Archive for December 2010

Wisdom, Buddha, and Freedom

December 14, 2010

“Excuse me,” says the woman in the blue van, pulling up alongside me.  “Have you seen two loose dogs running around? ”   “No,” I pant, and realize it’s true.  She zooms off, and I smile to myself, celebrating the wisdom of choosing a new running route.  I have not seen a single dog off-leash for the past week.  I am running up Granite Street, chugging like a locomotive.  The hill is long and steep; the exhaust from the passing cars is thick as it enters my lungs.  It’s only for a mile or so, breathing this bitter air, before I turn onto Phillips Ave. in Pigeon Cove.  The new route leads my by the sea on the other side of town, this side where the dogs are either on leashes or indoors.

The sidewalk on Granite Street is uneven at best, nonexistent at worst.  The uphill section is mostly during the beginning of my run, and the six mile loop has the payoff of a long, long downhill on the last third of my run.  I have the option of going all the way to Halibut Point and adding another two and a half miles on days I want more, and can also sidetrack down Curtis Street and Stockholm if  I want to add another mile or more on top of that.   I keep my eyes to the ground, watching closely for bumps and lumps and holes, careful to avoid the construction trucks that line the edge of the street where houses are being reconstructed in the most mammoth of fashions.  I pass the garage where I take my car to be fixed, the old Pigeon Cove firehouse, the Yankee Clipper where my son works on the weekends.  I don’t see anyone I know, but already have met and greeted a couple of other runners out on my schedule.

I make the turn onto Phillips Ave., pass the Emerson Inn, and head down the quiet, flat street, stealing glimpses of the ocean on my right.  I can’t see the Twin Lights from here, but look ahead to Andrew’s Point.  The surf is high, crashing tremendous curls onto the granite shore.  As I close in on the end of Point De Chene, I can feel salt spray on my cheeks.  The houses seem dangerously close to the sea on this street; the waves lick the foundation of one house and burst upon the windows of another.  I like the way the stone buildings hold their own against the winter waves’ assault.

The air is cold and damp.  My cheeks are frozen, but the thick gel I have slathered on before the run does its job, preventing frostbite on the exposed skin.  I round the corner onto Vine Ave., and suddenly am out of the wind and running on a dirt road in the woods, the ocean out of sight behind me.  It’s a tiny street, uphill, with almost no houses.  I explore with my eyes as I turn onto Linwood, which connects back to Point De Chene. I pass a tiny bungalow with a purple front door.  It looks like the kind of house from an Alice Hoffman novel, falling down with both neglect and love.  A chubby Buddha presides over the untidy garden, keeping watch.

The bright fiddles of The Corrs on my iPod bring a dance to my step and the sweetness of the music reflects the ease of my mood.  I run back along Phillips Ave., breathing easy, grateful for the peace I feel on today’s run.  The Black Eyed Peas take me down the hill, their upbeat rhythms reach deep into every muscle in my legs and I fly back down Granite Street, the freedom and joy of running returned to its rightful place, fear and pepper spray left in the dust behind me.

Cookie Monster

December 8, 2010

Cookies are my downfall.  I love a crispy, chewy, chocolaty cookie with my tea.  Or with my coffee.  After lunch and after dinner.  I have not made many cookies since we have become vegan, mostly because my very best cookie recipe, the one from my mom that I have bastardized over and over with great success, is not vegan and I have been a little anxious about changing the recipe once more and having an  outcome that disappoints.  Plus, I really have some issues with cookies.  I never eat one or two.  I eat six or seven and still want more.

People who love me tell me I shouldn’t worry about being a cookie monster.  They tell me I can use the calories.  I’m not really worried about calories.  I’m worried about eating too many cookies!   But, it is winter, after all.  Baking heats up my kitchen nicely, the rich scent of melting chocolate fills my house, and my family seems happier when they are stuffing their mouths with cookies still warm from the oven.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s cookbook The Vegan Table has an easy little recipe for Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies, tucked in between Cauliflower with Spicy Vinaigrette and Tofu “No Eggs” Benedict.  I made these cookies exactly as the recipe instructs the first time.  I ate about 10 of them right away.  I did use a mini ice cream scoop to form the balls, and got about three dozen cookies.  The second time (next day!) I subbed 1/4 cup cocoa nibs for 1/4 cup of the chocolate chips and added 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, yielding 40 cookies.  The third time I made them (next day!!) I immediately took half of the cooled cookies and placed them in a freezer bag to take to my mom, the best judge of a good cookie.

She seemed doubtful on the phone, but when she opened her bag of cookies and ate one, she called me right away.

“Good cookie!  I gave one to your father, too.   Then I ate another one when I walked down the hall.  Good cookie!”

Today I am making a double batch.  One for me, one for my family…


Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau)

Ingredients:

1 Tbsp. ground flaxseed whisked together with 3 Tbsp. water until thick and creamy (substitutes for 1 egg)

3/4 c Earth Balance or other vegan margarine

1 c sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 c whole wheat pastry flour

1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 tsp. each baking powder and baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

1 c vegan chocolate chips, (Ghiradelli’s semi-sweet are vegan)

Method:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Using an electric mixer or food processor, cream vegan margarine and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add flaxseed mixture and vanilla and mix until incorporated.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Use a whisk to mix dry ingredients together well.

Add the dry to the wet and mix well.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Form dough into balls and flatten slightly on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake 7 minutes.  Allow to cool slightly before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

The cookbook claims the yield to be 12 cookies, or 6 servings. I honestly got 3 dozen cookies from a single batch, and when I added the cocoa nibs and walnuts, eked out 40.   The size of the ball my small ice cream scoop makes is about the size of a large walnut.

The addition of cocoa nibs and walnuts gives these perfect cookies extra texture and crunch.  Either way, they are wonderful!

Flashback

December 7, 2010

It’s especially cold and windy today; I’m kind of dragging along on this run.  I wear about half my weight again in clothes.  Sports bra, base layer, thermal layer, fleece.  Wind-resistant, fleece lined vest, Ragg wool mittens, long polar fleece scarf, fleece headband.  Thick SmartWool crew socks, Nike Free sneakers, and the super-warm winter running tights.  My sunglasses keep fogging up when I pull the scarf around my face to melt my cheeks.  Numb lips, yet somehow there is sweat trickling down my back.  I know I have to keep going, otherwise the sweat will get cold and I’ll never make it home before I freeze to death out here.  My legs feel like lead; I recently read somewhere in running literature, perhaps Runner’s World Magazine, that during winter training, every mile is like two.  Today, every mile feels like ten.

I pass a lady who is speed-walking.  She wears only a heavy sweatshirt, capri pants, and sneakers.  Not even a hat!  Aren’t you cold? I ask.  Not yet, she chirps, and I shiver just looking at her.  I dread Eden Road today, knowing there will be wind and some ice puddles, but decide to run down it anyway.  There are few days left of this season to take pleasure in the spectacular view of the Twin Lights and the wild waves crashing on the dark granite ledge below the edge of the road; I will eschew this route when the ice truly takes over.  I make the turn, wiping my eyes beneath my glasses before the wind-tears freeze on my cheeks.

The dog comes out of nowhere, barking, growling, advancing on me like a nightmare I cannot rouse myself from.  It’s the same one, the brown dog with black markings, the one whose owner rescued me the last time when I stood, frozen in place, only able to scream, the reflex like a hiccup that couldn’t be stopped.  There are two other dogs, smaller, maybe spaniels, who look like they might have been friendly had their companion not been so riled up.

There is no scream today, but I stop instantly and my hand goes right to my pocket, fishing for the pepper spray.  Even with the fat wool mitten on my hand, I am able to pull the small white can out.  I tear off the mitten and drop my voice low.

“Stay.”

I put my hand out in a crossing guard stop position.

“Stay.”

The dog growls deeply in his mean dog throat and advances slowly.  His teeth are bared, and the two smaller dogs dance around him, growling in angry concert.  I hold the pepper spray out in front of me, pointing it at them, trembling, not moving away, but holding my ground.

“Go home!”

It the split second before I aim the trigger at the dog’s face and squeeze, I remember what my sister said about pepper spray.  When she was training to be a corrections officer for a maximum security prison, part of the training program was that each cadet had to experience what it was like to be sprayed with pepper spray.  She said it was one of the most horrible things she had ever felt.  Her eyes burned all day long and when she returned home from that day’s session, she stood in the shower, letting the warm water run on her face.  She stood, and cried and cried.  I do not really want to do this to this dog.  I know it is his owner’s fault, not his.  But I will.

I spray.  The wind takes the spray far from the dog’s face, but he immediately stops moving toward me.  He bends his head to the street, sniffing what had landed to the side of him.  He looks back up and me, meet my eyes, and stands still.

“Go home.”

He stays where he is, the other two dogs lose interest and return to their yard, and I slowly begin to walk away.  I keep my face to the dog, taking one small step at a time, still aiming the can at him.  He remains in the road, watching every step I take.  I edge around the bend, crane my neck to see if he is following me, then take off.

In the past, whenever I have had an incident with a dog, the adrenaline rush has taken me beyond my distance expectations for the run.  This time, I can hardly move.  I force myself along, pushing, pushing, but an old, unwanted feeling from my childhood rears up inside me and I cannot let it go.  I feel bullied by the dog, and that is a familiar feeling that I usually keep shoved way down in the deepest pocket of my self.  Old memories of being teased and taunted throughout most of my childhood come rushing back, and suddenly I am not wiping away wind-tears, but real ones.

Being bullied was what marked my youth like an angry broad stroke of a black, wide-tipped felt pen.  It colored my sense of who I am today, and made me fiercely protective of each of my children’s sense of self.  I spent most of my growing up years wondering what was wrong with me, wondering what kept me from being good enough to have a friend, or at the very least, to be left alone.  I wondered what I did or how I was that made other kids make fun of me—my clothes, my hair, my shoes, my walk. Things I didn’t know about but apparently should have,  like making out, the scoop on sex, all those words I never heard at home and no one at school would tell me what they meant.  And I did everything wrong— a weak-armed lefty throwing a softball short of the pitcher, doing too well on tests and thinking it was good to be smart, being nice to my teachers when I should have been tilting back in my chair and passing notes.   I couldn’t figure out how to be regular.   I reinvented myself a million times just to hide that little girl whose heart had to curl up in a corner and cower to protect herself from what turned out to be just ordinary, mean kids, who grew up to be ordinary, mean adults.

I think and think about fourth grade, my worst year, and struggle home.  I stagger in the front door, rip off my scarf and vest and grab the phone book.  The dog officer returns my call by the time my face has melted and I can actually talk again.  I catch my breath and stand up from my corner when she reminds me it’s normal to be afraid of an advancing, growling, loose dog.  We have a leash law! she says.  She promises to contact the dog’s owner and tell him to keep his dog restrained.

I stomp the old bullies back down into their pocket and log my miles for the day: 5.2— or 10.4, or 52, depending on how seriously I want to take the writers of Runner’s World Magazine and my own interpretation of winter training.