Last week some appointments got cancelled and I found myself with a free day. I treated myself to a long luxurious stroll through Central Park. In the middle of all the stunning spring blooms and flowering trees I came upon the Hippo Park.
Maybe you’re a parent or a childcare giver on the Upper West Side in Manhattan and you know this place well. I was a nanny in Chelsea so I missed this great spot until my free stroll day.
I have a friend who loves hippos and has since turned me on to being hippo aware. I initially took these photos for her. But I’ve lived with these beauties in my phone all week. And I feel like they showed up on my path to teach me something.
So, as a nerdy little student of the internet, I looked up these creatures. Did you know that the hippopotamus is indeed a land mammal, but its closest living relatives are whales and dolphins? Not the rhino or pig or elephant. Fascinating.
Indulge me as I share a little research, then I’ll share my big aha! Hippos live in habitats with deep enough water for them to submerge themselves. They fight other hippos underwater. They mate underwater. They give birth underwater. They sleep underwater.
They only come out of the water to eat grass, usually at night. Granted, they may eat in 4-5 hour sittings and consume up to 150 pounds of grass at a time, but they live most of their lives submerged. I found this inspiring in an odd way. Looking at those hippo sculptures in the park, they seemed to just sweetly surrender to the water. They seemed meditative, calm, and safe. There was a contentedness that I found myself longing for.
Even more interesting, this tidbit from Wikipedia:
"Adult hippos move at speeds up to 8 km/h (5 mph) in water; typically resurfacing to breathe every three to five minutes. The young have to breathe every two to three minutes. The process of surfacing and breathing is spontaneous. A hippo sleeping underwater rises and breathes without waking up. A hippo closes its nostrils when it submerges into the water."
A Hippo Sleeping Underwater Rises And Breathes Without Waking Up!!!!
So basically, hippos are like David Blaine, the illusionist, who has lungs made of fairy dust! I mean, THAT is trust in the universe, faith that their body will rise and breathe all by itself. Surrendering to deep rest, and knowing they’ll float up when they need to.
Submerging means to completely cover something. A friend and I had a sweet conversation last night about ‘covering’ in religion's terms - being protected and guided by your spiritual leader or even taking shelter in the Holy Names. We are all covered by God, or the thing we believe in that is bigger than ourselves. Isn't that comforting? I immediately thought about my hippos!
What can you submerge yourself in? Completely cover yourself in? How deep can you go? Can you practice surrendering and have faith that everything will be ok when you come up for air? I guarantee you, the emails and phone calls can wait. The laundry can wait. Replacing the lightbulbs can wait. Your list of To Dos will all be there when you rise back to the surface.
I take dance class or practice yoga nearly every day of the week. I'm often in multiple classes a day. I work my body pretty hard. I vow to submerge myself in the steam room and sauna every day this week that I take class. I am all for the luxuries of life, and yet I rarely gift myself the time to do this. Finding calm in a chaotic world is one of the best things we can practice to aid in our own self care.
Submerge. Give it a try. Dip yourself into art this week. Go to a museum or craft with your kids. Buy yourself new brushes or a canvas and put them into play. Immerse yourself in cooking. Discover new ingredients, cook something special for someone you love (or for yourself!) Maybe go to a new church or temple and quietly sit and absorb the congregation's religious practices and love of God. Whatever you do, I encourage you to go deep. Go under until you can find that pocket of calm, meditative safety. Submerge.
My recipe this week is dedicated to the hippos! I have a longtime friend and client, Sara, that I make these for. The first time I made these fritters from Alexandra Cooks, (who made them from my favorite Otto Lenghi's Jerusalem!) I tasted them and they actually tasted green. Green like grass! So I dubbed them Grass Cakes. I've adapted the recipe through the years, here's mine below, but look up the original, it's great too!
- I large bunch Swiss chard, including stems, roughly chopped
- ½ cup chopped Italian parsley
- 1 cup chopped kale
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly cracked pepper
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 2 large eggs
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Olive oil or vegetable oil for frying
- garnish with grated parmesan cheese
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add greens and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from pot and drain well, patting leaves dry with a paper or kitchen towel.
- Place chard in food processor with parsley, kale, salt, pepper, breadcrumbs and eggs. Pulse until well blended. Fold in feta by hand.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, scoop some of the mixture into your hand and form patties. Make sure you form a little wall around the outside of each patty. You do this with your thumbs, gently pressing all the way around to give them shape. This gives the fritters integrity and helps them hold their form. Cook 1 to 2 minutes per side, until golden brown. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Add another tablespoon oil to pan and repeat. Serve warm, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.