Sunday, January 27, 2013

Intentions and Taking Advantage of Whims

As the summer crisped into fall last year, Joe and I decided to take advantage of one of the last tolerable weekends and camp out at the beach. Making regular sojourns to the ocean is in my blood, and all week I had been feeling the pull toward the beach. So with very little planning and some hand-written directions in a notebook, we took off toward the coast.

When I was younger, I was a hypervigilant planner. I remember once saying, "I can be spontaneous, I just need to plan the time to be spontaneous!" In my head, if it wasn't planned, it had every opportunity to go poorly. In reality, if it wasn't planned, I couldn't control the outcome, which terrified me.

When we got to the beach, we set up camp just in time to watch the sunset. We went our separate, silent ways, and I spent most of the descent staring at the vastness, the openness, the engulfing waves like mouths. I don't remember a single thought I had. I think I was just lost in the massiveness.

I learned my lesson several times over that trying to control people and situations didn't make me happy, but rather made me quite miserable. So since uttering the quote above, I have practiced a different tack—recognize my intention, acknowledge it, release it, do what I can, and let come what may. This practice varies from situation to situation, and has led to brilliant adventures, some ending horridly, some packed with lessons, some changing the course of my life.

That night, we built a fire and watched the moon rise. Joe suffered frozen fingers as he strummed the guitar and we sang songs. I saw my first shooting star. When we woke the next morning, we again went out to the ocean to just stare, gape, meditate. As we drove back to the city, we reflected on how random and lovely the trip had been.

This trip to the beach is a simple example of the practice of letting go. I had the intention, I put out the idea, and took advantage of the whim. Along the way, I didn't worry about the details. And it proved to be the best possible process, and allowed for the most bliss.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ode to the Bath*

Everything is a miracle. It is a miracle one does not 
dissolve in one's bath like a lump of sugar. – Pablo Picasso

There must be quite a few things a hot bath won't cure, 
but I don't know many of them. – Sylvia Plath

Sorrow can be alleviated by good sleep, 
a bath, and a glass of wine. – St. Thomas Aquinas

One of the simple pleasures and leisures I am most grateful for is bath time. When I was nine years old, and the family was looking for a new house, what sold my mother on the 1920's bungalow we eventually would call home was the clawfoot bathtub. And, like mother like daughter, while looking for my first "real" apartment, what sold me was the beautiful, white, deep clawfoot bathtub.

So it was at a young age that bath time for me was revered as a sacred space for the bather, not unlike meditation or prayer. I draw my bath, pouring the suds by the capful under the running water, and close the door to allow for the scented steam to fill the room (for me, the chosen scent is EO's Rose and Chamomile). I light candles, slip in, and listen to the bubbles' whisper pops. I like to gather the foam around me, like a sudsy shawl or watery wrap, and feel the bubbles kiss my skin. Silence seeps and thoughts vanish, dissolving like lumps of sugar, and everything seems a simple miracle.

*Reposted from my old blog, Merci Me. I finally have a bathtub in my apartment again, and I have brought the ritual back into my life. All the above sentiments still very much ring true.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Kitchen Witch

There is something about the month of January that inspires me to cook on hyperdrive. I think it started many years ago when I received Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle for Christmas, and devoured the entire thing in two sittings. For the unfamiliar, Kingsolver and her family moved from the Southwestern United States to an Appalachian farm, and challenged themselves to either grow, tend, and make all their food, or personally know the supplier. I went back to Seattle inspired to buy locally sourced ingredients and make all my meals from scratch for the month of January. Ever since, the impulse to be more creative in the kitchen has hit at the beginning of the new year.

And since my new apartment comes with a beautiful gas range stove and oven, I've been spending more time in the kitchen roasting, mixing, dashing, baking, and creating.

Here are a few of my favorite recipes! Note: the quantities vary on what I have in my kitchen, so none are included here.

Roasted Vegetable and Couscous Winter Salad

Olive oil
Couscous, cooked
Ginger sesame dressing (recipe here)

Coat carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and shallots in olive oil and add two pinches of salt. Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Toss in bowl with cooked couscous, arugula, and ginger sesame dressing.

Cheeseless Mushroom Pizza with Lemon Herbed Arugula

Pizza dough (recipe here)
Pizza sauce (recipe here)
Olive oil
Juice of half a lemon
Dried oregano
Dried basil

Sautee mushrooms in olive oil for about 3 minutes. Arrange on top of fresh pizza dough and sauce and bake per recipe. Toss lemon juice, arugula, dried oregano, and dried basil, arranged on top of cooked pizza.

Lentil, Sausage, and Kale Winter Salad with Dijon Dressing 

Green lentils, cooked
Sausage, browned
Olive oil
Red wine vinegar
Dijon mustard

Sautee onions in olive oil until translucent. Add kale, cover, and cook until slightly wilted. Combine olive oil, garlic, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard and a pinch of salt in a small bowl and whisk. Combine cooked lentils, sausage, kale, onions, and dressing and toss.

So what are you cooking this winter?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

AFGEs (Another F**king Growth Experience) and Acceptance

Odds and ends in transition.

Upon returning to my apartment after recording the Christmas album, I was surprised to find a rent increase notice on the floor of my entryway. I knew it was coming, but I wasn't expecting it until after the new year as I was still in my lease, and I wasn't expecting the increase to be to the tune of $325 more a month. But there it was, in bold and staring at me from the freshly-folded-and-slid-under-my-door paper, signed cheerily by the new building owners.

The universe seemed against me for a moment. It was the holidays! I was just getting control of my finances! I had expressed gratitude about my apartment to my higher power on the daily—the location, the brick facade, the gardens in the back, my neighbors. I had been such a great tenant and person for recognizing my privilege, I deserved this apartment. And surely no anonymous property company would force people to move during the holidays, in a market as cutthroat as it is, in the winter?

The welling of frustration that pounded at my temples reminded me of when I was unemployed, shortly after graduating college. Hundreds of resumes and two unsuccessful interviews into my unemployment, I felt like I was being undeservedly punished. For four years during school, I thanked the universe for my life. I loved my school, I loved my city, I loved my friends, and I knew it wouldn't last forever. I thought expressing my gratitude would safeguard me against anything bad happening ever—a kind of insurance. There must had been a mix up in the universe's Punishment Rolodex. It meant to heave frustration and dead ends and self pity on Nicole Richie, it's just that our names were so similar.

My entire life in the back of a truck.

This feeling gave way when I heard myself think, and when I shifted my perspective. I have no children, no pets, very little furniture (although I had just acquired a bed frame off Craigslist that was being held together with zip ties, so that was going to pose a problem). I was in the best possible position to pick up my life and move it to another part of the city.

I also know now that expressing gratitude is not insurance against bad things or unhappiness. It is a lifestyle that brings you to the present moment and encourages revelry. What this was, right here, was an AFGE—another fucking growth experience. Yet another chance to learn some lessons, apply some tools, practice acceptance. I took what I learned from my unemployment—that gratitude insurance didn't exist and that everything that happens is supposed to happen—and dove headfirst into my apartment search.

After a few misses, I found a corner of the world I could call my own. And it, of course, is perfectly lovely.

Unpacked, unfurled, unwound.