Monday, April 15, 2013

The Birds and the Trees

A couple of years ago, I rescued a nestling from one of my cats. Miette (i.e., the Abyssinian Ninja Assassin) has this habit of coming to the kitchen window with something in her mouth, sometimes alive but usually not. I’ve seen it all: mice, voles, huge insects, and small birds barely contained in her small mouth. She likes chasing dogs, and her battle cry sounds like a banshee wail whenever another cat enters her territory. She has food sensitivities like I do, but whenever she brings something alive home I do what I can to rescue them from an otherwise dreary fate. It's not like she eats them, anyway...

I appreciate the birds that roost in our trees, especially as they sing their songs in the morning when spring comes around. In my opinion, it's a pleasant alternative to a beeping alarm clock scaring you awake.

This nestling seemed to be learning how to fly and hadn’t quite gotten the hang of it when Miette chased it into one of our yucca plants. I get a rush saving other things from the feline authoritarian regime that runs our house. After I put Miette inside, mad that I ruined her fun, the bird sat on my knee, trusting me enough to close its eyes after such an ordeal. And finally, as I had an amazing summer day ahead of me, I put it on a branch and wished it well.

I still look back on that memory fondly. Not the killer Abyssinian part, mind you, but the part about watching the bird’s inactivity and savoring the calmness of the moment shared.

Two Fridays ago I fell and bruised my tailbone (a nicer way of saying I fell on my butt) so badly my entire spine was affected. The initial bruise a few inches below the inflamed tailbone was black, and sitting upright and lying down hurt like no physical pain I’ve ever encountered. The funny thing about back injuries is how unaware until that moment how much you use your back, and how much energy it takes healing such an injury. The initial shock left me feeling fragile and vulnerable, and for one brief moment I could relate to the terror of a nestling that fell from its nest… or a tree that had been uprooted without care. Such trauma brings out pain from other places, and what is a tree without a sturdy trunk but sticks and leaves and not much else.

When I hurt my back, I was uprooted and had to reconsider so much about myself. Why do I have to be overactive and stressed out to feel like I’m actually doing something useful? Why do I not savor the breaks in the day and enjoy inaction as it was intended? For what it seemed like an eternity since the last time I relaxed, I slept and ate and dealt with my insecurities in quiet contemplation without distraction. And I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, but as my stress levels went down, so too my tolerance of it.

Sentience is too fragile and vulnerable to be in a constant state of stress, and regardless whether or not my injury was a divine intervention or a “sh*t happens” occurrence, I received the message loud and clear. My body is not impervious to injury, and thriving on stress can only take you so far. But there is strength in being uprooted, because it gave me the mindset to evaluate all the traumas and dramas I had experienced up until this point. It sucks, royally and painfully so, but it is necessary and liberating to not hold onto them anymore. Luckily, despite being uprooted (or having fallen from the nest), I’m healing quite nicely and actually have the energy to make recipes happen.

With all this talk of birds and trees, I felt it was appropriate to share my version of peanut butter Easter nests. These were my only favorite Easter sweet besides the solid chocolate rabbit as a kid (I had an aversion to Peeps). I loved the confection’s combination of sweet and savory, creamy and crunchy, peanut butter and chocolate, and I wanted to recreate a healthier version of the treat to indulge when a craving struck. They turned out so well, I brought them to one of my graduate classes along with my Early Grey shortbread for my colleagues to enjoy. Not only did they enjoy them, they wanted the recipes for both!

It’s the little things that make bloggers happy.

No-Bake Bird Nest Cookies

68 g Puffed rice cereal
252 g Honey (or maple syrup)
192 g Creamy peanut butter (salted)
15 g Hulled hemp seeds
15 g Cacao nibs
15 g Toasted whole flaxseeds
25 g Unsweetened shredded coconut
15 g Sesame seeds
Thompson raisins, optional

Place the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
Combine the honey and peanut butter in a small saucepan, and cook over low heat until melted and the edges begin to bubble slightly, stirring until smooth.
Pour mixture over the dry ingredients and thoroughly coat using a silicone spatula or a wooden spoon.
Using a tablespoon (you can guesstimate with your hands too, but I felt this was a less stickier alternative), form mixture into tight balls using 1 heaping tablespoon of mixture per ball.
Make an indention in center of each ball to resemble a bird’s nest, and place them on parchment paper to cool and set completely.
Place two or three raisins or other egg-shaped candies into each nest.
For storage, stack them in an airtight container in layers with parchment paper in between to prevent sticking and staling.

Makes up to 30 cookies.

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