Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Rose, A Kiss, A Fulfillment

The Lenten Rose under the kitchen window is in full bloom now. The foliage is dark green and deeply lobed, and the "flowers" are somewhere between the color of the leaves and midnight maroon. I planted it last year around this time. I was giving in to hopes of a yard that could testify to beauty and forethought. But it sat in its spot for a month or two before I got to it. My green-thumbed friend was visiting, and I had to convince her not to get out the spade and dig a hole herself. I could always move it, she said. But - and she stared me down - it needed to get in the ground.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Three-Layer Fresh Coconut Cake

"Have patience with everything that remains unresolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don't search for the answers which could not be given now, because you would bot be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer."
~Rainer Maria Rilke

On the wall behind my desk is a patchwork of papers, strips of poem cut from magazines, index cards with scrawls and prayers and incantations. This quote is one of them. I am in the thick of a mess of writing. The thoughts are scattered with broken bits everywhere, the writing itself tousled a bit and not well-behaved. And my subject matter has made a plunge for the depths. The other day I had to wrap up my writing time by plunking out a poem about rainbows. Just because I needed something vaulted and bright.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Grapefruit Olive Oil Cake with Pistachio and Chocolate

This is all about a loss of control. Can you do this? Lose control and let wild mind take over? It is the best way to write. To live, too. ~Natalie Goldberg

This morning I finally took down the paper snowflakes taped to the front window. We had the tree undressed and out of the house before New Years, but I had left the snowflakes. Some of the them are pure white and others almost beige, all are varying sizes and haphazard patterns. But as you can imagine, each has its own merit and meaning.

A few weeks before Christmas my poet/writer/teacher/friend came over to teach me about chestnuts and talk about a possible mentorship, and she saw the snowflakes. Her first book of poetry was long in coming, and the stack of rejection letters for individual poems numbered into ridiculous. Was it 150? 300? Sorry, Rae, I don't remember. But she saved them all, and for the release party she cut those letters into snowflakes and hung them all over the gallery where she read. Her book's title was Open Winter. Appropriate. And it went on, by the way, to receive a stellar string of recognitions and prizes. That's one transformative way to tell the negations to hang it. (She was way more eloquent when she told me the story.) I wish I had been around to see it and to take one home.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mince(meat) Pies, Two Ways

It's Christmas Eve, and I can bet no one is looking for one more thing to bake and do. But I wanted to offer something, some hope for next year, a claim on continuation, a sweet little something that tips its hat (once again) to the dark and light of December. These mince pies have been on my on my brain all month. They are the sort of Christmas treat that make me kick myself for not trying sooner. So I offer them, to save you from soreness. I'm toting them along to the party tonight where we will eat minestrone soup and all manner of wee sweet, sing carols to my sister's piano playing, pin the carrot on the snowman (an early gift), and roll dice like our lives depended on it. It's my favorite part.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A kind of triumph

Yesterday was a little bleak, overcast and cold, but that's just December, isn't it? With the light diffused and glowing, or thin and pointed, cutting through too much dark.

Kevin's grandmother died on Sunday. She was 93. At Thanksgiving dinner she had told my father she was ready to move on. And she did. Last Thursday she fell and broke her hip, as old women do, and then I guess she thought it was the perfect out. We went to see her a couple days after the fall, when they had gotten her settled and comfortable at home, on hospice. We woke her up. Here, we told her, here are the kids come to see you! And she raised her head. And, oh!, she said. And she looked at them like they were puppies, and cooed. She smiled with them and let us hold her hand for a few moments. Then she let her head fall back onto her pillow again and fell asleep.

That was the last time.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The long answer

Today, all day, the clouds parted long and wide enough for the ground to dry out a little and for us to pick out a hairball of a tree. In the next few days we will wrangle the monster inside, deck the halls, make merry, and invite the family to help cut out snowflakes and hang ornaments. The month has begun to twinkle. It feels good.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

The next twenty years

When I was eight, Thanksgiving was about leaf-patterned vests with coordinating too-hot turtlenecks. We kids were let loose after dinner, to take a cleansing walk around the block. And it lasted a long time. Our stomachs were near to bursting, mostly full of potatoes and gravy and the cranberry jelly we slid and sliced from a can. (I always, always loved the suck and slip of the cranberry cylinder as it dropped from the can to the plate.) And we were all happy, pretending our California fall felt like fall, and wishing secretly it would instead be foggy or rainy or colder than it really ever was. We had enjoyed dinner, and it was nice to see everyone, but it was just another party. It was a fall version of Christmas, without all the presents.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Margins: Dinner for a family at five

I have been fighting for a while now. Fighting to keep us all fed. Fighting to carve notches of space from the hardwood of our days. Fighting to not suffocate under the dailiness of living.

Take note: I know depression, and I am not depressed. I have the strength and the sleep reserves and the space to fight in the first place. But the fighting I’ve been doing has been, at times, pathetic. It has been limp-wristed, weak-armed, uncoordinated, and half-assed. And I'm done with that.

I have two versions of my life: The version where taking the time to make pizza feels expansive. I gather all the ingredients. I let the dough rise. Time shoots up and spreads like a veritable fountain of youth, bubbling, making every second new and shining and beautiful. And then there is the version of my life where I give in to hurriedness and efficiency, and even getting takeout is too time-consuming and messy. Dinner is empty and so is my fridge, and I stay where I was before dinner: lost in avoiding the daily and trying to paw my way out of a glass bowl. Every expected squeal from my children is a scratching on the surface of my spinal cord.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

More than the sum of its parts

I like the way my friend Melanie would say it when anyone tried to organize, emphasizing the end: pot-luck. As in, a "pot-luck" is by nature a luck-oriented ordeal. It is a meal where people convene and are asked to bring and edible "something." But there is always the chance that it won't quite work. There may only be salads. There may only be chips and dip. There may be no magic at all.

kale and delicata salad with pomegranate and rosemary

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Chocolate Cake with Pumpkin Frosting

October is always odd in my corner of California. Half the time the weather is too hot and too windy for much fall frivolity. This October has come and gone, but I just might have got a grip on it: the squash, pumpkins, and pomegranates. The apples, late figs, and persimmons. And the lingering bites of summer that I usually try to ignore. We moved back almost five years ago, but finally, I think I am getting the swing of the seasons.

 chocolate cake with pumpkin frosting