Thursday, 31 May 2012

Hermitcraft: Four-Strand Shoelace Fudo

This is the second-easiest braid there is, and one of three I use to make hundred-year fudos. The flat four-strand shoelace braid is more versatile than the classic three-strand in that you can produce more distinctive patterns, given multiple colours and beginning positions.

Yet as simple as it is, I found no clear tutorials for this braid online. A few writers got close, but just had to make it complex at some point, calling for a change of hands mid-pass, or braiding behind the back, or standing up and turning three times clockwise every seventeen seconds. So I can't link to another blog for more information, because, amazingly, there ain't none. (Mark your calendars, brothers and sisters: today Rusty Ring scooped the Net.)

But this is easy, even for me, who can't follow a weaving or knot diagram for love or rice. Just follow these instructions, and know that if you just stared at the four strands long enough, you would invent this braid all by yourself. You're just straight-up, old-school, weaving the righthand strand over and under all the others. Over and over until you're done. So easy, some can't resist making it hard.


1. Set up a standard three-strand fudo, with ring and knot and hook, but with four strands this time. I recommend strands of different colours the first time, to minimise confusion.

(Note: the "exploded" view in the following photos makes the process look more complex than it really is. If you look carefully, you'll see it's just as the text explains.)

2. Lay the four strands straight and even in front of you, as above.

3. Cross the inside left strand over the inside right strand.

4. Take the far right strand and weave it left, using basic, unfancy weaving: over the next strand, under the next, and over the last. [UPDATE: I forgot to add that it's bent around that final strand, which is not pictured; curl the weaving strand around the one furthest left. When you're done, the strand you wove left, which started furthest right, will be second from left. Sorry for the oversight!] "Over-under-over" [and around the last].

5. Tighten up this pass. (Not shown.)

6. Take the new far right strand and weave it left, too: over-under-over [and around the last].

7. Tighten up again.

8. Then take the new far right strand and weave it left: over-under-over [and around]. And then the new far right strand and weave it left: over-under-over [and around]. And so on, until you're ready to knot it off.

That's all. No juggling, no double-clutching, no moonwalking. It makes no difference whether you follow these instructions exactly, or invert them: cross the first two strands the other way, then pass the far right one under-over-under, instead of over-under-over. The important thing is the alternating pass.

To get diagonal stripes, like a traffic barricade (or the shoelace below), lay out your strands in two pairs, one colour left, the other right. Then do the crossing thing, and go for it.

You can play around with two, three, or four colours, in different sizes, textures, materials, and initial layouts, to get new patterns.

TO MAKE ACTUAL SHOELACES (see below), first whip the strands together at one end by tying poly kite string around them, again and again, until you've whipped a good half-inch. Seal it good with nail polish and cut off the strand-ends still sticking out. Then braid. When the lace is long enough, repeat the whipping procedure at the other end.

Four-strand fudos remind onlookers of the Four Noble Truths: that life is a disease; that the cause is known; that it's curable; and that the Eightfold Path is the cure. In practical terms, four-strand fudos look slightly more "deliberate", conveying greater intent and effort on the part of the maker, and so may be marginally less likely than the game old three-strander to be taken down by passersby.

Either way, it's a nice way to change things up.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

WW: The barn on the Acres

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Arrogance Kyôsaku

"Practice is like candy. People like different kinds. But it's just candy. The Dharma is empty."


(Quoted in Road to Heaven: Encounters with Chinese Hermits, by Bill Porter.)

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Bear Bell Koan

A visitor asked the hermit Hyung:

"Is it so that a bear will not attack a traveller carrying a bell?"

Hyung responded:

"Depends how fast he's carrying the bell."

Wu Ya's commentary: "Gang way! Doan comin' through!"

(Adapted from 100 Days on the Mountain, copyright RK Henderson.)

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

WW: Tugboat in the passage

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Reconciliation Koan

Peter Paul Rubens 185

Loyalty, forgiveness, and reconciliation make me cry. Death and suffering and loss, these also touch me; I'm sensitive and I won't apologise for it. But people loving each other makes me cry.

I'm not sure why. Envy, maybe. But it feels more like elation.

(Photo of De verzoening van Jacob en Esau (Gen. 33), by Peter Paul Rubens, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Staatsgalerie im neuen Schloss Schleissheim.)

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Hermitcraft: Dehydrated Beans

Click on photo for a closer look
There is no food as perfect as rice and beans. It's nutritious and filling (if the rice is brown), simple to make, endlessly variable, and cheap. Especially if you buy in bulk.

When I went into the woods last summer, I bought fifty pounds of each from a restaurant supply store. Total cost for 300 meals: around a hundred dollars Yank. Or 33 cents a-piece. (I only sat for a hundred days, but you want a cushion. No pun intended. Also, I ate zenola, a cereal invented for ango, for breakfast.)

Beans have one major drawback, however: they take forever to prepare. First they have to soak for hours, then simmer for an hour more until tender. It requires a lot of water, which is a labour-intensive resource in the forest, even where water is plentiful. This puts unprocessed beans out of reach of anyone living alone outdoors, especially if that person expects to do anything besides cook beans. (Such as travelling, meditating, bathing, sleeping...)

But dehydrated beans cook in the same amount of time and water as rice, which makes rice and beans a one-pot meal on the mountain.

I've found a fair amount of nonsense online about the relative impossibility of dehydrating beans, so for the benefit of all who need good food fast, here's the drill.

1. Procure beans. To determine what kind, I use a scientific formula: (all available beans) minus (all except the cheapest) equals (my beans). Where I am now, that leaves pinto beans. When I lived in Québec, I mostly ate Iroquois (white or navy) beans.

2. Cook as usual. (Soak in cold water overnight, drain, add new water to cover, and simmer gently until just tender but not mushy, 30 minutes to an hour, depending on bean and heat.)

3. Spread the cooked beans on a flat surface to dry. If you have a food
It takes weeks to dehydrate 50 pounds of beans
dehydrator, proceed as normal. If not, or you need more beans than the device can efficiently produce, place them outside. A baking sheet will work as a rack; a window screen propped up on something for airflow is better. Then subject them to sun and/or wind until dry. In a pinch you can also dry beans over a radiator or furnace register, near a woodstove, or in a warm oven with the door cracked. Unlike most foods, beans actually dry pretty well that way, but don't use a convection oven; the beans will come out beautifully uniform, but impossible to rehydrate.

4. The beans are dry when they resemble split baked potatoes, powder when pounded, and jingle when poured into a container. (Seriously. Check it out.) They'll take up about the same space as when raw, and be slightly lighter in weight. You can store them in anything, but something airtight is safest. For my 100 Days I poured most of them back into the large paper sack they came in and cached it in a garbage can in the barn. In spite of an interminably rainy summer, they kept just fine.

To reconstitute, put beans and about twice as much water in a pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about ten minutes, or turn the heat off and let stand for twenty minutes or so. You can also pitch a handful in with rice, increase water accordingly, and cook as usual. Or use them in soup.

So not only is it possible to dehydrate beans, contrary to what some websites say, but they're actually one of the most effective foods to preserve that way. They keep well, rehydrate well, and eat well. Very well, when you're sitting under a piece of Tyvek in the jungle, and it's cold and pouring rain and you just by God need something to work.

And by the way: I'm still eating my surplus from last summer. And they're still just as good.

Drying by the stove fan

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

WW: Heaven on earth

(Lucky bastard.)

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Street Level Zen: Stepmothers

Remember: This is a test you cannot pass.

This may be the best opening line any poem ever had. Not only is it memorable, it sums up the entire koan of step-parenthood with straight-up Zen genius. Jōshū could have done no better. The fact that Beverly Rollwagen chose to open with the solution is further proof of her enlightenment.

How to Become a Stepmother, by Beverly Rollwagen, is the definitive guide to a very difficult undertaking, in six little quatrains.

Out of respect for the author's copyright I'm linking to the full text on Garrison Keillor's site, rather than copying and pasting it here. Not only has my brother Garrison permission to post, but you can hear him read the poem aloud if you click on the "Listen" link above the title. I heartily recommend it; Keillor is as good at reading poetry as Rollwagen is at writing it.

(On a purely frivolous note: if Zen had come to the West a thousand years ago, so that monks here took names in our own languages rather than Asian ones, Rollwagen could easily have been one of them. Check out this Wikipaedia entry from that parallel universe: "'Road Across the Moors' is a collection of koans from the fourteenth century, popularly attributed to Rollwagen, a Zen hermit of the Yorkshire lineage.")

Auspicious Mother's Day to Avalokiteshvara in all her disguises.

Deep bow.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

WW: Baby seal on the beach

Thursday, 3 May 2012

How Christian Is Your Cat?

Christopher Smart (1722 – 1771) is a bit of a cipher. A BritLit staple, he lived the sort of life usually associated with poets: haphazard, profligate, and well-disastered. Late in life he became a Christian mystic. From that point forward his work suggests a religious practice strongly analogous to modern eremitical monasticism: he continued to live in society, but fixated on the imprint of God in all things.

He was also locked up in a lunatic asylum, until influential friends got him sprung.

Was my brother Christopher mentally ill? Hermits have been so accused, under whatever Everyone Knows to be True at the time, since the first of us declared. By reliable report, Smart exhibited a few classic symptoms of bipolar disorder, a condition highly correlated with religious calling. But he also lacked others that are equally determinant.

I stand with Jesus on this one: if a guy's work is legit, so is he. And while Smart's devotional meditations do contain tics, they are coherent, technically masterful, and incisive. They're also funny, ironic, and self-mocking, attributes rarely encountered in psychotic rants.

Check out his analysis of the koan, "Is my cat saved?". (See below.) Smart wrote this in the asylum, with research assistance from his sole friend and companion, Jeoffry.

It's long. Read it anyway. See if you too are not hooked like a catfish by the third line.

Jubilate Agno, Fragment B, 4 (excerpt)

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his fore-paws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the fore-paws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For Sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For Seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For Eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For Ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For Tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day’s work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord’s watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger.
For he has the subtlety and hissing of a serpent, which in goodness he suppresses.
For he will not do destruction, if he is well-fed, neither will he spit without provocation.
For he purrs in thankfulness, when God tells him he’s a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incompleat without him and a blessing is lacking in the spirit.
For the Lord commanded Moses concerning the cats at the departure of the Children of Israel from Egypt.
For every family had one cat at least in the bag.
For the English Cats are the best in Europe.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his fore-paws of any quadrupede.
For the dexterity of his defence is an instance of the love of God to him exceedingly.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For he is tenacious of his point.
For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.
For he knows that God is his Saviour.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For he is of the Lord’s poor and so indeed is he called by benevolence perpetually – Poor Jeoffry! poor Jeoffry! the rat has bit thy throat.
For I bless the name of the Lord Jesus that Jeoffry is better.
For the divine spirit comes about his body to sustain it in compleat cat.
For his tongue is exceeding pure so that it has in purity what it wants in musick.
For he is docile and can learn certain things.
For he can set up with gravity which is patience upon approbation.
For he can fetch and carry, which is patience in employment.
For he can jump over a stick which is patience upon proof positive.
For he can spraggle upon waggle at the word of command.
For he can jump from an eminence into his master’s bosom.
For he can catch the cork and toss it again.
For he is hated by the hypocrite and miser.
For the former is affraid of detection.
For the latter refuses the charge.
For he camels his back to bear the first notion of business.
For he is good to think on, if a man would express himself neatly,
For he made a great figure in Egypt for his signal services.
For he killed the Ichneumon-rat very pernicious by land.
For his ears are so acute that they sting again.
For from this proceeds the passing quickness of his attention.
For by stroaking of him I have found out electricity.
For I perceived God’s light about him both wax and fire.
For the Electrical fire is the spiritual substance, which God sends from heaven to sustain the bodies both of man and beast.
For God has blessed him in the variety of his movements.
For, though he cannot fly, he is an excellent clamberer.
For his motions upon the face of the earth are more than any other quadrupede.
For he can tread to all the measures upon the musick.
For he can swim for life.
For he can creep.

(Ed. note: "creep" here means crawl.)

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

WW: Goldfinches

by RK Henderson(Carduelis tristis)
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