Silvio’s Organic Handmade Italian Food is one part homemade-funky and one part down-to-earth passion for eating right. The motto on his website says it best: “You can eat food, good food, bad food, fast food or you can have a genuine food experience.” Silvio beckons those who pursue the food experience and shares his joy of food by embracing the different eating needs we currently see in ourselves and around us.
Back in the 70’s one of the songs in the top 40 was “Kung Fu Fighting.” As a matter of fact, at the same time there was a weekly television series that revolved around a Kung Fu fighting Buddhist monk. Like many young men in their 20’s I was smitten. The grace! The agility! The power of martial arts! I had to learn this ancient practice. And learn it I did. The kicks, the punches, the simulated combat with an invisible opponent. Fast forward to the 80’s, the 90’s, the “new millennium,” and the rigors of martial arts fighting made way to a gentler, kinder tai chi practice.
One of the many reasons people enjoy living in Michigan is our four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. The seasons can also be described as birth, growth, maturity, and death, or child, teen, adult, and elder. Four seasons gives a year rhythm, and yet we are better at some beats then others. Culturally, we praise awakening and increasing—spring and summer, childhood and teen—far more than we appreciate maturity and death, fall and winter, adulthood and elderhood.
Webster Farmers Market: Preserving a Historic Neighborhood through Farming, Food, Craft, and Community
When my friends told me about a Sunday Winter Farmers Market, my husband and I jumped in the van and headed to Webster Township. It was a particularly cold day. Thankfully, aromatic hot coffee greeted us at the door. Violet Raterman, one of the market managers, helped us navigate the market for our first visit. The entire experience was moving for some reason, but I could not put my finger on it. I had to find out more about the people behind this market and the space in which it thrived.
I am so blessed to be able to talk to people who are grappling with death. Mostly, I speak with the caregivers. They reach out to me because they feel like there is no one else to talk to. I am there. I listen. I understand. I hear them out and empathize and honor them. It is difficult being a caregiver; it can feel so lonely, especially when you just want to talk. I recently heard a quote from Cheryl Richardson, “People start to heal the moment they feel heard”. Perhaps that is the biggest role of the end-of-life doula – to hear. In a world that prefers to deny death, when death IS happening, we want to be heard.
Donald Harrison’s office has a bowling lane in it, at least part of a lane. The gleaming slab is from the leading edge of an old, decommissioned bowling alley and forms the top of Harrison’s elevated desk at 7 Cylinders Studio. It is the first thing he points out as I enter his bright, airy workspace in a renovated building across from the AATA bus depot in Ypsilanti.
As a frequent traveler and transplant from the East Coast, I’m often drawn to major metropolitan areas. Although renowned for impressive attractions and activities for any interest, the bustling crowds and traffic snarls in urban centers means serenity can be in short supply. Fortunately for Michiganders, a tranquil getaway doesn’t require a boarding pass, or transcontinental travel, but just a few miles drive west on US-23 to Livingston County. Brighton’s Canterbury Chateau weaves together cozy interiors and relaxing amenities, with a touch of the tropics, into an accessible escape from the daily grind. By smartly balancing Victorian charm with modern touches, this bed and breakfast provides a welcome respite. Combined with many local recreational activities available in the Brighton area, visitors can enjoy a restful weekend while exploring nearby attractions.
What comes to mind when you hear the word “detox”? You might think drug or alcohol detox. Perhaps fasting or eating and drinking things like wheatgrass juice is what comes to mind. It may surprise you to learn that detoxing is none of those things. In fact, my interpretation will change your entire outlook on what a detox is.
When I turned nineteen, a whole new world of food was opened up to me through the People’s Food Co-Op. Although my aunt and father had been members since the 1970s, and I was somewhat knowledgeable about natural food diets, I certainly did not know what the heck to do with a salty paste made of fermented soy beans, rice, or barley. I had enjoyed miso soup in Japanese restaurants, but that was not the best introduction, as it was thin and lacked vegetables and other ingredients we now use more abundantly, such as shiitake mushrooms, soba noodles, seaweed, lotus root, dried fish, and fermented vegetables. As western society’s knowledge of the world of natural foods has matured, thanks in part to the growing “foodie culture,” we have widened our awareness of whole food cooking and ingredients.
The word “hospice” is one of those terms to which each individual has a unique and palpable reaction. For some it brings a sense of fear or uneasiness. In others it arouses tender memories of a past experience as it relates to a family member. For a lucky handful, their faces light up when engaged in a conversation regarding end of life care in the capable and compassionate hands of hospice staff. These blessed few seem filled with peace and joy in the face of this word. As with all of life, we perceive it through our own lenses, which shape how we feel about any given situation. My personal experience and perception of hospice is filtered through many different experiences with friends, family, and from volunteering for a children’s grief program I helped create with Hospice of Asheville, North Carolina, in the early eighties. I’ve had several close friends cared for by their loving hands during end stages of life, and three of my grandparents and my mother-in-law were in hospice care before they passed out of this earthly plane with loved ones by their side. I know what it takes to be a volunteer and how impactful it was to receive comfort and care, both in facilities and in-home
ShuNahSii Rose is the creator of In Sacred Balance. Now in its 27th year, In Sacred Balance offers a model of a “sustained inter-generational feminist spiritual community” with deep Ann Arbor roots. The magic ShuNahSii creates is palpable and necessary, a healing balm for the soul of the world. I met her for coffee and to chat about her passion for restoring relations between humanity and other inhabitants of our world.
As the warm breezes shift to cool caresses on our cheeks and we pull out the warm handmade quilts from grandma and sweaters from mom, many of us turn our thoughts to gift giving. The Julbok is a pre-Christian Swedish tradition that lives on today. Some say he pulled the Tomten’s cart full of presents during the winter solstice. Some say he was the one giving out the presents. Still others claim
that he is a prankster that makes sure whomever is receiving the present is worthy of it! Traditionally, the Julbok was made of the last harvest of straw and thought to be good luck. However you celebrate as we move into winter, this sweet little Julbok is sure to be a great addition to your seasonal decorations, a Yule tree, or even as a gift topper.
In my daily life, I have a rhythm that goes something like this: Wake up. Eat. Do some yoga. Work. Eat again. Work a bit more. Sleep. Repeat. There are some weeks where I am on autopilot, and miss the daily miracles and surprises. If my life becomes a rhythm of hour after hour, day after day, week after week of busyness like this, with no play and no time outdoors, I begin to lose perspective.
I became interested in Amma, an Indian spiritual leader, given the tremendous buzz in the international community about her humanitarian work. She is from my husband’s state in Kerala, India, and he has met her. My friends queried why I hadn’t met her. I felt my exploration of this mystical person was long overdue, but I wanted to learn more about this hypothetical saint before I was willing to meet her. When I started reading about her, I became overwhelmed. There was so much literature about her. My experience reading it was antithetical to her teachings of peace and unity; it was an information overload. Still, I stuck with it.
Oran Hesterman is 67, but moves with the vigor and energy of a much younger man. He is trim, with a full head of salt and pepper hair, and his complexion is that of a man who has spent a lot of time outdoors. He speaks thoughtfully, choosing his words carefully. Listening to him answer questions about Fair Food Network (FFN), the organization he founded in 2009, and about which he must have conversed many times, with many people, you still have the sense that he is freshly thinking through his answers.
Once upon a time, nearly every culture on every continent held some measure of belief in the existence of fairies. A life form described as small humanlike creatures that live in natural habitats, often invisible to human eyes. Early writings depict them as mischievous and even at times, malicious. Travelers often left offerings of food and drink for them in exchange for protection against the elements, wild animals, and other dangers that might befall on their journey. Legend has it that fairies especially appreciated milk, bread, cheese, sweets, and other prepared foods.
by Laura Cowan
I’m guessing you’ve never had a ram approach you like a puppy, because even if you are lucky enough to know one, that isn’t the sort of thing rams do — unless they have a reiki therapist like Dona Duke as a friend. Dona is an Usui Reiki Ryoho Reiki master, and the resident animal reiki therapist at the Humane Society animal shelter. She accepted my invitation as a locally based holistic living editor to interview her and see animals receiving reiki in a farm environment. Dona wanted me to bring you the experience of something beyond cat shelter or hospital reiki that is so often written about these days. I’m so glad reiki is written about enough to require the variety, and she was so right. Reiki on a farm is a world unto itself. Let me tell you about this ram at Fluffy Bottom Farms. Call him Ishmael.
Ishmael and his herd of sheep and cows at the Fluffy Bottom Farms farm and creamery in Chelsea, receive reiki from Dona on a weekly basis. I wish I had the data to prove to you that reiki improves the cheese they make, but suffice it to say it’s phenomenally delicious stuff, now sold at grocery stores and retailers all over Michigan. I tried the aged raw manchego, which went perfectly in a cherry spinach salad. Owners Kelli Conlin and Angie Martell were out of the house the day I visited. Dona brought treats for the turkeys and hens on the day she introduced me to the animals. The three tom turkeys were not so welcoming, but it was mating season and they were strutting their stuff, so I won’t hold it against them that they followed me around with fanned feathers and a serious attitude.
I was nervous. Why was I nervous? I have turkeys in my rural wooded yard daily so it wasn’t about being stalked by birds half my size. I used to belong to a dairy farm share myself, so I’m comfortable around herds of cows and sheep, and free-range birds. I am also trained as an animal reiki master. Was I nervous because I know I shouldn’t walk up to farm animals and assume they’re friendly when I enter their pen? Maybe, but this growing awareness of my own nerves led to a profound reiki-led epiphany in short order. Ishmael was climbing the gate of his pen to nuzzle Ms. Duke, and the other ram, Gabriel, accepted me into his pen to rub up against me for reiki and a pet. I was experiencing the effects of animal reiki before I even realized it. I’m used to giving reiki, you see, but I’m not used to receiving it from animals.
We entered the sheep pen in the barn, where a tall brown llama named Dali watched me attentively. He was gentle and protective, that much was obvious, but I didn’t expect what came next. Dali noticed I was nervous, Dona said, and as the protector of the herd against local coyotes, he was investigating why. Ah, that was the reason for the nerves. I had been considering a number of ways of applying reiki in my own life and career with animals, and I had expected to be more at ease. It hardly does to have an animal reiki master acting jittery around a flock of sheep. But by now, I should have known something else was afoot. This was animal reiki in action. It wasn’t magic. It was reciprocity.
Suddenly, it was just me and Dali, experiencing that connection of minds that comes from the unity consciousness of universal life energy flow. The llama was teaching me, not only to experience sacred space on the receiving end from an animal, but he was giving me a nudge. Suddenly I knew. I wasn’t meant to focus on animal reiki. With one glance, I understood. I should have figured, given what I know about reiki, that it would be the animals to give me that course correct on how to apply healing energies in my life and career. I wish I could tell you how this felt, but maybe if you have experienced reiki, you already know. Even getting a nudge of “no, not quite this path” is a profoundly healing experience. It was just that in this case, it was the llama receiving reiki that helped me as much as I helped him, if not more.
“You must approach them as equals,” Dona said. So true. Because they are. That’s where the reciprocity comes from, however you experience it. “It’s easy for me to work with animals, because I approach them as friends,” Dona tells me. Indeed. These animals dearly loved this woman, crowding her for treats — the largest behaving the most gently of all. The new lambs watched her with cocked faces from behind their mothers. The llama was at complete peace around her. The sheep readily decided to try to eat the buttons off my coat rather than ask too many questions about whether I belonged, since I came with recommendations from Dona. She was at home. This was her herd.
Dona used to have horses and rode dressage. “What you learn training horses is that if anything goes wrong, it’s not the horse’s fault,” she tells me, adding:
What is key in training horses is being present, being consistent, and in an emotionally good place, because you are literally sitting on a large animal’s nervous system. It’s the same thing with reiki. You need to communicate with their whole system. You have to learn to be quiet and be still, and work together.
This is true of human reiki, as well, and is particularly true of animals who live outdoors, as they are highly tuned in to their environment.
Dali the llama blinked with his long soft lashes. I felt the healing space around us. We were connected with everyone and everything, but we were also just the two of us. How odd. Sometimes a feeling of discomfort and nerves as you receive reiki is the message. There was nothing wrong with me. Healing in general often comes to us like this — wrapped up in the messages of anxiety and health problems and feelings that warn us of the importance of a change. There is nothing wrong with the message, and there is nothing wrong with our ability to receive the message. When we learn to listen and flow with the energy, the healing and growth naturally comes. Because that’s what reiki is. It’s just life, and life is growth, and healing, and creativity. Reiki is delightful, but sometimes upending. It is the never-ceasing river of powerful change that will help you align with your highest good if you simply allow it and flow with the process. Reiki had not too long ago swept me out of one life and into another set of new possibilities, and here I was. Llama-facilitated therapy. So much for humans being on top of the chain of consciousness! It simply isn’t so. The animals can teach you this, particularly through animal reiki.
We walked outside to the field, where Dona told me the herd often comes running to meet her. Sure enough, the remainder of the herd came at a full trot all the way from the next pasture. I have never seen more animals happy to see one person. Granted, she brings carrots, but even so. She allowed the animals to approach her for reiki. They stood next to her, quietly alert, until they were finished — usually about five to ten minutes per animal that approached her. They often seemed to wait their turn.
Ishmael ran to the back of his pen at the barn and climbed it like a goat.
“Get down,” Dona told him. “That isn’t safe for you.”
He pushed his hip up against the fence. “They show you where they want reiki,” Dona told me.
Sure enough, this was exactly what the other ram Gabriel had done with me. He had allowed me into his pen, sniffed my hand, and then pressed his side up to me and turned around. Like I said, not rammish at all. Reiki-ish. Not that there is anything wrong with a ram acting like a ram on an ordinary Tuesday, but these animals were co-creators in their healing. Phenomenal stuff. The air was thick with healing, like walking on air. I noticed this with my cat as well when I started practicing reiki on family members. She started sitting on my hands while I was working. Animals love reiki, because animals are very aligned with their natural selves and the balanced energies around them.
Inside the farmhouse, the dogs were waiting for treats and to be let out in the yard. A feral cat scrambled under the porch, while a black domestic pawed to be let in for food. A tiny lamb named Athena, who was born with a leg injury and rejected by her mother, was waiting for us in a pen wearing a diaper. She was only an armful of animal. Dona picked her up and bottle-fed her. Of all things I expected that day, it wasn’t to change a lamb’s diaper and have her cry after one of her surrogate moms. She rooted and arched her neck for Dona just like a human newborn
for its mother. She didn’t want me, and you have to understand animals often do. But there was nothing wrong. This was the message. This was the healing.
Dona told me more of the story of how she got into reiki, and just like my story, it was full of synchronicities and healing experiences, and meetings with amazing animals. I was deeply grateful she had opened up her life to me at all, as she is clearly at home with animals even more so than with humans. She was gracious and empathic while I trailed her around the farm, and like many reiki masters I know, she was also highly intuitive and could see straight through to people’s energy and feelings, just like she does with animals. She quickly spotted my connection with Dali, and how the other animals pushed me away almost in unison. This is more than impressive: it is an important skill for both animal and human reiki masters to be able to spot areas of tension and potential problems and possibilities when dealing with clients or rooms full of animals or people, even though the reiki will always go wherever it is needed anyway. Maybe that is what I love about reiki above all other healing properties. It isn’t just a healing energy flow. It is sacred space and witnessing the miracle of life. People who practice reiki, at least in my experience, are profoundly tuned in to universal healing energy flow and the feelings of those around them.
We went to say goodbye to the herd before we left. Dali approached me. I reached for his face.
“No,” Dona said. “He doesn’t need you to pet him. He is telling you you’re okay. He’s checked you out. You’re part of the herd.”
Already? And I was still trying to make friends. I put my hand down. Dali brought his soft wooly face right up next to mine and stood, touching cheek to cheek, for a good minute.
I closed my eyes. So did Dali. We stayed cheek to cheek, touching our chins.
“Isn’t that amazing?” Dona said. “They help us as much as we help them.”
Yes, they do, very much. Thank you, Dona and Ishmael. Thank you, Dali. Namaste. Thank you, reiki. And the path flows on.
Laura K. Cowan is the Kids in the Community Columnist and an editor for The Crazy Wisdom Journal. She is a green tech editor and magical realist author from Ann Arbor (Winding Road Magazine, Inhabitat). Ms. Cowan once ran her own green parenting blog 29Diapers, which gave her the dubious distinction of being the only mommy blogger in existence who could explain variable valve timing. You can reach her at email@example.com.