steaming hot soup in a white ceramic bowl with a brass spoon

Delicious & nourishing: steaming hot soup as a form of devotional practice and clue-finding…

Announcement & reminder about the ebook!

If you’ve already given to Barrington’s Discretionary last year or this year, you should have received my ebook (by email) on how I approach and plan my year, how I think about time and am in relationship with time. The feedback on this has been lovely and heartwarming, thank you!

And if you gave to Barrington but didn’t get it, I am so sorry if anyone fell through the cracks, please email me at my name at this website, Havi AT fluent self DOT com, with any emoji, and I will send it.

You can still obtain a copy for now, as a thank you when you give any sum to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund, and I hope you enjoy and find lots of clues in there!

Go forth and

It takes as long as it takes

I was listening to this Selected Shorts interview, Meg Wolitzer with Denis O’Hare, I put it on to distract me while the soup was heating up, so I could think about something other than how much I was looking forward to the soup (a lot).

What a delight, what an excellent choice, I love when I do something for seemingly frivolous reasons, and it yields something I never could have anticipated.


Denis O’Hare was talking about something that is so familiar to me: when you have done something for so many years that it becomes difficult to break it down in such a way that you could describe to someone else how you do it, because it’s mostly if not completely automatic.

That is a phenomenon that encompasses many things…

Paradoxically, part of [not-teaching, but something adjacent to it] involves some elements of describing, or at least demonstrating that indescribable thing you wish to convey. Or the thing others wish to learn from you but you can’t explain it…

For me personally this can be extra tricky, because often the not-a-teaching that I am trying to convey is something that is by its nature mostly invisible — for example: the ongoing practice of Add Compassion & Stir…

Not-teaching but something adjacent to it

As you probably already know, I am team modeling > teaching; I would rather live something in way that is visible than explain it, but hey, sometimes we do both.

And as much as I am disinclined to be the person at the front of the room or at a podium, because I would always rather just be playing with everyone as equals in a delightful game that is not about winning and is only about playing…

I will allow that it is sometimes useful to be able to explain what you are doing. Even if you’re only explaining it to yourself as an experiment.

Go out and

Denis O’Hare mentioned that back in the day, an early acting teacher of his had once given him the instruction to “go out and bring back observations”.

Go out and bring back what you noticed while you were out on this mission of noticing things.

And then, presumably, you practice it, learn from it, embody it, play with it, tinker, refine, and so on…

I love this as a practice, it reminds me of clue walks.

What is a clue walk

A clue walk doesn’t have to involve walking at all, although it can.

It is any form you might use to look-or-wander through your space or through a place (including taking yourself for a walkabout, if you are able to and you feel like it) with this mindset of noticing.

Curiosity, attentiveness, receptivity, observation, these are the superpowers of a clue walk as a practice.

Wonder is a delicious and enticing quality too, if you are able to channel some of that, though no worries if not, it might surprise you and show up on its own.

What is a clue

Anything that sparks or draws my attention is or can be a clue.

The clue walk is an invitation to turn up attentiveness and see what I am drawn to…

Observing puts you in relationship with the clues

Observing puts you in relationship with the clues.

By noticing something, you are changing how you are in relationship with it.

You can also interact with the clues you find in a more conscious or intentional way, for example by asking them directly what they know or have to show you, whether related to a current situation or just in general.

This is a great journaling question or stone skipping question. Clue of X, what would you like me to know?

I have written about clue walks here before…

For example, in:

These are all good places to get more ideas or information, or you can just take a two minute clue walk in your space right now, even just by looking around you…

What are the elements of Go Out And

There is the Embarking, the Setting Forth, whether this is a physical action or a moment of deciding.

There is the meandering, the long middle. This is where you notice what you notice, and maybe here there can be some anxiety (what if I don’t find a clue, what if I don’t find what I’m looking for, what if I already missed it), and noticing the anxiety can also hold clues.

Usually our worries about one thing can shine light about our worry patterns about everything else, aka how I worry about anything is generally how I worry about everything…

Or maybe it isn’t, and that could be a clue too!

Then there is the noticing of observations, and of course there is the Bringing Them Back.

Letting the clues surprise you

Listening to Denis O’Hare took me to his website where I discovered several things I did not know, first that he is a terrific writer in addition to being a talented singer and actor.

I also did not know that we share a Michigan childhood, which could also be why I like his voice so much, so often when I have the conscious thought that I love someone’s voice, it later turns out that this person with the voice was a Detroit kid.

And then that he, like me, loves a geodesic dome. Who knew.

An obsession with round spaces is a lovely thing to share with someone, and it is always good to be reminded how I feel about the way things can echo and reverberate.

And then I kept looking, for one more clue

It was a craving, just one more clue! And then I found it, when he said, on the topic of writing:

”Stage directions have to be sexy.”

And he said this, too, which feels related:

”I love the feeling of a character appearing and telling me who she is. I love when scenes meander away from my control. I love when I re-read something and it makes my spine tingle because it is alive.”

Yes, there it is, the next clue

Yes, me too, I also love when my writing meanders away from my control, when a theme or an idea-spark takes on a life of its own.

This might be why I clue-walk, this might be why I do everything, to be deliciously surprised.

What if “go forth and bring back observations” is itself a sexy stage direction? A suggestion, an imperative, a description, a quest…

What if being deliciously surprised is a worthy pursuit on its own?

Anything else about clues?

I wanted to mention specifically that clues are either neutral or kind. They are not mean.

So if you think you got a clue about how your messy desk means you’re a disorganized loser, for example, that sounds like monsters, aka the voices of internalized criticism that can show up in our unconscious, ways we have learned from the world to motivate ourselves through stress or abuse.

But even as we notice a monster-story (good job for noticing!), we can still use our powers of observation to find a kernel of beautiful neutral truth inside of it.

A kernel of beautiful neutral truth

In the example I gave about the cluttered surface, maybe the clue is noticing that you crave a clean slate and more spaciousness for your work…

Or maybe it’s the opposite, and you are able to notice that you actually thrive when there’s some good creative chaos, and you can give yourself some permission and spaciousness to just thrive how you thrive!

Good noticing, either way. Noticing is a win.

Where else can we bring back observations

Obviously from out in the world, and from out in nature…

But also I can go on a clue walk in my inbox, or among my open tabs.

Clues exist in a pile of papers or a pile of dishes. Clues live in a project I started and put aside because it wasn’t the time, or because of [reasons].

Sometimes the clue is about a desire, sometimes a clue is about approach, sometimes the clue is in remembering the wisdom of You Win Some, You Win Some Later.

What clues am I finding in my open tabs right now?

So many linguistic-related rabbit holes! I love words so much! I am always looking something up to find where it comes from, or to help me translate something from Hebrew if I have forgotten a word in English, or vice versa.

And then I end up with twenty tabs that are just about words.

Many of my tabs are music-related, a song I fell in love with, an artist I want to know more about.

What can I learn about myself (again, with a compassionate and generous outlook, channeling Loving Clarity, not in terms of monster-narratives) when I take in the many open tabs?

And can I close some and still honor the true clues, which tell me that I am a curious person who is fascinated by the world and by sounds, and by how things connect and overlap. Can I say thank you for this clue, and then trust that I will find it again, or something better? Maybe!

Go forth and

Go forth and wander, meander, soften, maybe let yourself (or your eyes) relax, maybe even get to ten percent more relaxed

Go forth and observe, notice, laugh, practice, play, gather, disperse, release…

Go forth and find some pleasure, take some pleasure, enjoy something if you can.

Can I go forth and rededicate myself to these micro-joys, to these small practices of finding treasure in the clues?

The soup

Over the weekend I made a big pot of soup stock from various vegetable scraps in my freezer (onion, shallot, parsley, can’t remember what else) along with bay leaves, some chiltepin peppers, peppercorns and whatever spices I felt drawn to.

Froze some, used some to cook rice, which I also recommend, and decided to turn the rest into a soup, because I am really devoting myself to delicious nourishing soup life for this end-of-winter season here.

Using the tried and true Use What You Have method, I added some frozen broccoli, some cubed potatoes that I’d steamed and then coated in arrowroot flour and fried up in oil, some extremely garlicky mashed-cauliflower, some tahini for body (highly recommend this trick), and topped with lots of dill and some dried lemon peel.

Then I remembered that past-me had been obsessively saving tater tot crumbs for some future unknown special occasion, and of course soup is its own occasion, so I griddled those up as a topping, and am pleased to report that this soup was a revelation.

What are the clues here

So I get that soup is not necessarily a clue walk, and yet, since I am playing with the idea that a) everything can be a clue walk, and b) as Denis O’Hare said, go out and bring back observations…

Here are the clues for me in this comforting lunchtime feast..

Let’s observe…

A clue about Appreciation: all the scraps used to make stock come from past delicious meals, appreciating past me for finding the energy to cook, for saving the peels, for making sure I consumed vegetables…

A clue about Layers / Process: this soup came together because various pieces were in place that came together over time.

A clue about trust and practice and time: I have made some not-good soups in my life, but also I have been making soup without a recipe for so many years that I have a sensory map of what might be good or what feels right.

A clue about aesthetics: I sent this picture to my friend Emerson who commented that he liked the round handle of the spoon and the way the spoon rests in the spout of the bowl.

What great treasure in this reminder

His words reminded me that I used to be the kind of person who would not use their favorite bowl and spoon, because it’s not an occasion, but guess what, now I always use my favorite bowl and spoon, because this soup is its own occasion, and I am the occasion, and this day is an occasion, and being alive is an occasion.

This is proof that things can change and shift for the better, even if my monsters say they can’t and don’t, they are wrong, because look, the change has already taken place. Miracles abound, things move and shift, and the clues are a reminder of that.

That’s another good reason to set forth and bring back observations, to go out (or be right here) and notice.

Let’s play!

We can find clues in our setting, or change our setting (change our settings!).

We can go for a little stroll, or do a stroll with our eyes or ears right where we are. It all works, no need to let going out and observing turn into another thing we get annoyed at ourselves for not doing.

(This is not a should, we are not falling down on the job when we don’t go out and observe things, it’s all good.)

But just like how there are clues even in a soup and also in a side of griddled sweet potato patties (which are not pictured because they were so outrageously delicious that I devoured them before there could be photographic evidence), clues are available right here, right now, in the moment that is.

Beauty and wonder

I told a friend about how I am obsessing over clue walks again, after hearing Denis O’Hare talk about going forth with the purpose of bringing back observations, even though he meant it specifically as an acting practice, that you observe people, and bring back voices, and gaits, affects and ways people self-express…

She told me about a clue walk that she took when she came to do a retreat at The Playground, my former center in Portland, Oregon, this would have been over ten years ago:

I always remember the clue walk I took at the Playground. I still remember the best thing from it: Look up! Seeing the tops of trees being so ragged looking where the new growth is, not neat and tidy, just all over the place. I still think about it all these years later…

Sometimes observing with intention means that a clue or an image (and its wisdom) will stick with you, in a good way. It can accompany you onward to the next mission…

Naming what we notice

Let’s name some clues, if we can.

Or just find a few minutes for a little walk-about, whether inside or outside, just to explore and see what’s there.

Or if you, like me, are closing some tabs this weekend, what clues and qualities are there that you want to remember!

I’m getting a lovely mental image of a bag or pouch, as if we are venturing forth to pick fruit, to gather or forage our precious clues, and return triumphantly so that we can make them into jam, or, in this case, see what they wish to become.

Let’s notice what we notice, and maybe we can find something useful, or something reassuring, or something beautiful, who knows, let’s find out.

Come play in the comments, I appreciate the company

You are welcome to share anything that sparked for you while reading, or anything that helped or anything on your mind. I am lighting a candle for all of it.

Or anything you’d like to toss into the wishing pot, the healing power of the collective is no small thing, companionship helps.

Whatever comes to mind (come to heart?), let’s support each other’s hope-sparks and wishes…

Thank you to everyone who reads, porch breaths, the winding path, the many clues that land when they land, receptivity, keeping on keeping on.

New ebook alert!!!

Aka fun bonus material on how I relate to time and map out my quarters for the year.

Anyone who gives to Barrington’s Discretionary this week (see below) will get this by email as a pdf!

A request

If you received clues or perspective or want to send appreciation for the writing and work/play we do here, I appreciate it tremendously. Between Long Covid and traumatic brain injury recovery, things are slow going.

I am accepting support (with joy & gratitude) in the form of Appreciation Money to Barrington’s Discretionary Fund. Asking is not where my strength resides but Brave & Stalwart is the theme these days, and pattern-rewriting is the work, it all helps with fixing the many broken things.

And if those aren’t options, I get it, you can light a candle for support (or light one in your mind!), share this with someone who loves words, tell people about these techniques, approaches and themes, send them here, it all helps, it’s all welcome, and I appreciate it and you so much. ❤️

The Fluent Self