“In the garden, the land is made better and so is the gardener. ” -Robert Rodale

A beautiful garden was already established when we arrived at the farm, but I’ve been spending a lot more time out there this past week. Thanks to the rain that comes every afternoon at this time of year, my herbs are flourishing right alongside the weeds. It’s a bit overwhelming to look out and see how much needs to be done each day, but also a pleasure to cook with things we’ve grown ourselves. This little reference book has been a helpful guide to getting started, but of course, the tropical climate in Hawaii is quite unique. I have much to learn!

In Loving Memory of Evelyn Hertle, My Great Grandmother, immortalized in my imagination through this tale of family lore.

She lay awake. The mountain of her husband snored softly beside her. The crickets and frogs whirred contentedly. She turned over on her side, the springs creaking beneath her. She heard every sound that stirred the thick air. The occasional crunch of tires on the gravel road as a lonesome truck rolled by. The rustle of the leaves, the swish of owl wings.

Tomorrow she would harvest. She had been waiting for weeks, checking the patch fastidiously. Keeping the weeds down, watering when it went a few too many days without rain. Pulling off slugs. But tomorrow it would finally be ready. The corn had swelled and plumped in the sunshine. Tomorrow, she’d cut down the stalks, taller than she was. She’d pull off the ears and toss the spent plants back into the field.

Tomorrow, she’d have several large baskets to shuck on the porch and boil in the big silver pot for supper. She loved opening the ears- the pleasant crinkling sound as you pulled the fibrous husk away from the cob and the tidy rows of plump corn kernels lined up so neat, like money in a counting house. And the color of those little kernels, a luminous pale yellow,  glowing like fresh churned butter. And once the water boils, she’d toss them in for three minutes and out they’d come, sweet and tender and juicy, more delicious than if she’d slaved all day. And butter slathered on, dripping down everybody’s chins and elbows at the red picnic table. And plenty. Tomorrow, everyone could have their fill. She waited for that easy, happy day all through the bitter winter and muddy spring and buggy summer nights. And tomorrow it would come.

Just then, a sharp crack. A stalk snapping.

She flashed out of bed and down the stairs. Stepped right into those rubber galoshes by the front door. Grabbed the pitchfork leaning up against the side of the house and sneaked up on the patch. The tassels of the corn swayed in the starlight. She saw the red and white flash of eyes in the dark. He’d come. She’d known he would.

She wasn’t very close, but he’d scented her. He froze.

“Come on out of there,” she said, real low. It came out as a growl.

His tiny black hands were full of plump, green ears of corn, his coarse tail puffed in surprise.

“We meet again,” she said. The pitchfork was pointed at him already, as if it had its own will. “That’s mine,” she warned. “All of it.”

Everything had gone very still. The crickets and frogs had stopped. The breeze had stopped. There weren’t even mosquitoes this time of night. It was the stars shining down and her staring at him and him staring at her. He looked like a cartoon thief, with that black mask across his eyes and the tail lined with prison stripes.

And then it all happened at once. “Get!” she screamed. He bolted, dropping the corn as he ran. He was slipping away from her, so much faster into the black night. He was already 10 yards off.

She planted her feet, one just in front of the other, the way you do to hit a baseball. Held the pitchfork right in the middle of the handle, close by her ear, like a javelin thrower from ancient Greece. And with a cry that felt as if it were pulled from the ground beneath her up into her belly and right through the pointed ends of the iron fork, she launched it with all her might.

There was a dull thud and a sharp cry, like a baby with colic. Angry. Shocked.

She couldn’t quite make out the scene in the darkness. It had been a long shot. Maybe she’d only grazed it. She came nearer.

The pitchfork had pinned the thief against the side of the barn, skewered him right through the middle. He struggled a little now, but they both knew it was all over.

Until next summer anyhow.

Money, Money, Money, Money. It’s fascinating stuff. I’m not very accountable with the little bit that I do have- I spend it on eating out, entertainment, shopping, and it’s easy to lose sight of long term goals. Since Eric and I have a goal of running Becky Kazana together full time, I recently decided to actually write down those goals, so I’d have a way to measure our progress and to remind myself of the larger benefits of the daily sacrifices it takes to be thrifty.

I turned our goals into an illustration for our fridge. It’a an interesting portrait- remember what Holly Golightly’s mobster accountant tells her in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? He says her receipts could be turned into a best selling novel. I imagine that’s true of almost anyone’s bank account.

Our goals include saving money for a baby or two, money for our emotional and physical health, money for travel (those are airplanes, dressed in the national costumes of places we might want to visit!) and money as a result of creative work- a reward for being a producer, not just a consumer.

Another of my cherished movie axioms about money comes from Hello, Dolly!. She quotes her late husband, saying “Money is like manure. It should be spread around, encouraging young things to grow.” Originally, I loved his because I thought of it as avoiding stinginess or miserliness. You can’t take it with you, so enjoy it, right? But I think it also means that wealth is something that you must cultivate, care for. Money on it’s own isn’t an end. It’s what you can grow with it, what you nurture with it that makes it valuable. For me, that’s my health- my relationships, my body, my mind, and the experiences I will gather over the course of a lifetime. It isn’t things, the way I used to think it would be.

“Shoulder Stand” Original Drawing by Becky Kazana. Please do no reproduce without permission.  

Finding the right yoga studio is like choosing a church. You are looking for something intangible, a mood, a vibe. All of these places are pretty similar; usually clean, bare rooms with polished wood floors, maybe a wall of mirrors, maybe plants, maybe candles, maybe a singing bowl. Some use music, some don’t. Some are hot, some warm, some cool. The teachers are important, but you will learn something from every person you take class with. The style of yoga is part of it- but you will learn something from every practice, from Hatha to Bikram.

Since arriving in Minneapolis, I’d gone the Groupon route, trying out Heat Yoga, Core Power, Minnehaha Yoga, Your Yoga, and Yoga Studio. I’ve barely scratched the surface of studios in my area- there is Life Power, Iyengar Yoga and a Bikram studio, all within easy walking distance of my apartment.

So far, One Yoga has definitely been my favorite. They offer a wide variety of classes in many styles, almost every hour, so there is always a class that is convenient. But the intangible something is in the air. Bold letters on the door announce “YOU ARE ENTERING A CALM PLACE.” and it’s true. You can feel it when you walk in. The rush and bustle drain away as you pull off your wet boots and hang your coat on a peg, find a spot to unfurl your mat and go inward, slowly and deeply.

During practice recently, I had an idea to make this drawing. I love looking at my legs and feet in shoulder stand- they always look so tiny and far off up there, and it’s nice to send all the blood flowing in the opposite direction from feet to head for a change. I often have a dream that I am looking at my hands, feet or body from a distance as they slowly swell gigantic and then shrink back down to teeny tiny, and somehow this pose reminds me of that. Everything in your life is a matter of perspective, plain and simple.

Do you practice yoga? What’s your favorite pose right now? What do you look for in a teacher? A studio? Do tell!

Having babies has been on my “Maybe Someday” list for a long time. But something is shifting.

Eric surprised me with tickets to Verdi’s La Traviata at the Cowles Center. It was a stripped down production with no sets or costumes. One of the sopranos was gloriously, Venus of Willendorf-ishly pregnant. She stood in the spotlights in her black evening gown, hair spun into a French twist, neck and wrists dripping with glittering jewelry. I couldn’t stop looking at her belly as she sang- watching it lift and pulse as she belted out arias. I imagined the little baby inside of her, listening to those sounds vibrating all around her body, comprehending none of it, but understanding it perfectly.

A few weeks later, we went to see the James Sewell Ballet at the very same theater. The dances ranged from traditional to modern, the performers wearing tutus in one sequence and leopard spotted spandex in another. One of the dancers, long and lanky with acres of neck and legs, was also pregnant. She wore a sheer black blouse over a black bra and tiny shorts- her belly sitting low and oval, like an ostrich egg. Her pregnancy was unmistakable and yet not the first thing you noticed. Her confidence and self possession shined out of every movement she made. She leaped and jumped all over the stage, so light and free in her changed body. I wondered the about her and her baby- what was their life like? How had she decided to get pregnant? Was this her first baby? Did she ever feel nervous moving like that with a baby?

I thought about these two women for weeks. How strange see two hometown performers in different mediums both pregnant at separate shows only a few weeks apart. Both women were doing creative work that demanded so much from their bodies- they had to be completely engaged in what they were doing. Both could have opted out, maybe were even advised to, yet neither one did.

You can choose to become lost to yourself. You can ignore the lessons life offers you by looking at the wrong things, avoiding pain, deadening your feelings, zoning out. So it must be the same with parenthood. Children can either be something to lose yourself in, or something to discover yourself through.

Entering into parenthood feels even more sacred than marriage to me. You are guiding a spirit into a body, teaching it how to be human, how to move through the world. You must be worthy of imitation, in the words of Rudolf Steiner. It fills me with awe to even think of it- bringing something from the void. By mixing my soul with my husband’s, we can bring forth a new being- it’s such an honor and tremendous responsibility.

That’s why seeing those Mamas up there touched me so much- I couldn’t look away. For them, motherhood didn’t stop their work, it enhanced it. It pushed them further into the mystery of living, pushed them deeper into the reasons they make art to begin with. At it’s best, art puts you in touch with the unknowable, the awesome, the deep possibilities. And at it’s best, parenthood offers you the same lessons. I wonder why I never understood that before.

“A Murder of Crows” original illustration by Becky Kazana. Please do not reproduce without permission. 

Crows don’t migrate like some birds, and there is a massive group of them circling in Minneapolis this winter. You can see them fluttering through the air like bits of singed paper, especially in the evenings at dusk. I’ve seen them roosting in different places- always in tall trees and often in loosely formed clusters, not too near one another, but most definitely in a group.

The other night as we were starting dinner, I noticed their calls outside the window and went to look out. Sure enough, they were all settling in the tall oak trees that line our street. These glossy black birds are so associated with Gothic literature and bad omens, (a group of crows is called a “murder” after all,) that it felt a little eerie. On the other hand, Eric loves to tell me how they are among the smartest animals on earth, able to solve complex problems, use tools and recognize and distinguish human faces. It’s not their fault Edgar Allen Poe decided to immortalize one in a spooky poem.

Their acrid calls and awkward shuffling is rather endearing when you imagine them as a gaggle of cranky old men. They certainly were striking up there silhouetted in the tangle of branches as the sky darkened around them. In the morning, they were all gone, a spray of splintered branches on the sidewalk and snow the only evidence of their night spent on our street.

Elvis had a personal crest of sorts; a lighting bolt emblazoned with the letters TCB. It stands for Taking Care of Business. Since reading Peter Guralnick’s monumental two part biography of The King, TCB has become part of our household lingo. We’ve even created our own complementary phrase, TAB, which stands for Taking A Break. Eric and I like to joke that we’re always doing one or the other.

For my 30th birthday, Eric presented me with a sterling silver replica ofElvis’s own TCB design. The necklace is my secret good luck charm and I love to wear it under my clothes on days when I know I need extra stamina. There have been lots of those days lately. I feel like I’m moving at top speed from place to place, ticking task after task off my to do list. It makes me feel like Superman.

Do you have any household lingo? Or a little trick to make you feel invincible on days you know you’re gonna need it?