Monthly Archives: August 2013

30 Love

After thirty days of being a granddaughter, Winnie is now able to lock eyes with her grandfather and me and smile, and continue to smile while we enjoy the magic of her enthralling gaze. I do believe Winnie can feel the love I feel for her, and when her smile and her eyes return it, I can look nowhere else. She’s got me.

The U.S. Open was on the television screen, but even Roger Federer couldn’t capture my attention for an entire volley. Winnie was the magnet. The power behind the Williams sisters’ serves caught my attention but couldn’t hold it when Winnie was in the room.

I watch Winnie stretch as she slowly awakens, extending her arms above her head and her legs straight out with all her strength, and I am again impressed with her might. Mighty Winnie will hold a tennis racquet herself one day, and when she does, I will think back to the 2013 Open, when she had no competition. She’s got me.

A Single Path

The most striking difference between a labyrinth and a maze is the path. The single pathway into and out of the labyrinth encourages us to enter with reverence because we recognize that the end is the same as the beginning. Only life experience at its most fundamental can be characterized that way. That awareness makes us focus. In the labyrinth we are urged forward without regard for choices or direction. The beginning will eventually become the end, although there is no way to know how long the walk will take. There is also no way to prepare for what thoughts or feelings, images or whisperings of the heart we might find along the way.

In a maze there is mystery and fun. Direction requires discernment and making good choices if we are to enjoy the experience. Whether walking, running or hiding in a maze, our actions are not prescribed or predicted by the pattern. Solving the maze takes our attention. The maze distracts us from the rest of our concerns. It encourages us to play. All human cultures construct mazes, just as they create labyrinths, but the purpose of each type of garden or structure are not similar.

People seem to require the renewal we get as we walk in labyrinths and wander in mazes. Time spent in them relieves the urgency of living. Each is a means of learning about us. Each offers encouragement to the seeker, the weary, the puzzled and the unwell. Each changes our frame of mind, our behaviors and our spirits.

The labyrinth urges reflection and for some, meditation and prayer. The maze urges relaxation, freedom and play. They both call us away from life as usual for a period of time. We benefit from listening to those calls to be well and fully human. Some of us believe we should pray often, laugh and play more because it’s the way to love one another.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport

Brown ground beef?

I have had people ask me in the past why supermarket ground beef is red on the outside and brown in the middle. Surprisingly, due to the nature of the pigment in ground beef, that is actually an indication of fresh ground beef – as long as it is bright pink on the outside and about half an inch into the package you see brown spots or brown through the center but pink on the outside. You only need to worry about ground beef if it is brown on the outside. That is an indication that it has been out too long. Ground beef has 3 normal color states – bright red (oxymyoglobin state), dark red-purple – deoxymyoglobin (no oxygen) and a state called met-myoglobin that is brown.

The meat starts out in a state oxymyoglobin (bright red) just after it is ground. When it goes into a package the inside portion isn’t getting oxygen any more, so it turns brown (met-myoglobin) before turning purple red (deoxymyoglobin). It takes about 2-4 hours for the ground beef to turn dark red after it is in the package. It has to go through the brown color before turning to the purple color – if you spread the package out and leave it in air it will re-bloom to bright red in 15 to 20 minutes. If you look carefully the first 1/4 to 1/2 inch; the meat will still be red. Sometimes it is splotchy brown because oxygen is getting to parts of the package but not all the way through. If the meat is old it gets brown on the surface first when it runs out of met-myoglobin reducing capacity. The meat at the surface runs out first and gets stuck in the brown state once the enzyme system runs out of energy.

Basically if the meat is brown on the inside when you open it up, and pink on the outside, the brown meat will turn pink in a short period of time showing that the meat is fresh.


Thoughts on a Labyrinth Walk

As I walk the labyrinth it is sometimes hard to sort out what’s what. Although I feel the meaning of being in this space and I have many reasons for walking here, I am quiet but still unsettled. It’s hard to separate what inspires me from what dispirits me. Distinguishing the high spirits from the false spirits occupies my thoughts as I slowly walk the spiraling path.

The labyrinth is a symbol of centeredness and it puts me into greater awareness of my spirit. St Augustine famously said, “Solvitur ambulando”; “It is solved by walking”. I agree. I walk the labyrinth by following the path inward and then outward from side to side. It helps me understand where I have been and where I may go.

At times I walk the labyrinth with other people. I celebrate with them the winding pattern that connects our stories and our life journeys. I imagine the coincidences that have brought us together. We all have something to learn from this connectedness. I find the sense of community uplifting.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport

Power in the Patterns of the Labyrinth

Taking the Chartres style labyrinth as our example we are immediately struck by the patterns we see. There are six rosettes that make the center. There are lunations, small half circles, around the outside edge. As we begin to walk we experience the lines that outline the lanes we are following. We walk the lanes into the center and walk out from the center following the same pathway. There is one single lane but there seem to be many lanes. This spiraling pathway is 860 feet in length.

The patterns both expand and limit our choices as we walk. They give us the sense that our steps count for something because the slow walking changes our breathing, not just our pace. Walking the spiraling lane we become aware of “things changing” and of “transformation” as we can’t see ahead or behind. We are just on the path; we turn inward; time seems to expand.

Every walk in the labyrinth is a journey of self-discovery. Every walk in the labyrinth is a connection with people here and now and in times past. Every walk in the labyrinth connects us more fully to ourselves and to people in hundreds of diverse cultures.

Another set of patterns within our human bodies may be the inspiration for the sense of connection to self and to others. For example, the winding lanes resemble the cerebral spirals of our brains, as well as the structure and motion of our gastro-intestinal tract.

Spirals in nature abound and we may recognize them as we walk the labyrinth. We remember Fibonacci spiraling sequences in roses, pinecones, daisies and that we are dazzled by them. In shells and vines and galaxies we sense connections, convergences and coincidences in our experiences in the labyrinth.

Awareness of the myriad spiraling in nature and the similarities in patterns we experience in our bodies lead us as we walk the labyrinth to a greater understanding of the meaning of images, ideas and feelings as we live our lives individually and in community.

Margaret Rappaport

Vocabulary Lesson

Our granddaughter Winnie was born on a lovely summer Saturday, and the moment was immersed in tears and relief and joy, and words. Rather quickly I realized that the descriptors I needed didn’t exist. I needed a lexicon of appropriate words to describe a variety of observations, experiences, and emotions that being a grandparent demands.

So I’m putting it out there – the inadequacy of our language at the time one becomes a grandparent can be remedied if we all try. You know the transitional state you might find yourself in between the time your daughter gives birth, and the relief you feel, and the time you realize that there is someone else to concentrate on – your grandchild? There is no word for that transitional time from mother to mother/grandmother. I needed that word.

There was no adequate word to describe Winnie’s face as I first saw it. A newborn’s face deserves its own adjective.

Parental exhaustion – those words do not begin to cover the bone weary, sleep-deprived condition of new parents at this emotional, overwhelming time. Need a word.

Mother love perseverance demands its own descriptor. I watched my daughter love, feed, and nurture her daughter moments, hours and days after Winnie’s birth, when she herself was regaining strength and dealing with the days after delivery. What might seem impossible on an ordinary day or week becomes the norm for new mothers, and watching my daughter embrace her baby with love, patience, and intelligent response to every need and cry put me at a loss for words.

There’s a dearth of words for father love as well. As I watched my son-in-law’s face during the hours of labor, I could see how much he felt her discomfort, and it was empathy and love and concern rolled into a word that does not exist. Now, when Alex holds Winnie in his arms, their eyes lock and he soothes her in a gentle yet fiercely parental way, and I imagine she feels safe and loved. This love needs a word. And for the love and care he extends to his wife and daughter, I am more than grateful. Need a word.

Two words, however, are just perfect the way they are, and I am delighted that granddaughter and grandparent now describe Winnie and me.

A Not So Modern Human Need for the Labyrinth

Origins of the labyrinth remain a mystery. Although these designs date back 5,000 years and examples are found throughout the world in many diverse cultures, there is no definitive explanation for the labyrinth. From the earliest examples in Europe on rocks, tiles, pottery and stone and wooden tablets to the reemergence of the labyrinth today, the only thing known for certain is the importance of the labyrinth for people.

Labyrinths are designs featuring a single spiral path that leads from the outside to a center space. Walking in or on the labyrinth follows the path to the center and back again to the outside. In the western hemisphere, Native American tradition features the labyrinth as the Medicine wheel and in Man in the Maze designs on baskets. In northern Europe and throughout the Roman Empire, Celtic people called the labyrinth the Never Ending Circle and it appears often and in random places. In Judaism the labyrinth is referred to as the Kabala and is thought to have mystical power. Not all labyrinths lay on the ground to be walked but when they are made of earth or stone they are usually used for walking. The labyrinth, however, is a compelling example of artistic expression as it enhances human environments whether seen on doors, wall plaques, gates or on inside floors or outside on the earth.

Walking the labyrinth or seeing it displayed may help people feel centered and more peaceful in living their lives. This has been described by some as a clarity which promotes a connection between the body, mind and spirit. People also describe a quieting of thoughts or of having an innovative, meditative state of mind. Others say walking the labyrinth fosters insight and self-reflection. Many wellness advocates say practice in walking the labyrinth reduces the stress of life and opens space within people for celebration and happiness despite external circumstances.

During the middle ages in Europe, the labyrinth design started to appear in churches, on village greens and even on off-shore islands as far north as the Arctic region. Now again, in the twentieth century, communities of people are building labyrinths because of a resurgence of interest. In the United States labyrinths can be found in parks, churches and cathedrals, schools, medical centers, spas, cemeteries and memorial parks, retreat centers and in many yards and on other personal property. The materials these labyrinths are made from are as various as their locations and uses. The central distinction, however, is that people are building them and gathering in and on them for a purpose that, apparently, reflects a human need to meet in concert to follow a meaningful path.


My granddaughter carries a name that was unexpected, and it has become my joy these past ten days to watch her own it. The way she holds her head, darts her eyes, purses her mouth – I hold her in my arms and feel her Winona-ness. She is teaching me who Winona Louise is.

I brought no pre-conceptions to the name Winona Louise both because I’ve never known a Winona and because the name came, as the poet says, “out of the everywhere into the here.” My face registered surprise and wonder when my daughter Lis told me her three-hour-old daughter’s name. Winona?

Winona is a Sioux name meaning “first born daughter,” Lis informs me. Winnie Mandela is one of the strongest, most respected women in the world, my friend Julie reminds me.

But Winona Louise is herself, simply herself, and she is teaching me who Winona is. And that definition will be correct and ever-changing, and unexpectedly wonderful.


A face the size of my palm has the power to completely enthrall me. It is Winona’s face, the face of my ten-day-old granddaughter, and it has become what in the world I want to see.

Winnie’s face is more expressive than much of what I read or even write. Her mouth purses into a heart, or stretches into a cavernous yawn, and I am captivated. Her two blond eyebrows rarely knit together, but when they do her concern or concentration or frustration rocks my grandparent world.

From the moment of her birth, Winnie’s eyes, now the color of slate, have been intent and thoughtful and serious. She’s a Brooklyn girl all right, a New Yorker to her core, and her fierce, intelligent eyes remind me of that.

People look at Winnie’s face and see other people: her mother, her father, her aunt, a far-flung relative. I see only Winnie, owning her face and all that it conveys, all the beauty it presents. And I am beginning to interpret the world by reading Winnie’s face. It’s telling a good story.

Hamburger happiness means just a little more fat

There is good news! Your hamburger doesn’t have to be the expensive hockey puck which happens if you use ground beef that is too lean. Based on my years of experience as a butcher and some insights I got during my Ph.D. research, I have come to the conclusion that ground beef provides the best hamburger eating experience when you start with 80 % lean (20 % fat) ground beef. Anything leaner tends to have the consistency of a hockey puck. The best part is the edible portion of a burger which starts at 80% lean, is fairly close to the fat level of a leaner burger. During cooking, the fat melts out leaving voids in the patty – these voids make a less dense texture and also leave a place for the other juices and aromas of cooking burger to accumulate. Then when you bite into the burger, you get a “blast of taste and aroma” which improves eating satisfaction.

The really lean patty will shrink into a dense, void-less mass that is tough, and has no place for the juices to stay in-so they all evaporate, and the lean patty is dry as well. Finally, since most of the cooking loss in a lean patty is moisture, you have almost as much fat in the patty you eat as one from a fatter starting point. If math isn’t your thing take my word for it: eating a very lean patty doesn’t improve the nutritional value of the edible portion. However, if you want to understand a little of the science behind my hamburgerology, read the paragraph below.

If we start with (2) 100g (about 3.5 oz) patties, one with 80% lean and 20 % fat and the other with 95 % lean and 5 % fat, and we put both of these patties on the grill to cook, we’ll end up with 2 cooked 80g (2.8 oz) cooked patties – cooking loss is about 20g for each patty. The interesting part is that the 95 % patty loses about 19.5g of water and 0.5g of fat, so it ends up with 4.5g of fat in the 80g cooked portion. Therefore, in the cooked portion, there is 4.5/80 = 0.056 or 5.6 % fat in the finished patty – not bad – except it is tough and tasteless. The 80% lean patty loses about 13g of fat and 7g of moisture, leaving 7g of fat in the cooked portion, or 7/80 = 0.875 or 8.75% fat in the final patty. So for just a little more fat, you have a much tastier hamburger !

On Walking the Labyrinth

Whoever you are and wherever you are in your life’s journey, you are invited to explore walking the labyrinth with me here At Sixes and Sevens Multimedia. If you are seeking a resource for inspiration, some new ideas about the power of labyrinths to enlighten and heal, or simply a place for support through whatever the changes and chances of life bring you, there is space for you in the labyrinth.

We who are walking the labyrinth are a growing community in the United States and in many other parts of the world. The ease and practicality of walking encourages all ages to get involved but is especially attractive for people in their sixties and seventies. Being in the labyrinth offers us a wide range of opportunities to learn or relearn about ourselves and each other. Walking the labyrinth engages the whole person and the entire group of participants in a meaningful activity that has remarkable consequences. The benefits of walking the labyrinth cannot be overstated. I invite you to get to know the labyrinth better. In future posts you will find information about labyrinths in your local areas.

I will share the various reasons for walking the labyrinth for wellness, stress reduction, spiritual growth, solace, and the development of wisdom. You will also read about the history and design of labyrinths, including why they have particular structures and are made of various materials. I will offer virtual facilitated walks that you and groups can take into familiar labyrinths near you.

Looking forward,
Margaret Rappaport