“Time waits for no one” are words I have seen at least twice in the last couple of hours. I have not had a lot of time this last week, or the two weeks before. Almost every minute of my waking day recently I have focused on being prepared to meet the demands of my new job. Yes, I finally have a job again. Because it pays as it does, I am willing to give the time I do, as it is imperative that I get past the financial abyss that has loomed nearby for too long now. Fortunately, I have recognized my blessings and have the ability to rapidly adapt. Time is speeding up. Illusory as it is, it is interesting to discover a balance between being fully present and meeting the illusory reality of abiding in time and this dimension, riding the fast track of time yet staying in one place, call it “heart,” “spirit,” “Reality,” “Love,” “awareness.” Is there really a word that can describe the balancing act of living here and being Everywhere, as well?
My elderly friend passed on out of here, while I was out having fun. The weekend I was hanging out with friends, February 3rd, celebrating life and learning how to make tamales, my old pal, Helen, died, alone, in her little cottage. I thought about her the month of February, before I learned she died. I would drive past the turn-off to her house and think for a moment how I should go see her, but I continued on to my home. I carried on short conversations with her in my head, “Gosh, Helen, it would not be so horrible to go ahead and get on out of here, as your quality of life is kind of dismal, since you are always in pain.” Or I would hear the voice in my head saying, “I am so sorry I have not been by to see you! I have been just so incredibly busy. I worry about you, about how you are getting along. It seems so harsh that you are out here all alone, in pain, barely able to function, and nobody seems to have enough time to come and visit you, including me!” When I chanced (chance, really?) to meet my ex-boss in Wal-Mart as we both shopped, I asked her if she knew how Helen was getting along and she said, “Oh my! She died!” I was floored. Three of four weeks gone by and I just learned of her passing. Still, I was in touch, even if it was not in the physical “reality” of sitting with her at her little kitchen table, drinking coffee and visiting. I think of Helen a lot these days, realizing she is probably happy to be out of this dimension, free of pain and loneliness.
Being here can be delicious, though, in so many ways. That week-end Helen left, I was at the home of my dearest and oldest friends, celebrating a birthday with a small group of people that have known each other for thirty years. My friends always throw great parties and I was happy to be included. The plan was to make about eight dozen tamales, put them to cook for several hours, and after they were done, eat as many as we wanted.
It was kind of fun to be part of the ones making tamales for the first time ever. My friend and hostess had me rinsing the corn husks into which the corn dough would be pressed, the filling laid in on top, and then the corn husk wrapped about the innards and sealed by folding over one end of the tamale. As I rinsed the husks, my friend urged me to not be so meticulous, to which I argued, “Hey, these definitely need rinsing! Weevils, hair, dirt, and string are falling out in the rinsing. Sorry, but I do not wish to eat tamales wrapped in husks that have vermin!” The husks were rinsed well, and then placed in a big pot of steaming hot water, over, not in the water, to soften. Meanwhile, my friend mixed the dough, using hand-rendered pork lard, masa (Maseca, supposedly the best brand to use), baking powder, salt, and chicken stock or broth. The measurements of these ingredients:
6 cups Maseca (masa)
3 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons salt
1 quart chicken broth/stock
2/3 cup of lard, semi-melted
In a crock pot, my friend had the filling simmering. It was pulled pork, with all kinds of seasonings, not sure what, ready to drain and become the heart of the tamale. With the filling in a large bowl, alongside the large bowl of tamale dough, placed in the center of their oval-shaped oak dining table, six of us party-goers stood at our stations and began to learn how to roll tamales. We each had a plastic cutting board on which to spread open the corn husk, along with a spatula with which to spread/press the dough into the husk. Someone demonstrated how to do this. Having eaten tamales off and on over the years, I knew the dough should not be too thickly spread, and the filling should be a minimal amount, in balance with the dough. We were shown how to seal the husk about the tamale. Some were putting rather thick amounts of dough, and I tried to restrain myself for a while, but finally I pointed out that it was too much of the dough being spread on the corn husk. I was looking forward to eating some of these tamales and did not wish to consume mostly corn and lard. We ran out of the filling and I threw together a mixture of mashed black beans with spices, cooking it down to a consistency not too full of liquid. When we ran out of the black bean concoction, we used some sort of vegetable mixture. Finally, all the corn husks were used and we waited for the tamales to cook in the big cooker.
There was plenty of beer, snack foods, good cheer, as well as a pool table down in the basement. I made my way down there and watched for a while and then played a game of pool with a woman friend. That was fun, even though I am not that good at pool.
After a couple of hours, we started tasting the tamales, along with the other dishes folks had brought. By the end of the evening, I was stuffed and no longer interested in food.
It was late, and my friends invited me to stay overnight, as my home is at least an hour and a half drive away. The next day was a Sunday, the third of February. I headed home after a fun-filled gathering, oblivious to my friend’s passing. I got home just in time to answer a phone call from my son who said, after a short conversation, “Well, I’ll talk to you tomorrow, for sure!” I asked, “Why is that?” He said, “Mom, I cannot believe you forgot! Tomorrow is my birthday!” He burst out laughing, guffawing in my ear, me smiling sheepishly. It was true! I had completely forgotten his birthday was Monday.
That made me feel good, realizing that after all these years of focusing in on my children, I have finally arrived at the day I am no longer consumed with thinking about them, but in fact, seem to have discovered I have a life, after all! The next day I made sure that I made the Birthday Greeting call to my son. I even chatted with his girlfriend, online, who told me excitedly that she had arranged a surprise for him, and that he had no clue. She and a few of his favorite people were going to show up at his job where he would be serving food and drink. Later, I heard that a good time was had by all.
Spring is just around the corner. I have some broccoli seedlings growing, and today I saw that a few tomato and eggplant seeds have sprouted. It will be a challenge to work the new job as well as plant a garden. After the success of last summer, I cannot resist giving it a try, despite the time involved. As I was reminded earlier, time waits for no one, and one must be on one’s toes to keep up with the movement of the seasons. I am glad to have gotten through the worst of winter and to hear the tree frogs singing on this damp, rainy day. The birds seem to know that there is a change happening, for they are everywhere today, making their bird sounds. The time change occurred last night (spring forward), and the week ahead will be filled with movement. No turning back, I do not expect time to wait for me. I will simply stay in step, glad to be here, until I am not.