teff carob pancakes with persimmon

The world I walk around in every day here in Moscow changed forever last weekend when 3 people were shot and killed and another critically injured by the adoptive son of one of the victims. I didn’t know anyone involved in the shooting directly, but Moscow is a small town, and, I used to like to joke, that means there’s only one degree of separation. I felt that very painfully this week, since many of my long-time friends WERE friends with those who died, or knew their family members. I fall into that last category. The grown son of one of the victims, who was a prominent businessman in our community, is my financial advisor. I had prayed, absurdly, that maybe it was his uncle instead of his Dad, who had been killed. Both have given many years of service to this community. But no.

In this day and age when “reaching out” means posting a comment or reuqesting a friend on a social media forum, one of the things I’ve always loved best about Moscow is that people often place each other, and spend time talking in public places to each other, by finding out who they know in common, who their kids know in common, who lives where someone else used to iive, and so on. While it may seem like an outdated version of  elders interested who your “people” are, it actually seems to happen quite spontaneously in the course of conversation and enraptures both young and old alike.

When I bought my house last Spring, I can’t help but believe part of sealing the deal had to do with me walking in to this young couple’s home and all 3 of us discovering we were artists; that we had been in the same collaborative art show, they as visual aritsts and me as a poet (I remembered their work without having known them); that I already knew the next door neighbor they praised (she works at the university library); and best of all, that the husband had known my son Mike when they were both art students in sculpture lab, also at the university. By the time I left, we were hugging. By the next day, I was buying the house.

And that’s not all. When I told another artist friend of mine about my new house adventure, she asked me where it was. She had often told me of a little house she and her husband had lived in when they first married over 30 years ago. As she would talk about it, I would think to myself, “that sounds so cute. I wonder if I’ll ever find a cute little house like that I like as much as the one I have now.” When I told her the address, there was a shocked pause on the other end of the phone. Then: “Maria. That’s the house. The one we used to own when we were first married.” When I was going through the rezoning process for my old house on Asbury Street, it also turned out that one of the city councilmen, back on the council after many years off, had lived in the one I was buying in between when my friends and the young couple had. Somehow this made him more eager to support the rezone. You get the idea. Just about one degree of separation.

So when something goes this wrong, and someone this troubled and armed (tragically but, in my unpopular view on gun control here in Idaho, also regrettably) it really DOES affect everyone. And in order to go on, we all go into that place of finding comfort in grief through interconnection. I noticed a moving example of this just a couple of days after the shooting while standing in line at the grocery store near my new house. The young man who was checking the groceries was apparently asking each customer if they knew anyone involved in the shootings. The woman ahead of me had known the manager of a food establishment who had been killed. Though she didn’t know her well, it seemed to help her to say what she knew, and how shocked and sad she was. When it was my turn, this young man asked me, too. I could see in his eyes he had something to say, so when I said no, not directly, but it had affected a lot of my friends,  and it was making me very sad, I took my own turn and asked him if he knew any of the victims. He said he may have seen one of them who was a popular and well loved physician’s assistant in the community at the student health center when he was a student at the university once or twice. “But,” he said, “my Dad’s a doctor in the emergency room, and I’m sure HE knows her.” His eyes were bright with trauma, and trying to be kind, do the right thing, and hold it all together. It nearly  moved me to tears.

I’m not sure how we all go on from here, but I know it will have something to do with reinforcing our interconnectedness and trying to put one foot in front of the other. Trying to wake up to notice and share the simple pleasures of the day, like a friend who posted a shot of  the moon high in the sky at sunrise a few days ago. Or someone who shared with us loving  messages of comfort a neighbor had written on car windows and hoods after a slight dusting of snow. Even the obituaries have details about those who died that make us feel as if we know them, even if we didn’t.

Breakfast is a literal way to start over. And teff is the smallest of all the grains/seeds. And yet it is a true powerhouse–full of calcium, high in protein, and very filling. When I need fortification and to be sure to stay full for a long time, these are the pancakes I make. I like to think that it’s going to be the tiniest of things that save us from being completely swallowed by the depth of grief. The flour I used in these pancakes is made from teff that is grown in our region. So perhaps it is a way of saying we have within us the resources to go on, and to make the world better in memory of those who did that so well and had to leave us so suddenly and so violently.



Many years ago, Joan Didion wrote at the beginning of The White Album that “we tell each other stories in order to live.” An excellent New York Times Opinionator blog post called “Getting Grief Right”  puts forth a similar  notion, reminding us the power of telling the story of our loss  instead of worrying if we are stuck too long in anger or denial or depression. I tell the stories I tell here for the same reasons: to tell these stories helps me to live. I spent the week after this shooting very sick with a flu bug of some sort, and only now am I returning to what I might have called “normal” before all this happened. But that’s the nature of living story. If it’s a powerful one, it changes us forever.

This afternoon I posted a link to my blog’s facebook page for someone on McDougall Friends. When I saw my happy smiling self holding those prize mushrooms, I wanted to be her again, without the knowledge that such a horrible tragedy had happened yet again in our community.  It’s happened a handful of times in the 22 years I’ve been here which is way, way too many times. I kept it up for a while, and let my former innocence haunt me. Eventually she called me back here, to tell you the story. And to remember that 3 days before it happened, it was my birthday. And there was bright sun with no wind for over an hour in the middle of the day. That I had sat in that sun with my eyes closed, soaking up some much needed vitamin D. And that as I had done that, I realized that that, and that alone, was what I  really wanted to do on my birthday: to sit in the sun in the tiny little forest that is now my front yard, and feel in that January sun the inevitable promise of Spring.

I didn’t know that within the hour after I came in that gift would be swallowed up by a tule fog and freezing rain that would last for days. I didn’t know there would be such violence shrouded in that mist of days to follow. I didn’t know I would be telling you this story. I just knew I was sitting in a little tiny forest in the sun, a wonderful place for healing to begin. When the sun came out again a couple of days ago, and my fever had broken, I sat there again, my eyelids closed, soaking up the promise of Spring for a few precious minutes. Somehow, in these small moments, and in the tiniest of grains or seeds, great strength to continue is imminent. I have to believe that. And so I do.

Maria (moonwatcher)







PB2, Cranberry Sauce, Sourdough Spelt 2

Since I moved about a mile or more northeast, the shortest distance to a grocery store puts me at a market that has surprised me with its abundance of great organic produce and a section called “Huckleberries” within it that duplicates much of what I can get at the co-op. On icy days or second walks in the early almost dark of winter, it’s often the destination Romeo and I choose to stretch our legs, warm up for a few minutes and pick up some extra greens or sweet potatoes. It’s bigger than the co-op, so I’ve made it my new “job” to try and discover new things in it each time I go.

I’ve had some very pleasant surprises.The first one was a full line of Walden Farms Salad Dressings, a brand I first heard of as “safe” food from a McDougall book. Fat Chance I’ll ever see those in Idaho, I had thought to myself. Evidently the chance is “fat (free)” indeed and I had a good laugh on myself to discover they have arrived, or possibly been here all along. They are not sodium free, but I’ve never been one to use a lot of salad dressing, and right now I’m having a ball with an occasional tablespoon of dairy free gluten free “blue cheese” dressing on my salad or my potatoes and greens. (Back in my 20′s my favorite out-at-lunch meal was a huge salad with blue cheese dressing and croutons.)

But the subject of this post came about when I discovered another product I’d read about in McDougall territory–the low fat peanut butter powder called PB2. Always the skeptic, I could not imagine why it would be worth it to buy this if I just wanted to use a little bit of peanut butter. But the new year is a good time to try new things, so when I saw it on the shelf in the Huckleberries part of the market, I decided to try it out. And it is, to my taste, delicious. And without the saturated fat, much easier for me to digest and handle. Better yet, it allowed me to try out another idea I’d read about on this Engine 2 blog post about Cranberry Love. There’s a recipe for sugar free cranberry sauce on that blog post, with a suggestion to have it with oatmeal (not likely since I’m into the simplicity of my fig and twig tea oatmeal these days), and another to try it with nut butters for a different kind of PB and J experience. That caught my attention. I did do a little tweaking to the basic cranberry sauce recipe given on the E2 blog, and I’ll share that with you here.

A word of caution: these salad dressings and PB2 products, though they have been recommended by the McDougalls (but not by Jeff Novick), are processed foods. I use them in small amounts. A little does not make me want to dump the whole jar or bottle into a recipe and eat it all. They do not contain oil, or dairy or gluten or high fructose corn syrup. The salad dressings contain no sugar, the PB2 has a little. They aren’t terribly salty either. But if you are a person who has trouble using small amounts of processed condiments, or if your particular health condition flares with even a little processed food, then these products might not be right for you. If you can handle a little, though, it’s nice sometimes, as my son said in support of my use of these products, “not to have to make everything.” Amen.

Maria (moonwatcher)



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