Peeling the pith

Sitting at my son’s aikido lesson last week, I helped a friend prepare some dried nettle stalks that were piled in front of her on the floor. She showed me how to use my thumb to split the stalk lengthwise and to break section of the brittle inner pith so I could peel it from the flexible outer vegetation. Last week she showed me how, when she has enough, she twists this outer portion in a one-two motion to make twine.

I say I wish I had time to be creative or to tackle a project. But then I mutter about the preparatory work; taping off a room I’m going to paint or completing the mise en place so I won’t be held up for lack of minced garlic. Tedious.

There was no moment of revelation when I was peeling pith, no internal shift. In fact, I experienced more a suspension of revelation than anything else. It was the kind of work that thrives under a blank and unburdened mind. Prep work as it should be.

I bring this up because last week was tough, writing-wise. So was the week before. Here’s how last week went: I sat down to write a post as I usually do, after the kids had gone to bed. I got a lot on the page but by two a.m., I admitted it was drivel, cursed the lost sleep, and idled the monitor.

When that happens, I’d be better off peeling off the pith than downing another bowl of popcorn; get my hands busy, talk to a friend over more than a cup of coffee. If I kept a pile of dried nettle on my desk, it might help with the thinking. Or help turn it off.


I haven’t been cooking during the day, when the light is good. Otherwise I’d show you the pumpkin curry we made, which was the color of orange slushie, almost. But it doesn’t look so good against the yellow walls at night. You will have to imagine it.

2 thoughts on “Peeling the pith

  1. I’ve woven nettle once before at a pit-cook last fall. Very relaxing. I think doing things by hand is really healthy for us, it helps us to slow down and live in the moment. Sure, we may not get as much of a quantity of things accomplished, but we will get a lot more gratification out of the things we do accomplish. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Repetitive work can be a blessing and a curse. I’m making a quilt for my new grandbaby these days. The sewing is soooo monotonous. But I’ve loved the design aspect, And I know my daughter will love the finished product. So I take the time while sewing to muse. And take lots of breaks to do other more exciting things. It will be done when it is done.

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