At the bottom of this post is a little recipe for green beans.

In-between is lots of other stuff. Skip ahead if you're the utilitarian type. Many days, that's me. 

Thanks to my friend Elizabeth, I'm now part of a neighborhood Facebook page for women who are exercising (or trying to). I love seeing everyone's posts: "Saw you on the trail this morning--woo hoo!" or "My goal is 50 miles this month." They make me want to get out there.

So I am. I've even tried a few runs lately, which is fraught with anxiety for me. I don't talk about it much here, but I had a back injury over 5 years ago that has resulted in daily pain ever since. Sometimes my pain is a level 1 or 2, most days it's a 3 or 4, and there are moments of TEN. I've had at least 3 years of physical therapy, lots of massage (not the relaxing kind), acupuncture, an MRI, an x-ray. The diagnosis is that my lower back is tight as all get-out and won't flex for anything. It's kind of like riding in a car without shocks. I feel everything. And there's nothing that can be done for it except be diligent with my exercises, keep moving, and not doing anything stupid (like moving couches or entering a weight-lifting competition).

Yesterday, running on the trail with Padré (my perfect dog), I had alternating thoughts of "I hope to God I'm not totally *&$#ing up my back, " and "I'm doing it! Thank you, Jesus!" I decided to go with the latter. All of us have reasons NOT TO (exercise, meditate, take a risk, be vulnerable). For the last 5 years, my caution has been my back pain. It's not going away and I need to be careful, but I also have to LIVE. 

My spiritual director quotes Ilia Delio: "God is love, the fountain fullness of love, the unstoppable love of love itself, always in the process of becoming more love." In other words, love doesn't run out! Goodness doesn't run out! It's not a zero-sum game. Sometimes I think, "I'm so content in my life right now. When is the other shoe going to drop?" My spiritual director said to me, "Never. You don't have to wonder, 'Would I be content if I were paralyzed tomorrow?' All you have to do is be present NOW and trust you'll have what you need when things change (or your back gives out)." Unstoppable love.

I know I'm dipping into the aquifer of the Spirit when I start to write poetry. That's been happening (though my spiritual director cautioned me that I haven't fully let go yet. I agree with her). This one is about my 10-year old Wyatt and the unstoppable love I have for him. And the way dynamics are bound to change over time. That's the letting go part.

Dropping you off at Camp

These days, you’re a front-seat passenger.
You like to fiddle with the radio,
finding a song you can sing to,
one you can feel.

I try not to ask too many questions—
how summer is going,
if you’re nervous about fifth grade,
if you pray before you fall asleep
or if you ever get scared.

Instead, I bury myself in the pure pleasure
of being next to you,
sharing a car ride, humming along,
shoulder-to-shoulder before all the years
we’re not.


And here's the beans for you practical types.

Green Beans with Korean Vinaigrette
Parboil some very fresh green beans (thank you, Sage and Sky, for growing ours!). Do this by bringing a lot of salted water to a boil, dropping your cleaned and trimmed green beans in, bringing back up to a boil, and setting the timer for 3 minutes. Dump them into a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Make your vinaigrette by combining 1 minced garlic clove, 1 Tb. of Korean chile paste, 1 Tb. sesame oil, 2 Tb. vegetable oil, 1 Tb. honey, 1 Tb. toasted sesame seeds, a bit of crumbled seaweed, 1 Tb. rice vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooled green beans and sprinkle some more sesame seeds on top.

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Loads of Herbs

green bean salad

There are lots of days when I think, "My life is a piece of cake." Then there are others when I stand outside myself and observe, and I think, "!#$%*. I'm exhausted." Today was one of those. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we use the phrase, "I'm so busy!" as some kind of currency that validates our importance, even our very existence. So I'm not into that. All the things I'm doing I have chosen. BUT (you knew this was coming), sometimes I wonder at the extraordinary amount of presence, energy, and coordinating prowess it takes just to live one day in the year 2010. Congratulations. You and I are still here at the end of another day.

And my garden is still growing. I've been a little mum about it this year, but my sweet little plot is thriving. Kale, two kinds of arugula, radishes, spinach, hot peppers, tomatoes, carrots, bush beans, romaine, herbs. My relationship to it has grown healthier over the 4 years I've had it. It used to be that when something got neglected or overgrown, I would either ignore my whole garden for the rest of the summer or rip the imperfect object out. (Lord! Someone take that girl aside and talk to her!) Now, I'm discovering that five minutes of weeding or pruning  goes a long way. I don't need to devote tons of discrete time to it. I just need to notice and engage periodically. Tons of lessons and metaphors in there.

Today, I looked closer at my beans and saw the overnight bounty. Since the beans are exactly similar in color to the bush, I've found I can miss the moment. Really, what is better than reaching down, finding that long, soft pod, and pinching it off?

This (or some version of it)  is my go-to salad for summer potluck and BBQ's. (I said that about this salad, too. I'm allowed to have two.) The potatoes make it hearty and gluten-free, the green beans make it crunchy and beautiful, and the olive oil dressing satisfies the mayo-haters of the world. (God bless 'em, I just can't relate.)

Wherever you are tonight, I hope something in your life is growing--your garden, your children, your sense of purpose or the amount of time you spend focusing on beans instead of weeds.

little gardener

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Loads of Herbs
Serves six as a side dish. There are lots of other things you can add to this salad--toasted walnuts or pecans, feta, chevre, thinly sliced red onions. VERY IMPORTANT: Don't toss salad with the dressing until right before serving, as the beans will react with the lemon juice and turn brown if they sit too long (like more than a couple hours).

2 lbs. small, tender potatoes (I used some darling little Yukon Golds from the market)
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
2 large garlic clove, minced
zest and juice of one large lemon
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Couple handfuls of fresh herbs--I used oregano, lemon thyme, and mint

Wash and boil potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool.

Blanche green beans until just tender--1 minute if they're very thin, 3 minutes if they're beefier. Immediately drain in a colander and run cold water over them so they stop cooking. Don't space out here. Mushy green beans will wreck this salad.

To make dressing, combine garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. Whisk olive oil in a stream until emulsified. Dump half your fresh herbs in and whisk a bit more.

Right before serving, combine potatoes, beans, and dressing, tossing gently with your hands. Scatter remaining herbs over the top and serve at room temperature.