Family Life
In the Tidepool

Essays by Eleanor Lewallen

Dedicated especially to women in the midst of raising their families

 The Ocean's Gift 
Insights and Wisdom Related To Daily Living, Nurturing, and Good Cooking

This is a sea vegetable cookbook and wildcrafter's guide, but it also reflects our lives - a family in a community on the planet, as we live our days which are different from, but also, probably similar to your lives.  It seems important to me that we connect on a human level, because we are humans.  Some of this connection is wordless, and in the realm of emotion;  feelings too deep or too private to put in a cookbook.  Yet these are the places where we as a species have a yearning to connect:  the richness, the joys, the beauty, the sorrows, the challenges.  This book comes from the milieu of all of life's experiences.

These are daily living notes that have come to me as I have experienced 50 years (half a century!) on this planet.  My hope is that it may touch your heart and soul, your path:  and at some time give you comfort, support, encouragement and even strength.

My contribution to this cookbook and our business has come from the milieu of family: mother of one, two, and then three children;  and as a political environmental activist.  Family and nurturing are very important to me.

Living at this time on our mother earth we all share this challenge:  living with the awareness that our world is in crisis, living in a nation afflicted with a dysfunctional, distressed society, which affects our lives directly and personally as we try to maintain our sanity and live in harmony, respecting our mother earth and her integrity which is being destroyed before our eyes.  The condition or our world permeatese our lives.  We try for health and healing in a world gone amok.

We try for personal responsibility:  growing some of our food, buying organic, recycling, taking part in the political process, being gentle with ourselves, our families and our communities.

What I've learned most recently is the importance of nurturing myself, because I'm responsible for me, for my well being.  I am my major care giver.  And I have to do it, because no one else will.  What I also realized recently is this:  I am as deserving as my children of the loving care that I give to them.  And that if I don't take care of my needs, I really won't be able to meet theirs or contribute responsibly in my realm of influence.

But what does this have to do with a seaweed cookbook?  Answer:  food preparation is a basic and necessary human activity which most often falls on the mother or parent(s) in the home.  Also I know that if these issues directly affect me, that they probably affect many other people;  and that it might be helpful to consider and articulate the dynamics that have, until recently, been unspoken and unacknowledged, particularly considering the labors kknown as "shadow work."

Energy level, especially at dinner time, is really an important consideration for people, and in particular for families with children, where the parent(s), especially single mothers, have been working all day.  I'm getting better at taking short breaks when exhaustion or overload hits during preparation of the evening meal.

I used to think and operate in this way:  hurry!  they'er all hungry!  hurry up!  faster!  Do three things at once efficiently so we can eat, so we can get this stressful challenge over with, and then reset.  I got grumpy and physically dizzy from spinning around in the kitchen cooking at a frenzied pace.  It was awful.  It felt terrible.  It didn't work!

In our home you will not find the proverbial happy housewife out of a 1950s TV program who does it all with a smile and a tender disposition:  the prep, the serving, and the cleanup, while everyone else sits (louts) around, reading, watching TV and playing.

Now dinnertime is still a tricky time for me because often I have a great idea for asimple delicious dinner.  The big question is:  how much energy do I have, and what resources are available.  There's an art to cooking with the actual energy available (which varies) without overextending.  I'm learning to make it easier for me and more harmonious for our family as I attempt to determine how much help I will need in order to get the meal on the table.

So I then poll our family, asking for help.  What I will actually prepare depends on how much energy I have and how much family members are willing to share in the effort.  After all, it's our meal and our energy is required to produce it.  Often you can hear me say, "It's not hard, it just takes time."

Usually dinner preparation is simple, but time-consuming:  cutting vegetables (actually a nice job), getting things out, putting things back, putting parings in the compost bucket, clearing, wiping and setting the table.  And it can be a time for visiting and working together.  It can be fun, and the kids learn how to cook, and feel at home in the kitchen.  It makes all the difference in the world to me!

And then the last thing I do before we serve dinner is rest for two-to-five minutes.  Take a break.  Let my energy settle.  Miraculously, my fatigue goes away in those few minutes.  I'm ready to serve and enjoy dinner with my family!

(Final note:  I have just realized that if I'm going to do a "quick" stir-fry, I do everything else, vegetable prep, etc., take a rest, and then cook the stir-fry just before serving.  I've learned that if I cook the stir-fry and then rest for 2-5 minutes, the vegetables are no longer super hot and wonderfully crisp.)

The Ocean's Gifts

Walking meditation on West Cliff, the broad sidewalk on the headlands above the ocean in Santa Cruz, a lively, culture-packed city, where the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary contacts the land:  people of all ages and of great variety experienceing the energy of the Pacific Rim;  sitting, meditating, walking, talking, running, roller skating, bicycling, pushing babies in strollers, walking dogs, studying.  The ocean energy is the draw:  waves, water, sparkles, dancing waves, pelicans flying just above, riding, playing the energy.  It is a joy for me to see all of these people enjoying the ocean.

Sitting meditation on the beach below, with the singing trees (full of hundreds of blackbirds) just to the north, above on the headlands:  Seal Rock (actually occupied by seals) offshore;  surfers riding waves just around the point.  Here the bay is flat;  waves rising out of nowhere, a miraculous mystery to me.  Occasional big ones looming, awesome (how? why?):  smaller ones, dancing waves, light shadow, and reflection defining their subtle moving form.  Clouds, mottled grey sky, sun energy.  Greys, silver.  I LOVE THE BLUES!  (The blue colors of sky and ocean).  They lift me up, send me off, blissed out.

But today's silver is enough.  Then the slightest tints of aquamarine, for just a second.

Clouds part:  a bit of blue sky, the gift of blue.

This is the ocean I love and share and have battled to protect.  I don't want to leave.  I want to stay and hear the pounding crack of waves;  absorb the light and energy.  I am always pulling myself away from the ocean before I am ready to go.  I want to stay for hours until I am sated with light energy and bliss.  It's rare that I give myself this gift.  When I'm here I want to share this beauty with you.

Santa Cruz is such a precious place;  I love visiting my dear friends there.  There is even an Eleanor Lewallen Day in Santa Cruz.  Back in 1986 when I was invited to speak to Save Our Shores about getting permanent protection for our oceans, I was surprised with the presentation of a plaque which now hangs on our wall.  It reads in part:  "The Ocean Protection Coalition of Mendocino County and especially Eleanor Lewallen who have led the movement for a Marine Sanctuary and have much work ahead to realize their dream of an ocean free of oil drilling... Now, there fore, I, Michael E. Rotkin, Mayor of Santa Cruz, do Hereby declare November 18 'Eleanor Lewallen Day' in the city of Santa Cruz..."

Insights and Wisdom Related to Daily Living... ||The Ocean's Gift 

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