One of Buddha's most interesting and helpful teachings, for me, was about the process of refining gold. He said that gold isn't refined in one step. Instead, first the big non-gold boulders are removed from a mix of metal and dirt. Then the smaller pebbles are removed and then the smaller ones, until, after multiple screenings, what is left is gold. "Refining" ourselves takes a similar process. First we need to take a look at the big boulder-y parts of us that make us and everyone around us crazy and possibly down-right miserable. We need to eliminate them. Gambling addictions come to mind here. Or hitting our kids out of sheer anger. Then we can just keep moving through the layers, cleaning up our behavior, and in my case my mouth, as best we can — over and over until these aspects of ourselves no longer harm.
After what had to be initial groans, people wanted to know where to start. With generosity. Generosity has a way of helping us see where our boulders, stones, and pebbles are. And if we don't know what it means to be generous, we can look to nature for guidance. Fall is the season of generosity. Gardens are full to the brim. Fruit trees are laden with fruit — all gifts waiting to be received.
Apples are the fruit that make my heart sing, and any celebration of apples makes the singing last and last. A favorite fall rite for me is attending the Portland Nursery's Apple Tasting, scheduled for the weekends of October 10th and 17th (from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.) this year.
As someone who gets drunk from wine tastings even when I spit, apple tastings are a perfect gift. I can taste, swallow, and still drive home safely. Plus the education ... each year promises an introduction to apples I never knew existed. This year the nursery promises to have as many as sixty varieties of apples and pears ready to be tasted. Many of them will be on sale for 89 cents a pound, with any profits going to Elders in Action. For people who have a use for apple cores and cider press pulp, between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. on both weekends, pulp can be picked up in plastic bags near the loading zone on a first-come, first-served basis.
In addition to the apples, there will be traditional bluegrass music and a "bluegrass free-for-all" with Great Northern Planes on Saturday, October 11th. On Sunday, the 12th, what some people call the hottest Cuban band in the northwest, Cana Son, will be playing in the afternoon. On the following weekend, Hurricane Hole and Dale Jones will be there on Saturday, followed by The Mike Canner Trio on Sunday.
If, like me, you have a tendency to buy more apples than you can possibly eat — or even pass along to the neighbors — here is a favorite apple recipe:
Amazing Apple Mufffins
4 1/2 cups of whole wheat flour (This can be a mix of oat, spelt, and almond flour if you don't eat wheat)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 c soy milk, almond milk or cow's milk
1 cup melted butter (or canola oil)
1 1/2 cups of finely chopped apples
Topping: 1 cup sugar, 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with 12 muffin cups. Mix the dry ingredients together and then mix in the liquids. Don't overmix, or the muffins will taste suspiciously like apple-flavored bricks. Gently fold in the apples as the last thing you do before filling the muffin cups about three-quarters full. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
While they are cooking, melt the butter for the topping and, separately, mix the sugar and spices together. As soon as you take the muffins out of the oven, brush them with the butter and sprinkle them with the sugar mixture.
Then start the second batch because you and whoever sees you next will eat the first batch all by yourselves.
You are very welcome.