Thursday, August 30, 2012

Where the dead live

Why do we bury our dead? We insist on placing them in space. We fix them permanently when they are so obviously transient. 
I wondered this as I peered at rows and rows of perfectly straight bleached headstones; bone clean, pristine bystanders overlooking the San Diego cliffs.  The sun rinsed them as the sea spray sanded them clean. Perpetually baptized this way, these mini-lithic effigies peer down at the harbor and downtown's metallic spray of skyscrapers. From Point Loma, the gravestones frame downtown San Diego like patient mystics bobbing their knowing heads. This too shall pass. Dust to dust.  A reminder that everything ends.   
As we drove up the Point towards my father's grave my three-year-old told stories. There are monsters here. The skeletons will get us. The only protection from his imagination was the blue sky, the warmth of the sun, the vibrant green crab grass, and the friendly rolling hills.
I told my kids we were going to see my father and their grandfather. Someone who loved them both very much. But he insists this is a scary place.
A cemetery is a time machine.  A place where we can walk across death and reach out to the ones we loved and still love. They are places of love. They cradle our faith in life. Hug our memories tightly. They make lost time real and emotion tangible. We honor ourselves, our ancestors, our mortality when we visit them. They ground us.
I tell my children that their grandfather is everywhere, in our hearts, in our blood, in our trees and in the air. He is everywhere like all of us will be when we die.  We are all connected. 
Yet as we drove to his grave, I knew I was going to him. It is his place. This cemetery is my father's home. It is where he is.
I was taut as we drove through his lot’s gates.  I did not know where he was exactly.  I knew we were close.  I was feeling my way back to him, remembering coordinates from a pilgrimage made thirteen year ago.
When we parked, I pulled Dana along with me to the end of the last row of headstones. My father's ashes are in a wall, a plaque with his name, birth and death year. The wall reaches from one end of the cemetery to the other. The plaques extend up ten high and deeper than I can remember.  I wondered how I could remember where he was in the undeviating grid. But the instant I had the thought, I spotted him.  In complete focus. All other plaques blurred and dispersed.
He is squatting height on the wall and in an indiscernible spot.  His location is my beacon.  His plaque’s power is unique to me.
I placed my hand on him and pull my daughter closer to me. Years of tears were jerked from me. This was the first time they met.  Dana my father meets Dana my daughter. 
When Daire arrives, I pull both kids tight to me and present my family.  I want him to be proud. 
After my family retreats to the car, a disarray of light, color, images, sound, animation, smells cascade around me.  My father's face, his words, his support, images of dying, my childhood, his hug, his smell, his laughter .  Emotions that only rise in my father’s presence, feeling that are only feelings for my father. They bath me. I’m cleansed. I remember him and in doing so remember who I am.
The plaque was stone and cold under my hands. I kiss his name and feel his closeness. I inventory 15 years. "Am I doing the right thing?”  I ask him. “Am I doing ok?"  I think so but I don't really know.
But I have peace. I have peace with death. As I live my life fully, I have peace as I follow his footsteps.
And I’m grateful for the power of his place.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fruit Skewers

I've got to play with this recipe as it was a big hit that I think could even be better.  The fruit is amazing off the grill and the coconut adds crunch and sweetness.  Lovely. 

What you need.
Fruit for skewers sliced into chunks and in a bowl ready to marinade. 

These two were amazing:
  • pineapples
  • nectarines

I think these would be good to:
  • mango
  • banana
  • apricots
  • plums
  • peaches

1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup mix of fresh coconut, macadamia nuts and raw cashews chopped coarsely.
Sea salt

To do:
  1. Heat up the coconut oil and melt over medium flame.
  2. Add the nuts and gently brown them for flavor.
  3. Marinade the fruit in the oil for at least 30 minutes
  4. Create colorful skewers with the fruit
  5. Sprinkle with sea salt
  6. Grill to a sear but don't overcook.
Watch out, they explode in your mouth.  Wow.

Mouth Watering Shrimp & Chicken Skewers

I just returned from a weekend at a friend's cabin.  We had a lovely dinner on the lake by the fire pit and savored some skewers grilled on the open fire.  The marinade was an experiment that turned divine.  It really made the chicken and shrimp sparkle. The nectarines and pineapple are like fireworks from the grill. 

What you need:
1/2 pound of chicken cut into large cubes
1/2 pound shrimp (uncooked)
1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup avocado oil
2 tablespoons herbs de Provence
a pineapple - sliced into chunks
a couple bell peppers - sliced into chunks
3-4 nectarines - sliced into chunks
1/2 onion - sliced into chunks.
1/2 pint of Cherry tomatoes
Other spearable fruits and vegetables. 

To do..
1.  Marinate the chicken and shrimp in the vinegar, oil and herbs for at least a half hour.
2.  Create skewers with colorful stacks of fruits, vegetables, shirmp and chicken.
3. Grill over the flames until shrimp are pink and chicken is cooked through. 

Best to be eaten in the outdoors, preferably with a view of the lake or beach.  :)