Thursday, December 23, 2010

She wanted snow, but settled for sun.

Behind, 2010

It was three days before Christmas. She wanted snow, but settled for sun. The weather had been gloomy and grey for so long. It was mid-morning when it arrived. She wondered if there'd ever been a sun so welcome, so comforting. It lulled her to sleep, almost instantly.

She woke to see the moon smiling brightly against the dark sky. It was stunning. Each evening she'd shut her blinds as darkness began to descend, but this moon had her rethinking her ways. What one does mustn't be what one does, forever.

The world felt light. She was floating, an absent minded bliss. It went on. Time was not of the essence, so she lost track of it. Why bother.

She'd filled the bathtub hours ago and forgotten about it, completely. So she drained the cool water, and filled it again with hot. It was wasteful, yet gratifying.

She eased into the hot water, wincing a bit, and then settling. Clear hot water -- no bubbles, oils, or salts. The heat made her feel slightly dizzy, so she maneuvered the oblong trip lever with her toe and the waterline began to recede.

Soon the tub was empty. She remained still. The trip lever resembled a long nose, the round metal plate behind it, a face, and the two screws, eyes. The nose was crooked and the expression aloof. It looked at her, mockingly. Still, she did not move until the heat evaporated from her skin and she began to cool.

Finally she stood, slipped into a large men's oxford shirt, and moved toward the kitchen. She poured herself a tall glass of water and drank half of it in a single gulp. It was 2am.

She'd slept most of the day and now felt wide awake and ready to begin, something. Seated upright at the kitchen table, she looked down at the blank page and watched the landscape begin to take shape.

Monday, December 20, 2010

what we do when we're alone

November, 2010

You know her novels, but do you know her poetry?
It’s necessary to reserve a secret vice.
This is what comes from forgetting to eat
at the stated mealtimes. You simmer them carefully,
drain, add cream and pepper,
and amble up and down the stairs,
scooping them up with your fingers right out of the bowl,
talking to yourself out loud.
You’d be surprised if you got an answer,
but that part will come later.

- excerpt from Margaret Atwood's In the Secular Night

Malt-O-Meal is still good.

Breakfast with Rooster Sauce, 2010

Visiting my old friend, Malt-O-Meal.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baked Oatmeal

Breakfast, December 15, 2010

Denise | Chez Danisse said...
Just pulled it from the oven. It smells absolutely heavenly in here! I think I'll have to take up doing something with fresh ground cinnamon and nutmeg every morning.
December 13, 2010

That was Monday. The photograph above is the last serving. Jane inspired me with her post about baked oatmeal. I just had to make my own. Jane, I cannot thank you enough. I was somehow imagining granola bars, but no no no, not even close. So much better. Imagine combing the tastes of bread pudding, rice pudding, and oatmeal cookie dough, yes, that about sums it up. I ate two servings warm from the oven. We also ate some for dessert (the same day). If I'd had a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream, well, I don't know what I would have done with myself. Perhaps its best I do not keep cream on hand. This recipe is delicious warm and it is delicious cold. Make some for yourself. Share it with someone, if you are in the mood.

Baked Oatmeal
(serves 2 for a few days)

2 tablespoons butter (plus a little extra for buttering your baking dish)
2 cups fruit and nut müesli (uncooked rolled oats, fruit and nuts)
1/4 cup sliced almonds (yes, there are nuts in the müesli, but I love almonds)
1/4 cup shredded coconut (mine was sweetened)
1/4 cup seeds (I used toasted pumpkin, sunflower, and flax)
1 teaspoon baking powder
fresh ground cinnamon (I like just a pinch)
fresh ground nutmeg (I like several pinches)
between 1/4 and 1/2 cup raw sugar (depends how sweet you like such things)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups skim milk
6 ounce container of vanilla yogurt

Preheat oven to 375°

Melt butter and set aside to cool. Measure müesli, almonds, coconut, seeds, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and sugar into a medium bowl, stir, and set aside. Whisk egg in a separate medium bowl. Add milk, yogurt, and cooled butter to bowl with egg and whisk it all together. Add bowl of dry ingredients to bowl of wet ingredients and stir to combine. Butter a small baking dish (mine was a rectangular 11 cup glass baking dish) and pour in combined ingredients.
Bake 20 minutes.

Oh, you are going to be so pleased.

And no, I still haven't put that plant in soil. Mind your own business.

Monday, December 13, 2010

She always had that same look in her eyes.

Ladies, 2010

I had fallen deeply into another of her books. Her writing was not what I usually gravitated toward, yet each of her novels had grabbed hold of me and would not let me go. They haunted me more than I looked forward to them.

I woke thinking of the current novel and knew I'd begin reading it before coffee or breakfast. It rested upside down, on the top of the stack beside my bed, her small passport sized author photograph looking up at me. She always had that same look in her eyes. In each photograph I'd seen of her -- similarly placed on her other books, on her publisher's website, and accompanying articles about her and her writing -- she always looked out with that same sexy squint. It looked good on her. I stood and looked into the mirror. My eyes were effortlessly wide open, even when I was tired. I tried her squint. I looked as if I'd been pinched.

She seemed one of those pretty girls who do not know they are pretty, but really do. Not unlike the main characters in her novels, but she was more sophisticated, more poised.

Now gripped by her third novel, I started to want to know more about her. How was she able to exert this power over me? I wanted to exert some power. I found video and written interviews, reviews of her books, and read her biography on the site linked to her teaching. I learned a little bit about her process and confirmed her sexy squint was de rigueur, at least it seemed so.

I resolved to try writing more like her -- to create characters removed from my own experiences, their emotions imagined versus linked to something I'd felt. There would be less weight attached to the work. Less worry about exposing myself or someone in my past or present. No fear of the moment so and so will approach me and ask "Is so and so character based on me?" I could stand taller, shoulders back, because there would be no secrets to cradle. So I tried.

It wasn't me. I knew after one page. I decided it wasn't her either. Her characters were not solely imagined. They were various incarnations of herself.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's beginning to look a lot like...

December 10, 2010

I would like to share with you a glimpse of my one and only Christmas decoration, so far. There might be more, there might not. I do not feel deprived. Quite pleased, actually.

All that's needed now, to really get into the spirit of the season, is my holiday trilogy: It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and Love Actually. I know, so pedestrian, but they make me happy.

(serves one or more)

Cut ring of desired size from piece of cardboard you were just about to recycle. Find beautiful and sadly unused ball of red yarn in knitting stash. Wrap red yarn around entire cardboard wreath. Be patient, it takes a little while, but not too long. Tie desired length of red yarn to back of wreath for hanging wreath. Hang wreath from window lock in front window after you decide you don't like it on the mirror in the entryway. Now all passersby will be able to view your fine craftsmanship. Admire your little creation and feel pleased with yourself.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

With and Without My Camera

First Satsuma of the Season, 2010

Walking home today, a little lost in thought, nothing organized, not terribly focused on any one thing, I had a general feeling of happiness surrounding me, kind of like the cloud of dust and debris that floats around Pig-Pen in the Peanuts cartoons. The rain had stopped and bits of blue were starting to show through the clouds. It was nice to have dry pant legs. I really dislike wet pant legs, especially when they are my own.

This walk is a walk I take often. It is a walk I know well. Most of the trees I pass are green, yes, even in December. I feel lucky when I spot a few sidewalk squares covered with wet yellow leaves. It's been very wet lately.

Well, today when I was strolling along, I unexpectedly caught a glimpse of red. It slipped into my distant peripheral vision. I'd walked this way so many times, never noticing any red, but there it was. Just beyond a quiet white painted brick entry way, chipped, a little faded, nothing special, and a long concrete courtyard. The bricks, bushes, and green trees faded into the background when this tall stunning tree at the far end of the courtyard came into focus. It was absolutely covered in what seemed millions of small red leaves. It was grand. It commanded respect.

Then I realized I was not toting my camera. Maybe it was better this way. I simply stopped and stared, smiling. It wasn't a moment meant to be captured on film. It will remain wild in my memory and will stretch and slip this way and that each time I recall the moment.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Nadja à Paris

I found the short film Nadja in Paris several years ago, after watching The Criterion Collection version of Eric Rohmer's Suzanne's Career. It just happened to be an extra on the disc. For some reason I thought of Nadja this morning. I sometimes think of Charlotte, too. Charlotte and Her Steak is another excellent Rohmer short film Criterion included in their Six Moral Tales set. Nadja remains my favorite.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

So Much to Carry Home

Morning with Mom, 2010

Spending time with my mom and dad, in their spaces, away from most of my belongings and habits -- it always changes something in me. I watch them move through the world, these two people who created me. I interact with them, as an adult, but still their child. I thought of these things as I watched the sun set outside a small airplane window yesterday evening. There is always so much to carry home.

I watched Bridget Jones's Diary and rode my new green bicycle with my father. The pomegranates in his yard were heavy and ripe. The oranges were not, but we ate them anyway. My mother and I listened to Aerosmith, loudly, while baking biscotti we later dipped in dark chocolate. We shared soup (lentil and lemon rice) and drank tea, both Arabic and green. The air was cool. I planted a winter garden. The sky seemed to stretch forever. I finished reading Tinkers. My favorite line was We saw beaches of snow and blizzards of sand. So beautiful... When I woke in the twin bed, my dreams stayed with me. My fingertips were cold when I wrote this. Now it's my toes.

Today I walked past City Lights Books and read the large hand painted banners in the windows above the store OPEN DOOR, OPEN BOOKS, OPEN MIND, OPEN HEART, TURN LEFT and I sent good thoughts to my mom. She's beginning a new chapter in her life. There is space for new beginnings in all of our lives. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I don't recall where I first heard this, but I like it. Have you ever thought of it that way? It's kind of exciting.