Angels

By Larch On August 19th, 2012

While I’m healing, I have at least five books to write. One of them is stories connected to 40 years of seaweed harvesting, of course, and another is a cookbook about what we eat while we are doing the work. One of them is a book about reform of the family court system. Another is about spiritual practices that actually work. They transform us slowly over time because they involve all three aspects of being human, that is, they require that we engage our body, mind, and voice/heart. If a spiritual practice doesn’t engage me at all three levels, I usually find myself losing interest as time goes by. Then there’s a book called The Annotated Larch, and it’s stories from my life. Here’s a story from The Annotated Larch. Tell me what you think about it. If you like it, I’ll write some more.

There was a period in my life when I was a structural bodyworker, and during the winter, I worked in a retreat center in California. This was back in the mid-70’s. I was hired to work as a massage therapist, and people who signed up for a massage often didn’t know that I was capable of doing deep tissue work as well. In other words, I could lengthen and unsnarl the contractions and tangles that I found in the fascial system, the organ of support that runs throughout the entire body. There are only three systems in the body that give the shape of the entire body when they are dissected from the body: the fascial system, the nervous system and the circulatory system. When one part of the fascial system is improved, this is felt throughout the entire body.

This particular night, a man came to me with his shoulders jacked up to his ears, complaining that his neck was stiff and hurting. I said to him, “My neck would hurt, too, if my shoulders were riding just under my ears. You look like this…..” and I jacked my shoulders up to my ears and mirrored his posture so he could see what his body was doing. He didn’t believe me at first. He said, “I don’t look like that,” and I continued to mirror him, saying, “Yes, you do.” I said, “Your arms are hung from attachments at the base of your skull, and if we could just lengthen the whole fascial train that is shortened up into your neck, I think I could get you out of pain. Do you want to give it a try?” “Sure,” he said, “what do I do?” “Well,” I replied, lay down on the massage table and imagine that we’re going to slip the bones of your fingers, hand, and arm into a long pair of gloves like a woman wears with an evening gown. I want you to circle the bones of your hand and fingers around and around as I work along various lines in your arms, stretching the fascia-that’s the long glove. I want you to just keep extending your bones into the fascial glove as I work to smooth it over your bones. Pretty soon, you’ll start to feel freer movement, and your arms will begin to feel longer, all the way up to your neck.” This man was a quick study, and soon we were working nicely together to lengthen and free up his arms. He was enjoying the ever-increasing mobility that he was feeling in his fingers, hands, and arms. His muscles were, in fact, learning a lengthening response. I said to him, “As we get older, we tend to lose the ability to make circular motions in our joints. Old people often have joints that only work like hinges. You’re starting to regain circular motion, and that’s beautiful. People with a solid yoga practice know what a lengthening response is. A muscle can be taught to lengthen beyond its normal length when it is ‘at rest’. Yoga can overstretch the ligaments of a joint. Deep tissue work has the advantage of lengthening the entire fascial system, and I coach the breathing, encouraging the person to feel what has happened in the body, (you have to feel it to heal it), and encouraging the person to extend and re-inhabit the parts of the body where the person has withdrawn and contracted because of injury or emotional contraction or the stresses of gravity, misalignment, repetitive hard work and life in general.”

This man had very thick forearms. The tissue was very meaty and dense. It had a ropey quality. I decided that I wasn’t going to wreck my fingers, so I oiled his forearms with coconut oil (what I call “mercy oil”), and I began to use my elbows as a tool to lengthen the muscles of his left forearm. I discovered that this ropey tissue went all the way up his arm, through his neck, and down through his right arm. It seemed to be a continuous strand of tight contracted tissue. The man looked at me and said, “I know what this is about.” I said, “Well, I don’t, so tell me.” He went on, “I’m an electrician. It was noon time, and everyone had gone to lunch. I stayed behind, to finish up a job. Somehow I grabbed on to wires that were alive with 220 volts, and I couldn’t let go.” “So what I’m working on here is a burn,” I said. He replied, “You could say that I got welded.” “How long were you on the juice?” I asked. “Long enough to do the life review,” he said. “I thought about my wife and kids, and how much I wanted to stay alive.”

Then he chuckled and said, “I think I am a true electrician, because I kept the arc out of my brain and out of my heart.” I could visualize him raising and lowering his arms, to make the electricity take the shortest path, through his arms but not through his heart or his brain.

Finally I asked, “So how did you get out of that?” His eyes went dead flat as he gazed off into space, and his voice was monotone. He said, “Oh, someone just…..appeared…..and turned off the juice. He…..disappeared…..before I had a chance to thank him.” The hair stood up on the back of my neck, as it always does, when I am exposed to something that is paranormal. I thought, “If I had been the person who turned off the juice, I would have stuck around, to see if the electrician was OK, or to see if he needed resuscitation or an ambulance.” I went home that night pondering the mystery. I told the story to a friend, and I said, “I really don’t know what a human being IS. Did this man project himself, or was this an intervention by an unseen entity? I really don’t know.”


Years later, I told this story to a waitress, and she said, “It was an angel. I’ve got an angel story for you. After you hear it, you’ll understand.” The waitress said, “I used to work night shifts in an air conditioner factory in South Carolina. I’d go to work at 11 p.m., and my work was quality control. Do you know what the condenser coil looks like on the back of an air conditioner? It’s a pipe that goes back and forth, back and forth, just like the condenser coil on a refrigerator. My job was to plug in a rubber hose that supplied compressed air at one end of the assembly, and to plug in a rubber stopper at the other end of the assembly. Then I turned on a valve to pressurize the coil assembly, and I took the coil off an overhead conveyor with hooks that held the assembly while I was pressurizing it, and I submerged the coil in water, to check for leaks. If I saw any bubbles, that meant the assembly leaked, and I had to reject it.”

“One night I had just hooked up the compressed air, inserted the rubber stopper, and turned on the compressed air valve. A voice behind me said, “Step to the left. The cork on the right is loose!” I stepped left, and the cork shot out like a bullet at eye level. It could have blinded me. My friend who was standing behind me saw what was happening, and he lunged toward me, hoping to take me out of the line of fire. In so doing, he also took himself out of the line of fire. Two of us were taken out of harm’s way. I turned around to see who had said that. You know how people say that angels have colors? This was an angel with colors like I had never seen before! And he was BIG!”

“I didn’t believe. I turned away. Then I turned back, to see if he was still there. He was pacing back and forth, as though he were waiting to make sure that all was well and clear. I turned away. When I looked back again, he was gone. I told my friend what I had seen. I said, “Did you see what I saw?” He said, ‘No, but by the way you’re talking, I believe you.'”

“The 2 a.m. lunch break was coming up, and I said to my friend, ‘I need to talk to somebody. I’m going down to the lunch room.’ My friend said, ‘I’m coming with you!’ As we walked down the hallway toward the lunch room, I looked back. Every place that I had stepped, there were golden footprints, disappearing.”

“When we got to the lunch room, I felt myself being drawn to various people. I didn’t know what I was going to say, but the words came clear as I approached them. The messages I delivered that night went something like this: ‘Mother wants you to know that she is OK. There’s a letter that she wrote to you that she wants you to have. Go up in the attic, and look in the third box on the right. It’s tucked into a book near the top of the stack. Be at peace. She loves you.’ The person I was giving the message to would typically burst out in tears of relief.”

“I realized that I was delivering messages from those who had passed over to the other side of the veil. This went on all through the lunch break, and then I stopped and went back to work.” I asked the waitress, “Have you ever had an experience like this again?” “No,” she replied, “but if you ask me if I believe in angels, I DO!”

Well, that’s a story from a collection of stories that I’m writing, The Annotated Larch. I want to tell these stories so that I can move on, and not become my stories. When someone needs to hear this story, I can simply give them a copy of the story and say, “Here is a story that I think you might find to be interesting. You can read faster than I can talk. Enjoy! My web developer has turned me on to online publishing, and by my 70th birthday (three years from this October), I’ll be able to pull together custom-designed books, tailored to fit the audience that I’m addressing. This is my way of giving my gifts to the world, and moving on. I don’t want to “become” my stories. Perhaps, in my “retirement,” I’ll be passed around, from group to group, practicing my art of structural bodywork, and teaching classes for amateurs who want to learn how to touch each other in more profound and authentic ways while learning to stay in the moment, with the breath, observing, just observing, without praise or blame. If you want to support me as a storyteller and a writer this winter, go to theseaweedman.com and make sure that your pantry and your friends’ pantries are stocked for the winter! If you want to experience structural bodywork, send me an email.

Seaweed talk: 80% of us have type O blood, descended from the hunter-gatherer tradition. Hunter-gatherers are adapted to a lifestyle that is somewhat feast and famine, that is, when there is food, they have the capacity to eat a lot, and discharge any excess quite efficiently, (provided they stay active, don’t get sedentary), and then when they’re on the hunt, they can tolerate being hungry for quite a while. (In fact, being empty-receptive is one of the modes of operation for a hunter-gatherer that develops heart/intuition. The heart is an organ of perception that communicates directly with plants.) Hunter-gatherers can tolerate a bit more iodine, as compared to type A and B people, people whose blood type developed in the warm climate of the Mediterranean in a time when the food supply was more predictable, in the garden, in the pen, and in the field. Type A’s and B’s want smaller but regular meals, well-prepared. Their metabolism is finely tuned like a race car, and that means more complexities. Since digitata has the highest iodine, quite often the Type O’s are drawn to it. Type A’s and B’s are drawn to the summer soup mix which is based on alaria and kelp with their more moderate levels of iodine. I still have some of the summer soup mix in stock, so if you or your friends have Type A or B inclinations (quite often these types are mostly vegetarian), now is the time to order it before I list the winter soup mix once again.

By the way, the flower photos are from Nina. I hope that you have enjoyed the angelic world of color that she brings to life. I am so grateful to have her in my life. She opens my eyes to the angels. We are a good team.

The first rule of family: Show up!

By Larch On August 7th, 2012

For six years of my life, I was a half-time dad who commuted 12 hours one way, twice a month, to Lewisburg PA so that I could parent my two sons, Jay and David. I rented a home in Lewisburg, at the same time that I was building my home here in Maine.

Sometimes I would put in a day’s work here in Maine, operating the seaweed business, and then I’d get in the car on late Tuesday afternoon (or evening), drive 12 hours to Lewisburg (stopping occasionally at truck stops in the middle of the night to take a nap), and show up on Wednesday: “Hi! I’m here to play!” I would be the schooling parent for the rest of the week, and then I’d be the weekend parent. We always had adventures, one way or another. Sunday night, I would return the boys to their mother, and I would head back to Maine. Sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning, I’d arrive back home in Maine and go back to work, building my home, operating the seaweed business.

I did this routine twice a month without fail. Custody schedules can be used in an inflexible way, and sometimes I would be following the snowplow down I-95, watching my wipers break off in an ice storm. I lost a couple of cars to black ice, and I wore out some others.

Nevertheless, I always showed up. That’s the first rule of family: Show up! This year, when I suffered a head bonk and a subdural hematoma, the boys returned the favor. They showed up, and they finished the last two alaria harvests of the season so that theseaweedman.com would have adequate stock. Thank you, Jay and David, I’m grateful. And thanks to all of you loyal customers who continue to support me in this work and in my healing. There’s still blood on my brain, and I work with a cool head.

During those six years, I drove 60,000 miles each year. In the summertime, the boys would come to Maine. During high school and college, Jay, my eldest son, ended up working in the boats with me for six years. Now he is an engineer who tests safety systems in cars. David, my youngest son, is still in college, and he hasn’t decided what he wants to study next. I’m OK with that. We are all lifelong learners.

One year when my eldest daughter Kai was a student at Cornell University in Ithaca, I also split the rent with her on an apartment in downtown Ithaca. That way, when I was the weekend parent for the boys in Lewisburg, I could drive them four hours north to Ithaca, and we all had a place to stay with Kai so that the children would all remain attached. After all, the primary task of any family system is building relationships of trust, and I fully intended that this would happen for Jay, David, and Kai through the ongoing process of living together, eating together, playing together and forming attachments. For me, it was a piece of parenting work, and it was good work.

It was during the time I spent in Ithaca that I met Priscilla Timberlake and Lewis Friedman. Every Friday night for over 17 years, The Great Life Cookbook authors, Priscilla and Lewis, have been cooking for their family and community. Friends travel to their country home to delight in the wonderful locally inspired feast they prepare which features brightly colored fresh vegetables, earthy beans, energizing grains and nourishing sea vegetables. They invite you to explore the monthly dinner menus and dare to cook something wholesome and delicious for your friends! The Great Life Cookbook is beautiful, and it is available at thegreatlifecookbook.com.

This week’s recipe is a takeoff on one of the recipes in their cookbook. Here goes:

Alaria Cucumber Salad

Ingredients:

¼ cup soaked and minced alaria
2 medium cukes sliced thin
½ large red onion sliced longitudinally and blanched for 3 minutes

(Bring large pot of water to boil, blanch for 3 minutes, remove and cool in cold water.)

3 scallions, chopped
1 tsp. fresh dill, minced
salt and pepper to taste

Dressing:

2 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp. Bariani olive oil (wonderful oil if you can find it!)
juice of ½ lemon
½ tsp. honey or brown rice syrup

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and stir well. Mix the ingredients for the dressing in a shaker or with a whisk, drizzle it over the salad, and enjoy!