Blessings in Disguise

Life has, of late, reminded me of a well-known Osho story told to me many, many years ago. Here's a summary (sourced here): 

Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

Our unpredictable human lives don't play out like a neat, well-composed work of fiction. Though we may attempt to read events as good or bad for us, the path will teach us otherwise, as things just don't stop twisting and turning. Awareness and acceptance of the transitional nature of everything around and within us is the only way to make peace with our place in the world.

Here go some less abstract, recent examples:

Blessing #1: Illness and Health: About a month ago (almost 4 weeks and counting), I had to undergo a minor surgical procedure, after which I was not allowed to exercise (other than walking or hiking) for 6-8 weeks. As an active, dedicated yoga practitioner and swimmer, 6 weeks with no exercise seemed at the time completely unfathomable, but, alas, I had no choice in the matter. Thus began a stint of very early morning hikes and long walks in local Tilden Park and the Berkeley hills. Every day, I rise before dawn, while my family sleeps; now, instead of doing my yoga practice at home, I head up into the dense fog (yes, even the fog has captured my heart; now there's an unexpected twist of fate! Its effects on the light, the fact that it changes every day, the dampness other parts of California are lacking in, are all things I have learned to appreciate throughout these past weeks).
Most recently, I have been enjoying the walks from this book enormously; it has  kept me in shape, and made me fall madly in love with the place I chose to live in 2.5 years ago. Its abundant natural and architectural hidden gems, along with the games the fog plays with the light, have managed to bring me to tears of aesthetic joy.
The other day on my walk I stumbled upon a shingle wall posted with poems, one of which was called "Eating Together", the essence of sobremesa: 




I have driven up and down many of the streets these paths wind around innumerable times, yet my pace was never slow enough to be able to admire the small details: the way, at a certain time of morning (never the same time twice), the sun starts forcing its way through the dense fog; a colorful sculpture or mural in someone's front yard; the architectural mastery and diversity of the houses; the variety of vegetation and its particular smell; a stone amphitheater in a tiny park I didn't even know existed; all the narrow pathways and staircases you only manage to see if you are on foot. 
Hence the connection with the slow food style of sobremesa: only when we slow down and pay attention to the small things does true appreciation of life and its quirkiness magically happen. Also, falling in love with the hills is a metaphor for me now; I had always eschewed the Berkeley hills -which require driving any and everywhere, and effort to go up and down- in favor of the more convenient Berkeley flats, where we live (and can actually walk places, a rarity in the US!). Slowing down the pace of things and discovering the beauty up there has shown me just how rewarding taking the high road can be. 

Blessing #2: Let go of a Toxic Job: A bit over a year and a half ago, I very unexpectedly landed a position in upper management. I had never wanted it, but that's the way "promotions" work when you are good at what you do, and I felt it would no doubt be a learning experience and resolved to give myself a year. A very stressful -a very new kind of stress for me, having always worked as an independent contractor- year passed (with yet another promotion half-way in), which was very taxing on my physical health.
A few months ago, I decided that admin life was not my happy place; ironically, though I was still working in education, I had gotten pulled out of the classroom, which is where I love to be, to work full time on a project. I made a plan to gradually phase out of the position, to go back to my passion: teaching (and running Sobremesa, which has meanwhile grown, especially Sobremesa Culinary Tours!) My boss and I agreed that November would be a good time. However, the company recently decided to pull the plug on the project I was working on, and I was let go.
Let's clarify: fired means there is a reason to terminate someone, whereas laid-off means the position itself was eliminated. Here I am playing on the meanings of let go, which can mean either of the two. In this case I was let go, but after the initial scare of losing my day job, I also let go actively: after the shock and blow to the ego, I realized this was exactly what I wanted for myself.
Today, barely a week later, I love the sense of regained freedom of the life I have. I can now focus on what's important to me: teaching, feeling helpful to people, and enjoying, to boot, less stress and headaches from the complexities of management. Relieved and empowered, new opportunities are arising all around. To top it off, I can now do things like go on hikes or visit the farmers market and cook lunch for a friend on a weekday morning, without having to clock in and out! 

Here's a recipe (what you all had been waiting for, right?) I made for my friend Lupe this week; it's become a staple at home. This time, I served it for a light lunch alongside a salad of caramelized beets, avocado, chopped cilantro and toasted walnuts. 

Turmeric Almond-Crusted Baked Cauliflower
cauliflower, 1 head
almond meal, 1 cup
eggs, 1-2
turmeric, 1/2 tsp.
black pepper, 1/4 tsp.
sea salt, 1/2 tsp.

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and drizzle over about 2 tbsp. of EVOO. 
Cut the Cauliflower into florets with your hands or a knife. In a bowl, beat the eggs with a pinch of salt.
In another bowl, whisk the almond meal, turmeric, salt and pepper. Transfer this mix to a plate. 
Drop the cauliflower florets into the egg mix, covering on all sides. Then transfer to the plate with the dry mix and dredge until covered, using a fork or your fingers.
Transfer each piece to the baking sheet. Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown, flipping once. Serve warm. Enjoy.