"At the Invisible Level"
As soon as the car stopped,
Turq bailed out, his plumed tail
held tight between his legs.
He ran right to the gazebo
and disappeared into his den.
"What happened? Is he
okay?" Ansel asked, turning
to Mingxia as she climbed out.
"What happened is that
we went to River City for
traditional Chinese medicine,"
Mingxia said. "Think of it as
a hard doctor's appointment,
physically uncomfortable and
"I'm sorry to hear that,"
Ansel said. "How can I help?"
"If you'll let me borrow
your kitchen, then I can make
some comfort food," Mingxia said.
"Yes, of course," Ansel said,
leading the way to the stairs.
"Come on up and help yourself
to anything in the house."
Mingxia had visited before
but not taken a close look at
the kitchen in the cabin.
"Oh, you have a wok!"
she exclaimed. "I hardly
dared hope for a rice cooker."
"We've had the rice cooker for
a while," Ansel said. "The wok was
our household Christmas present this year."
"Wonderful," said Mingxia. "What
ingredients do we have to work with?"
"Plenty of white rice, as well as
a few flavored kinds," Ansel said.
"I'm sure of chicken and beef,
probably some other meats.
Onions, carrots, potatoes, and
various other vegetables ..."
"What about Chinese spices or
special ingredients?" Mingxia said,
turning to look around the kitchen.
"We've always had soy sauce.
I know we've picked up new things
like rice wine and rice vinegar," Ansel said.
"Turq may have added more stuff too."
Mingxia rummaged around a bit and
declared, "We have the ingredients
for Spicy Chinese Chicken. Start up
some white rice, would you please?"
So Ansel went to work with
the rice cooker while Mingxia
prepared fresh ingredients.
She minced garlic and ginger,
sliced a regular onion, and
chopped green onions. Then
she cut the chicken meat
into bite-sized pieces.
As Ansel finished setting up
the rice cooker and turned it on,
Mingxia fired up the wok.
The pink peppercorns
went in first, turning fragrant
almost instantly. Those were
taken out and crushed, then
returned to the wok along with
the onion, garlic, and ginger.
The chicken chunks went in next,
and Mingxia's hands danced through
the flipping and stirring to keep
everything from burning.
When the chicken was cooked,
the sauce was poured over it,
and finally the green onions.
Ansel breathed through his nose as
the kitchen filled with delicious steam.
Mingxia scooped the chicken into
a bowl and covered it, then set the wok
on the back of the stove to cool off.
"There now, that'll be ready whenever
the rice is done," she said, smiling.
"It smells amazing already,"
Ansel said, pushing down
the temptation to snitch a bit.
"Good," Mingxia said with
a nod. "Open a window."
"What?" Ansel said.
"It's pretty cold outside."
"Just a crack, you don't need
to leave it wide open," Mingxia said.
"I want Turq to smell the food, so we
don't have to drag him out of the gazebo."
"Oh," said Ansel as he went to open
a window. "Good thinking there."
"Experience," Mingxia said.
"Meanwhile, let's whip up
something for dessert."
"I have no idea what
Chinese desserts are,
other than fortune cookies,
and I'm pretty sure that those
don't count," Ansel admitted.
Mingxia laughed. "They really
don't," she said. "If you have eggs
and some kind of solid cooking fat,
then I can make custard tarts."
"We have farm-fresh eggs,"
Ansel said, pulling a carton
from the refrigerator. Then he
opened a cabinet. "Let's see,
there's shortening or --"
"You have real lard!"
Mingxia exclaimed. "Oh,
pull that down, it will work
so much better than shortening
for making this kind of pastry."
Ansel, who had grown up on
real lard pie crusts, gleefully
handed her the big can of it.
Mingxia whisked a pinch of salt
into some flour, then started
cutting the lard into the mix.
As she worked, Ansel asked,
"Should I know any more details
about what happened today? Do you
think it would help, or just be prying?"
"It might help," Mingxia said.
"How much do you know about
traditional Chinese medicine?"
"That it exists," Ansel said.
"Well, that and Marjoram makes
a few herbal first aid supplies
that use Chinese herbs."
"Oh, what kind?" Mingxia said.
"It started when we found the teas
and mulling critters at the Midwinter Faire,"
Ansel said. "Then Nebuly showed up smelling
like Weal Wand, which isn't Chinese, but ..."
"It made you curious about other things?"
Mingxia guessed. "Not a bad idea."
"Yes, I figured if Nebuly liked what
Marjoram makes, then Turq might too,"
Ansel said. "That's how we found
the Buddha Balm, which I like, and
the Orange Dragon Digestive Tea,
which Janie likes. Turq likes them all."
"That's encouraging," Mingxia said.
"Turq came home with some prescriptions
that we hope will help settle his nerves and
keep his body from spiraling out of control."
"And that works?" Ansel asked her.
"We hope," Mingxia repeated.
"What happened to Turq has
knocked him badly out of balance,
so much that he was embarrassed by
how obvious some of the symptoms are.
That's something conventional medicine
is bad at fixing, but Chinese is very good at."
"Yes, Turq doesn't find most medical care
very useful," Ansel said. "We've found
a few things that help, but most of the time
he has to rely on his own regeneration.
Anything that helps get his body into
better shape in general would be good."
"We'll figure it out," Mingxia said
as she sprinkled ice water over
the dough to make it form up.
Then she covered the dough in
plastic wrap and put it in the fridge.
A soft sound at the door made
them look up as Turq came into
the living room, now in human form.
He slunk over to close the window
that Ansel had cracked open,
then came to greet them.
"Hey," Turq said in
a barely-there voice.
"Hey," Ansel said.
"Do you feel any better?"
"Maybe a little," Turq said.
His nose twitched. "I smell
food. What's for supper?"
"I made Spicy Chinese Chicken,"
said Mingxia. "The rice should
be done any minute now."
"Let me find a side dish
to throw in the microwave,"
Ansel said. He dumped
a can of peas into a bowl
and set that to heating.
The timer for the rice
sounded, and Mingxia
put that in a serving bowl.
Turq raised the leaf that
turned the buffet window
into a dining table between
the kitchen and the living room.
Mingxia brought out the rice
and the chicken, while Ansel
added the bowl of peas.
Turq set the table with
plates and silverware,
and they all sat down.
Ansel watched the other two
to see how the meal was
supposed to go together.
They filled most of a bowl
with rice and then added
a scoop of chicken on top,
along with the peas.
Ansel probably would've
put everything on a plate
in separate piles, but he
figured that they knew
what they were doing.
They did. That way,
the sauce from the chicken
soaked down through the rice.
It was savory and spicy and delicious.
Ansel was scraping the bottom
of the bowl before he knew it.
Once the table was cleared,
Mingxia said, "Okay, it's time
to finish making the dessert."
"There's dessert?" Turq,
who had stayed mostly silent
through the meal, perked up
at the promise of a treat.
"I made dough for custard tarts
and put it in the fridge to chill,"
Mingxia said. "I need to make
the filling and assemble them."
"Can I help?" Turq asked,
wiggling in his place.
"You can if you're feeling
up to it," Mingxia said.
"I want to try," Turq said.
"I know I'm a mess, but ...
I need to do things, like
everyday things. It helps."
"That's a good idea," Ansel said.
"I'll find the tart pans for you."
While he did that, Mingxia
brought out the dough to roll
and set Turq to making the custard.
It took a while to get the finicky dough
positioned in the pan, re-chilled, and
filled with sweet, sunny custard.
Finally they popped the pan
into the oven to cook.
While they waited, they
curled up on the couch
in the living room.
"How much did Mom
tell you about ... today?"
Turq said, looking at Ansel.
"Mostly we talked about
Chinese traditional medicine,"
Ansel said. "Not a lot of detail,
we're were just trying to make sure
I'd know how to offer support."
"I'm a mess," Turq said. "Dr. Chen
told me that my yin and yang
are all out of balance ... hell,
my everything is out of balance.
I knew it wasn't good, but I
didn't know it was that bad."
"You're not a mess,"
Mingxia said gently.
"You came through
a lot of bad things,
that's the trouble."
"Turq, if you got hit
by a truck, you wouldn't
expect to get up and be fine,
would you?" said Ansel.
"Well, no," Turq said,
looking down at the floor.
"That's different, though,
everyone knows a wreck
can really mess you up."
"Any major trauma is pretty much
the same when it comes to how much
it impacts your life," Ansel said. "Some
are just less bloody than others."
"Oh, there was plenty of blood,"
Turq muttered. "It just doesn't
show now because I heal so well."
"You are healing, sweetie,"
Mingxia reminded him. "Look,
we've been indoors over an hour
and you're doing quite well with it."
"Yeah," Turq said. "I think I
wore out my ability to freak for
the day. It's just kind of lying there
in the back of my brain, twitching."
Ansel chuckled. "That happens.
It should settle down eventually."
"You don't think I'm just ...
broken forever?" Turq said,
burrowing into Ansel's side.
Ansel put an arm around him.
"I know you're not," he said.
"I've seen you making progress
already, in the time I've known you."
"As long as you're alive, you can
do things to recover," Mingxia said.
"You've got the recommendations
for diet and lifestyle changes --"
"Lifestyle's a lost cause,"
Turq said bitterly.
"How about, lifestyle is
a future goal," said Mingxia.
"You can work on diet first
if that seems more achievable."
"Yeah, maybe," Turq said,
wriggling in place again.
The motion shifted him so that
he was more-or-less sprawled
over both Ansel and Mingxia.
"We can do Falun Gong
together too," Mingxia said.
You like that, and you know
it helps balance your energy."
"I like the idea," Turq said.
"I just don't know if I can ..."
"I'm impressed that you
managed to do anything
medical at all," Ansel said.
"That's an accomplishment."
"Traditional Chinese medicine
is pretty different from Western,"
said Turq. "That's why Mingxia
suggested it. There's not much
to remind me of mad science torture,
unlike the first aid stuff that Dao does."
"You were very brave today,"
Mingxia said. "You will get
your balance back, and then
you'll be able to do more things."
"I know, I know," Turq said.
"You keep telling me, it's just ..."
He gave an unhappy sigh. "They
took so much from me, and I
want it back. But when I try
to reach for it, I get scared."
"Everyone gets scared sometimes,
Turq," said Mingxia. "Being brave
means you don't let it stop you,
not that you don't feel it."
"Exactly," Ansel said.
"You can feel scared
and still get stuff done."
"It's so hard, though,"
Turq said. "I feel like
my head is messed up,
my body hates me, and
my instincts are all wrong."
"You did a lot of hard things
today, Turq," said Mingxia. "That's
something you can be proud of."
"Besides, your instincts aren't
all wrong," Ansel said. "You still
know how to run away from danger
and identify people who are safe.
Some of your other instincts may be
a little bent, but you can straighten
them out if you give yourself time."
"You really think so?" Turq said.
"Even though my whole body
tears itself apart sometimes?"
"Yes, I do," Ansel said.
"I have faith in you, Turq."
"Everything that appears in
the physical realm is connected
with energy flow at the invisible level,"
Mingxia said. "If we can restore
your energy to health, that should
keep your body in better shape."
Part of the problem, of course,
was that Turq's shapeshifting
didn't work very well and caused
injuries that were difficult to fix,
other than waiting for his abilities
to clean up the damage on their own.
Anything that could improve that
would be an enormous help.
"I hope so," Turq said. "I don't
like feeling like a computer that
somebody stuck a virus in. I'm
a person, not a program."
"Of course you're a person,"
Ansel said. "Having a glitch
in your body or mind doesn't
make you any less of one."
"Computers can be debugged,"
Mingxia said. "So can people,
only the method differs."
"That would be nice," Turq said.
The oven timer sounded then,
and Mingxia got up to take
the custard tarts out.
"Here," she said. "Eat
something a little sweet
to increase your joy."
"You always say that,"
Turq mumbled around
a mouthful of crumbs.
"I say it because it's
true," Mingxia replied.
Turq was smiling a little,
so maybe it was true.
Ansel bit into his tart and
imagined it cheering him up
at the invisible level.
* * *
Dr. Shoushan Chen -- He has tawny-fair skin and almond-shaped brown eyes. He is mostly bald, with a short fringe of graying hair. He wears wire-framed glasses. Dr. Chen practices traditional Chinese medicine in River City, Missouri.
Qualities: Master (+6) Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Expert (+4) Xìn, Expert (+4) Interpersonal Intelligence, Good (+2) Constitution, Good (+2) Gardener, Good (+2) Grandfather
Poor (-2) Nearsighted
* * *
"Everything that appears in the physical realm is always connected with energy flow at the invisible level."
-- Nan Lu
Ansel's version of this gazebo has built-in storage benches where the seats lift or doors open to access the cabinets underneath. The two end benches have end doors that open at the entrance of the gazebo. The two middle benches have seats that lift up. The center back bench has front doors.
This is the home of Officer Pink (Ansel Nicholson) which used to be part of a resort alongside a lake. When the resort closed, the rental cabins were parceled into individual lots and sold, while some of the resort's main facilities -- such as the lodge and the main boating dock -- were set aside as neighborhood resources. See the exterior. Here are floor plans for the lower level and the main level. Not visible from here, the kitchen is divided from the living room by a dining/buffet bar. Underneath the bar is a large hinged leaf that can be brought up to form a dining table.
Traditional Chinese medicine follows eight principles of diagnosis and teaches some valuable lessons about health.
Part of the diagnosis involves a patient interview featuring the 10 Questions. Here is a sample diagnostic form that a TCM practitioner might use.
Another aspect is pulse diagnosis. In local-China, doctors may spend 20-25 minutes evaluating the pulses., but in local-America it's more often 5-10 minutes. For comparison, the Western method uses 30-60 seconds, which is enough to count the beats and gauge intensity, but only the most conspicuous of irregularities will manifest in so short a time. TCM doctors use the longer time to observe changes in the pulse, the patient overall, and for establishing trust. In Terramagne-America, TCM practitioners often give the patient more input into what kind of care they want. How long can they sit still for pulse diagnosis? How comfortable are they being handled? Do they want a detailed conversation about findings and options, or just a set of prescriptions? This flexibility allows such caregivers to serve a wider range of patients. Thus a typical TCM appointment runs about an hour, and a first intake or an appointment for someone with a serious problem can easily take two hours. Contrast this with L-America, where appointments have been hacked down to 10 minutes or less in many cases. Worse, if the pre-appointment measurements are taken by a nurse instead of a doctor, that deprives the doctor of time to build trust and observe the patient, while depriving the patient of privacy and rapport.
TCM focuses on maintaining health, not just curing illness. For this reason, lifestyle advice is a mainstay of the practice.
Balance is another vital part of TCM. For example, here are some ways to balance the five elements. With food, the five flavors each have different fuctions. Spicy food eases www.simplecomfortfood.com/category/
Ansel's rice cooker is a smart model with relatively simple controls. This is a good choice for people who eat plenty of rice and want some versatility without too much fuss. It's among the best rice cookers available.
Ansel's wok is a traditional round-bottomed wok with some nice accessories. This is one of the best woks to buy.
Spicy Chinese Chicken is one type of Chinese comfort food. A comfort food can be anything with nostalgic value, but tends to include things that are warm, soft, and rich. Mingxia presents her children with foods that are both comforting and reasonably healthy.
Chinese desserts include egg custard tarts. Lard is among the best fats for making pie crusts.
Weal Wand by Marjoram
This balm stick has antiseptic and healing qualities, with a spicy-medicinal smell. The calendula and chamomile give it a yellow-orange color.
2 ounces (~4 tablespoons) olive oil infused with calendula flowers, chamomile, comfrey, lemon balm leaf, plantain leaf, and echinacea root
2 ounces (~4 tablespoons) beeswax
2 ounces (~4 tablespoons) cocoa butter
2 ounces (~4 tablespoons) shea butter
2 teaspoons neem oil
1 teaspoon clove oil
1 teaspoon lavender oil
1 teaspoon rosemary oil
1 teaspoon tea tree oil
Calendula heals the skin. It comes in yellow to orange shades.
This rich green salve has grassy, spicy, and medicinal notes. It's an all-purpose healing balm based primarily on traditional Chinese medicine, particularly good for blisters.
1 cup olive oil infused with calendula
1 cup olive oil infused with chuanxiong, dong quai (Chinese angelica root), Panax ginseng (Chinese ginseng)
1 cup olive oil infused with white willow bark
1/4 cup tamanu oil
3 cups beeswax
3 cups shea butter
1/2 ounce vitamin E oil
1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder
10 drops frankincense essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil
10 drops sandalwood essential oil
Tamanu oil is good for skin complaints.
Calendula heals the skin. It comes in yellow to orange shades; Marjoram uses yellow for this recipe because that brightens the green.
Chuanxiong is a Chinese herb often appearing in blends for sore muscles.
Dong quai is a broad-spectrum herb appearing in many Chinese blends. Panax ginseng has stimulating and regenerative qualities.
White willow bark is a natural painkiller.
Matcha green tea powder has many benefits, and gives the salve its vivid green color.
Frankincense is spicy-sweet and has antiseptic functions.
Sandalwood is another spicy oil that lifts and soothes the mood.
Orange Dragon Digestive Tea
This reddish-orange tea has a tangy, fruity flavor with a bitter finish. It stimulates digestion and soothes stomach or bowel complaints. Similarly, it reduces menstrual cramps and bloating.
3 parts lemon balm
2 parts man yue mei (cranberry)
2 parts shan zha (hawthorn berry)
2 parts chen pi (orange peel)
1 part pu gong ying (dandelion)
1 part ren shen (ginseng)
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) has a citrus flavor. This soothing herb relieves stress, gas, and bloating.
Man yue mei (cranberry) has a strong tangy-fruity flavor with bitter undertones. It improves loss of appetite and poor digestion. It also promotes urinary tract health.
Shan zha (hawthorn berry) has a sweet-sourt taste. It helps with digesting meats and fats.
Chen pi (orange peel) has a citrus flavor with bitter undertones. It regulates the whole digestive system and reduces nausea, vomiting, belching, distention, and abdominal pain.
Pu gong ying (dandelion) is bitter and earthy. It provides a rich source of vitamins, helps flush out toxins, and tones the digestive system.
Ren shen (ginseng) is spicy and earthy. It stimulates appetite and the absorption of nutrients through the digestive system.
Here are some more digestive herbs.