog Action Day 2011

West Show Jersey July 2010 46

I’ve blogged before about ethical issues concerning food, but this Blog Action Day, I’d just like to say a few words about how delightful food is.  There are such a wonderful variety of tastes to choose from:  earthy-sweet carrots, rich cream (or, for me, goat’s milk), nectar-like honey, warming chai.  I’ve gotten to enjoy an even wider range of tastes since I’ve become a fan of tea and, more recently, a student of herbalism.  Any day can be made better by a cup of tung ting, an oolong that tastes like spring, or the oceany gyokuro.  Herbs might taste super-sweet like licorice, refreshing like lemon balm, or harshly bitter like hops, but they’re always interesting.  Herbalist Guido Masé described Rhodiola as that herb that “tastes like roses and then sucks all the water out of your mouth.”  I doubt you could fail to identify the taste of Rhodiola after that description!

Kulikov Bazaar with bagels 1910Food is fun to taste and smell, but it’s also fun to chop and blend and knead – and buy.  When I lived in Philadelphia, my favorite day of the week was Saturday.  My boyfriend and I would walk up to the Headhouse Square farmer’s market.  I’d buy basic veggies from the Amish farmer there, and heirloom tomatoes and other delightful things from the organic farm stand.  Saturday’s market wasn’t as big as Sunday’s, but there was more opportunity to chat with the farmers, and maybe find out what could be done with that strange vegetable I didn’t know the name of.  As a Vermonter, visiting the farmer’s market felt like a little bit of home.  I’d always impulse-buy something that I hadn’t planned on – often kale, which I knew I didn’t like (at the time), but which is so gorgeously richly green I could rarely resist.


We’d tote our goods back home and I would usually spend the day cooking:  Perhaps making a chili-inspired stew with fresh tomatoes and peppers, and maybe some sweet potatoes and kale.  I might make some brown bread or stove-top pizza, too.  Saturdays always seemed so satisfying, and I felt a lift in low-level anxiety that I always had in the city. 

Ferdinand Wagner MarktfrauI think it was because of all of that basic, nourishing sensory stimulation.  This week I read a blog entry over at Three Highlights that said, “Machinating is what we do when we let the mind spin with little more intention, flexibility, or creative openness other than to ‘get things done.’  It’s not the same as thinking. Or musing. Or imagining. Or creating. Or experiencing.”  Since I spent a lot of time on the computer – and was missing my accustomed natural, low-concrete landscape – this was a real danger for me.  But getting and making good food always lifted that cloud and got me back into experiencing and musing and creating.

So, I guess that’s another reason why I like to buy local, from the grower, and to buy whole food that takes a bit of preparation:  I’m getting even more for my money.  I’m not just getting calories, I’m getting nutrients, and tastes, and smells, and textures, and even conversations and friendships.  I’m getting food for the body – and food for the soul.


Conversations over Tea and Dogs