Sunday, January 23, 2011

Cast Off

Through, 2011

I am preparing to cast off, to shed. To pare down and live lightly. Just for a while, but one never knows. Lessons will be learned. Things impossible to foresee. Open, aware, and patient. I will discard the unexpected and acquire what I did not know existed. Goodbye, for a short while, short relative to what has passed thus far. What have you been pondering lately? Leave me a note. I'll look forward to them as postcards upon my return.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unnecessary Desires

Due, 2011

In her interview with The Paris Review Louise Erdrich speaks of her father's wish that her and her siblings not nurse any unnecessary desires. I can see the potential benefits, but also the supreme challenge, at least for me.

I've been traveling through a mist of input and I am drenched. Each of my senses is ready to spring from its blocks. I've seen the pinks and blues of La Jolla, smelled the sea from the Sunny Jim Cave, felt the sadness of James Salter, eaten the most superb vegetable hash with poached eggs, watched the sun set from the window of a train, rode round the winding stretch of Orange County freeway by day and by night, experienced the warmth of true Texans, listened to Steve Martin read his own prose, and been hypnotized by hotel television.

Erdrich also speaks of her urge to write prose, her conflicting inability to sit still, and her humorous solution that I just might have to try. I like the part about the scarves and the coffee, but I'll probably avoid the cigarettes.

In short, there is much on my mind, possibility seems to lurk around every corner, and sitting still is only satisfying in small bursts.

There's a name for this seemingly useless poking around and preparing. I know I've read about it. It might have been described by Twyla Tharp. It has a name, something like fishing, but not fishing. I suppose the word itself is not all that important. I'm finding the act of defining rather irksome lately. Wait. Yes yes, it was Tharp and it is scratching. The action has value. It is an imperative part of the creative process. She believes this is so. I believe it too.

And as for the nursing of unnecessary desires, well, who decides what is necessary and what is not? I believe in simplicity and the clearing of clutter, but most things are best in moderation. Rigidity is such a bore.

Louise Erdrich, The Art of Fiction No. 208

An excerpt -- I highly recommend reading the entire interview

The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
An excerpt on "scratching"

Monday, January 10, 2011


One, 2011

and completion,
they both gratify.

It is ending
that is hard.

I pause beside the park.

This tenth day
smells of fresh cut grass.

The air,
it is cold and sharp.

Still and quiet, I watch.

A small aging dog
hobbles contentedly
through the short blades,
softening the day.

Moving forward,
I begin to count my steps.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Rosemary at Night

Dinner-ish, 2011

Chris is working late. I bought a roast chicken and made some beautiful homemade stuffing with fresh fennel and apples for dinner. It's all still in the kitchen. This cake I baked, actually it's more of a bread, outshined everything else. So here I sit, around 9:30pm, quite happily, with my glass of milk and my slice of Rosemary Olive Oil Cake. Actually, it's almost gone now. I know the photograph is a little homely, but trust me, it's really good. It's dinner-ish, if you believe in cake (or is it bread?) at 9:30pm equates to dinner. I originally saw this recipe in Kim Boyce's Good to Grain and was intrigued. I was reminded of it when I saw the Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks version on Pinterest. Have you played around with Pinterest yet? It's kind of fun. I also saw a B&W photograph of Sawyer while I was there. Remember him? I miss Sawyer. If you are curious, there's a link to my 'pins' over there in my right margin. I made some changes to the recipe, of course. Here's my version.

Rosemary Olive Oil Cake (Bread)

2 1/4 cups unbleached white whole wheat flour (I used King Arthur)
3/4 cup raw sugar (plus 2 tablespoons for top crunch)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 eggs
1 cup olive oil (I used Greek)
3/4 cup skim milk
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped fine
3 ounces extra dark chocolate (I used one bar of Scharffen Berger 82% Cacao), chopped rough

Preheat oven to 350ยบ
Line a loaf pan with parchment paper and set aside. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk dry ingredients (this might seem a little strange, but I found it to work well). In a second medium bowl whisk eggs and add olive oil, milk, and rosemary. Whisk again. Add wet ingredient to dry and fold gently until all dry ingredients are moistened. Add 3/4 of the chocolate and fold until evenly incorporated. Pour batter evenly into pan and scatter remaining chocolate on top, pressing chocolate bits gently into the batter. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar on top of batter. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until lightly browned and skewer inserted in center comes out clean. I followed Heidi's suggestion and finished it beneath the broiler for a minute (just a minute, it goes fast) to caramelize the sugar.

Recipe adapted from 101 Cookbooks by Heidi Swanson, which was adapted from Good to the Grain by Kim Boyce.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

It is there.

Resolution: More of this., January 2011

I saw something yesterday. It was simple. A soft painterly image of a bird in flight accompanied by a few well chosen words. I have saved in my memory, the bird, and the specific words Time lost and found, shared as a much-needed read. The author tells us how the smallest adjustment can yield big change. She is clear. She is concise. Don't save it for later. Read it now. It's not long. It will make you feel good.

Thanks, Sheri.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reasons To Be Beautiful

Starting, 2011

The sound of cars lumbering through dirty puddles was growing tiresome, so I found a recording of Jan and Dean's Surf City and set it to repeat. It definitely lifted the mood, with the exception of the insistent two girls for every boy... Really. Still, it was better than the puddles and the cold and the dull flat view. Yes, my former Chicago self would have laughed in the face of the individual describing this morning as cold, but I no longer have sturdy Midwestern blood. Like it or not, 46° is now cold. Just one of many increments of change that have taken place over the last decade or so. So I shimmied around the apartment to warm up a bit Well, with two swingin' honeys for every guy, And all you gotta do is just wink your eye... Okay, that is it. Enough Jan and Dean. A little 90s Courtney Love will level the playing field and match this dead weather that brings life. She was born here. It's difficult not to appreciate a girl who reads a Sylvia Plath poem for her Mickey Mouse Club audition. Oh yes, this is it. Let the music match the mood. So I sink into it and somehow it all circles backward and ends up in yesterday. The first day of this year and the day that I woke to something beautiful done for me for no reason at all by someone I barely know who had absolutely nothing to gain by doing so. For me. I thought I'd be smiling all day. But then I wondered, why me? How? Do I deserve this? It halted me, concrete drying around my lower limbs, or maybe it was more like sinking in quicksand. Could I live up to it, this vision of the person she perceived? So I carried the weight around with me all day, just to see how it felt. I loved it and it scared me was heavy. Today I sit here watching small red potatoes grow eyes, knowing they must be used. I feel the warmth of belief and realize it has stolen space from the heat of the struggle.