Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Rustic Tomato Toast

This scrumptiousness is from the New York Times:


SUMMARY

This traditional Spanish snack couldn’t be easier to make. Aside from good toasted bread, it requires very few ingredients: a garlic clove, a ripe tomato, some olive oil and flaky sea salt. In fact, the ingredient list is actually the recipe in shorthand. If you want a slightly more elaborate toast, garnish with anchovy fillets, slices of avocado or grilled shrimp. But even in its simplest form, this rustic toast is always satisfying.
TOTAL TIME

Ingredients

  • 2 slices of bread from a plain rustic loaf, about 1/2-inch thick
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 small ripe red tomato, halved, seeds squeezed out
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Flaky sea salt or fleur de sel

Preparation

1.
Toast the bread on both sides under the broiler, on a stovetop grill or over coals, until it is perfectly browned, with a bit of give in the center, about 1 minute per side.
2.
Pressing down firmly, rub the top of each toast with the garlic. Press the tomato, cut side down, against the toast. Rub to moisten the toast and give it a juicy red color.
3.
Drizzle with olive oil and finish with a tiny sprinkle of sea salt. Serve immediately.

A Poem On Hope

For Earth Day, a poem by Wendell Berry:


A Poem on Hope

It is hard to have hope. It is harder as you grow old, 
for hope must not depend on feeling good 
and there's the dream of loneliness at absolute midnight. 
You also have withdrawn belief in the present reality 
of the future, which surely will surprise us, 
and hope is harder when it cannot come by prediction 
anymore than by wishing. But stop dithering. 
The young ask the old to hope. What will you tell them? 
Tell them at least what you say to yourself.

Because we have not made our lives to fit 
our places, the forests are ruined, the fields, eroded, 
the streams polluted, the mountains, overturned. Hope 
then to belong to your place by your own knowledge 
of what it is that no other place is, and by 
your caring for it, as you care for no other place, this 
knowledge cannot be taken from you by power or by wealth. 
It will stop your ears to the powerful when they ask 
for your faith, and to the wealthy when they ask for your land
and your work.  Be still and listen to the voices that belong 
to the stream banks and the trees and the open fields.

Find your hope, then, on the ground under your feet. 
Your hope of Heaven, let it rest on the ground underfoot. 
The world is no better than its places. Its places at last 
are no better than their people while their people 
continue in them. When the people make 
dark the light within them, the world darkens.





 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Happiness

Happiness
So early it's still almost dark out.
I'm near the window with coffee,
and the usual early morning stuff
that passes for thought.
When I see the boy and his friend
walking up the road
to deliver the newspaper.

They wear caps and sweaters,
and one boy has a bag over his shoulder.
They are so happy
they aren't saying anything, these boys.
I think if they could, they would take
each other's arm.
It's early in the morning,
and they are doing this thing together.
They come on, slowly.
The sky is taking on light,
though the moon still hangs pale over the water.
Such beauty that for a minute
death and ambition, even love,
doesn't enter into this.

Happiness. It comes on
unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,
any early morning talk about it.


-- Raymond Carver
#nationalpoetrymonth

state of grace

"Age has no reality except in the physical world. The essence of a human being is resistant to the passage of time. Our inner lives are eternal, which is to say that our spirits remain as youthful and vigorous as when we were in full bloom. Think of love as a state of grace, not the means to anything, but the alpha and omega. An end in itself."

--Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love In The Time of Cholera

The Suitor

Many thanks to @KCecelia for reminding me of this poem by the great Jane Kenyon. 


We lie back to back. Curtains
lift and fall,
like the chest of someone sleeping.
Wind moves the leaves of the box elder;
they show their light undersides,
turning all at once
like a school of fish.
Suddenly I understand that I am happy.
For months this feeling
has been coming closer, stopping
for short visits, like a timid suitor.


-- Jane Kenyon

We lie back to back. Curtains
lift and fall,
like the chest of someone sleeping. 
Wind moves the leaves of the box elder; 
they show their light undersides,
turning all at once
like a school of fish. 
Suddenly I understand that I am happy. 
For months this feeling 
has been coming closer, stopping
for short visits, like a timid suitor.
- See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/16021#sthash.IVWfO87t.dpuf

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Loveliest of Trees

My favorite Easter poem. 


LOVELIEST OF TREES

By A.E. Housman

Loveliest of trees, the cherry now 
Is hung with bloom along the bough, 
And stands about the woodland ride, 
Wearing white for Eastertide.

Now, of my threescore years and ten, 
Twenty will not come again, 
And take from seventy springs a score, 
It only leaves me fifty more.

And since to look at things in bloom 
Fifty springs are little room, 
About the woodlands I will go 
To see the cherry hung with snow.





 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sonnet 43

Happy birthday, William Shakespeare.


When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,
For all the day they view things unrespected;
But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,
And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.
Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,
How would thy shadow's form form happy show
To the clear day with thy much clearer light,
When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!
How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made
By looking on thee in the living day,
When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade
Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!
All days are nights to see till I see thee,
And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

RIP Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“He dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her. Petra Cotes, for her part, loved him more and more as she felt his love increasing, and that was how in the ripeness of autumn she began to believe once more in the youthful superstition that poverty was the servitude of love. Both looked back then on the wild revelry, the gaudy wealth, and the unbridled fornication as an annoyance and they lamented that it had cost them so much of their lives to find the paradise of shared solitude. Madly in love after so many years of sterile complicity, they enjoyed the miracle of living each other as much at the table as in bed, and they grew to be so happy that even when they were two worn-out people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like dogs.”

-- From "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I'll meet you there (mashuguna)

Today isn't the greatest of days.

I've slept very little and am a little bit (read: a lot) sad because I've discovered that I'm not really made of tough enough stuff to withstand a Long Distance Relationship. I wish I were. But if you come from the opinion that you have a sweetheart (for want of a better word; I'm still at a loss to know what to call it) to make both of your lives happier and more more fulfilling, just to find yourself even more miserable, doesn't it somehow defeat the point?  LDR's have felled better than me, I can tell you that. I am not alone. But LDR's suck. They absolutely suck.

He is a good man and kind beyond measure. And I couldn't have put more boarding school lacrosse team effort into trying to make this work. I am a problem solver. This is what I do. There is nothing that irritates me more than failing to crack a puzzle. But I have failed. And I have failed miserably, ie. my failure has caused me misery. I am a miserable failure at the LDR.

So today I have to put on my smart navy blue suit and my heels, and some red lipstick, and a big smile, and I have to go to a new business meeting as if nothing has happened, as if I wasn't up half the night weeping into Bean's spotted fur.

I have listened endlessly to this song (because I am a glutton for punishment):



And I've gotten advice from my mother ("You have a good life. You are happy. Things will be all right.") And sweet Monica ("Don't focus on it. Don't be negative. There are lots of fish in the sea.")

But after six months of talking to someone mostly every day, and after six months of waking up with a smile on your face just because that person exists on the planet, it's quite (very) sad not to do that any more.

That's all.

I still firmly believe that you need to tell the people you care about that you love them, and you need to love fiercely, even if the outcome isn't always the one you want.

There is good in the world. And things will be fine. In a few days, perhaps.

And I always remember this quote, from Rumi, of course.


Monday, April 14, 2014

...wherein i reveal my seriously hippy side

My favorite thing about kundalini yoga -- which I do to fix my head rather than for its physical benefits, but my abs are in pretty good shape right now (can you say "washboard"?) -- is that right in the middle of class you view the world differently. It suddenly, miraculously turns into a benevolent, love-filled, anything-is-possible place. All your worries and your problems melt into the ether and you realize, in a slightly cray-cray SoCal way, that you need to turn it all over to Guru Ram Dass. In laymen's terms, ie. something you and I can both understand, it means that you have to trust in the universe and believe in the inherent goodness of the world.  Somehow that everything is intricately and delicately woven together, all in a lovely connected whole, makes perfect sense. Away from the lonely, loony middle of the night thoughts we all have and despise, when the sky is blue and you're surrounded by beatific beings in white meditating earnestly and gracefully folding their hands in prayer, everything is possible.

-- Jim Dine

"I'm not training you to be students. I'm training you as teachers," says Tej, my wise, wonderful teacher. "The sh*t is about to hit the fan and someone needs to have their heads on straight." The shit she's referring to are the powerful astrological events that are happening this month:  the blood moon or full lunar eclipse that is happening tonight, the Cardinal Grand Cross on the 23rd and the solar eclipse on the 29th. Even if you're not an astrological adherent (and I'm not really) popular opinion suggests that these events may in fact affect us, and make us a little, you know, loopy. There is even a whacky belief that the Cardinal Grand Cross somehow consciously uncoupled Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow (I know, I know.)

I have some healthy scepticism here. (Mamma: if you're reading this, I haven't gone nuts, or been in LA too long, or joined a cult). There are things I don't agree. There are things that I find jarringly, cringingly new-agey and strange. But kundalini works for me. It cleans out the cobwebs, allows me to see clearly and to be more loving. Do you know what I mean by that? I go back to my two ways of looking at the world mantra (which I've written about ad nauseum, for example here). Life is just better when you look through the lens of love as opposed to the lens of fear. Looking at through love is adopting one's higher self. Fear is when the ego leads (see this article on what the ego is).  It's very, very simple. Everything becomes easier, more connected, more bountiful through the lens of love and positivity.

Easy things you can do to reconnect with your higher self (and I'm saying this without a trace of irony; I firmly believe this to be true):

1) attend a yoga class
2) go for a walk, preferably in nature
3) deep cleansing breaths
4) a cold shower
5) move away from your cocoon for a few minutes
6) listen to uplifting music
7) eat cucumbers or celery, cold and crisp from the refrigerator
8) interact with animals (preferably on the ground)
9) do a headstand or a shoulder stand
10) hug someone for at least 20 seconds
11) listen to a beautiful mantra, for example this one 
12) drink lots of water


These are tried and true. These things will work when you feel panicked, or small, or your mouth becomes dry, or your heart starts beating as the fight or flight reflex appears, or you feel punchy, or attacked.

I once had a brilliant acupuncturist, Dr David Kearney in Santa Monica, whose mantra was "let it go," not in the "Frozen" sense of it, but his was the idea that you just breathe stuff out and just relax. "Just chaaa" he called it. He said, your body is made up of 90% water and when water is flowing it's healthy and energetic and life-giving. When water is still it becomes green and stagnant. So, for him, the flow, the chi, and so on, was important. And, to be obvious about it, this is why you feel so good after a run or a Soul Cycle class or 20 minutes of cardio (or, in my case, 40 minutes on a bucking four year old horse.)

-- The Beatles

And I can still be a bitch. I can still be lazy. I can still despair. I can still pick a fight with an irksome guest at a dinner party. I can still be irritated by my children. But, slowly, it's getting better.

You don't have to eat chia seed pudding, or lentils, or have your chakras balanced, or wear beads in order to embrace your higher self. If Arianna Huffington can do it, anyone can. You don't have to stop using deodorant, or grow your underarm hair, or chant every day. All you have to do is open your mind to these possibilities.  Just a little.  Just a tiny, tiny bit, and everything will start to change.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Old Photograph

I spent the afternoon reading these poems by Ian Hamilton. They are surprising, emotional, sometimes terse. Quite wonderful.



You are wandering in the deep field
That backs on to the room I used to work in
And from time to time
You look up to see if I am watching you.
To this day
Your arms are full of the wild flowers
You were most in love with.

-- Ian Hamilton, from "Collected Poems"

treehouses, blind faith & the luxury of scrambled eggs

As usual, it is my mother who dispenses the best advice, when I tell her about something that is bothering me. She says, "Don't think about it this weekend. Make sure you fill your days." When did my mother become so clever? So, I rode a bucking bronco this morning in the form of my just four year old horse -- enough of a workout for anyone, I can assure you -- and went to meet my ex-husband and two of our oldest friends for lunch in Malibu. Malibu, if you don't live in Los Angeles sounds glamorous and ritzy, but until quite recently it was a little bit of a pit. Now, with the new Malibu Farm opened at the end of the pier, where the legendary Alice's used to be, it's quite a lovely place to spend a Saturday lunchtime. After brunch, we walked on the beach and chatted to a friend's surfer son, watched the paddle boarders and the lovers, and the pelicans. We marveled at the blue and told each other we didn't spend enough time at the beach, as you do.

I don't know how not to be full on. I wrote this yesterday.

I believe it has something to do with this quote from Roald Dahl:

“I began to realize how important it was to be an enthusiast in life. He taught me that if you are interested in something, no matter what it is, go at it at full speed ahead. Embrace it with both arms, hug it, love it and above all become passionate about it. Lukewarm is no good. Hot is no good either. White hot and passionate is the only thing to be.”

So, for me, it's full speed ahead. It's how I get on in life. I don't do things by halves and I don't just like people. I usually love them or I don't really give them the time of day. As you can imagine, sometimes this leads to some disappointment. Because more often than not, people aren't as enthusiastic as I am. (My personality is that of a ten-year-old child with a new puppy, I fear.)  I have no Be Cool switch. It's FULL ON or OFF.

from The Treehouse Book by Peter Nelson

Last night I had dinner with a few close girlfriends, and one or two I know less well, but mostly women I've been friends with for years, sweet, good, funny women, in a beautiful house nestled in the trees in one of the canyons of West LA. The house is charming. White and light and filled with flowers and pictures and dogs, warm and inviting, and in the garden an enormous treehouse, which of course you immediately want to use for a tea party. I do adore these girls nights. There is wine, some delicious food, and usually the kind of conversation that you can't have in a "couple" type of environment. As you can imagine, we talked about relationships and sex and girl stuff. All fun. All light. Lots of laughter. And then one woman, who, to be fair, may have had one too many glasses of rose, started to lay into me with advice that was unwarranted, about a situation she knew next to nothing about. It's very unlike me, but she got a rise out of me. "I don't think you should spout off about something you know so little about." I said. There was a shocked silence. No-one quite knew what to say. She stuttered a little. Apologized. It was mild. I played it off like it wasn't a big deal, but to be honest, I wanted to deck her. She had spent the whole evening making nasty jabs at me (while all along grabbing my arm in mock warmth, for emphasis), and I have no idea why. Just weird little snipey asides, thrown delicately into the conversation, and suddenly my fist felt like it would feel very good thrown very hard at her nose.

The moral of the story is, don't air your problems with anyone but those you know extremely well, those who have your back. It's rather like having someone read your unfinished writing. You want support, not advice, I suppose.

And so, to hear my mother this morning tell me so delicately to enjoy my weekend, made me more or less weep with joy. "You've gotten through so much" she said. "You have a lovely life there, and good friends, and your daughter is coming home this weekend."

I read Andrea Gillies' piece about going through divorce and getting back onto the dating wagon with joy. It's a perfect piece: brave and funny and poignant and true. You can read it here.

It's so much more difficult than you would imagine. I'm not yet divorced and I'm lucky enough to have a soon-to-be-ex-husband that I get along well with. We can laugh together and joke with each other, and it's okay. But the dating thing? Oh dear. Los Angeles is not where you want to be when you're starting out again with two grown up children. Los Angeles is where all the beautiful, sometimes thick, people migrate to when they want a career in the movies. LA has a glut of beautiful women under the age of 30, and an entire other population of women who live in the youth culture and are trying to keep up, desperately, so that their husbands don't go off with their perky-breasted assistants. I don't know a lot of people who've gone under the knife, but people "have work done," which usually means filler, or botox, or oxygen facials, and they dye their hair (there are NO grey-haired people in Los Angeles) and they work out. I'm no slouch, but I've never set foot in a gym in my life, and truthfully, I like to go out without a full slathering of face paint if I can possibly help it. I'm opinionated, self-sufficient, and I don't suffer fools. It is very hard to find quality dating stock. And dating is anathema to me. I've said this before. Maybe I'm picky. Maybe clever and kind and funny and not completely physically repellant doesn't exist in Los Angeles in one package.

And so I'm seeing someone who isn't from Los Angeles. Someone clever and kind and funny and handsome. But this, this "Long Distance Relationship" is terribly, terribly hard. There is an 8 hour time difference, first off, which is virtually impossible to get around. They're sleepy when you're awake, you're perky and full of morning light when they're about to have supper, and so on. It's so un-spontaneous and you have to be grown-up and organized and have systems in place to deal with these things. And you have to remember what they look like and smell like and what their hand feels like in yours, because you don't see them for great stretches of time. And you have to remember not to become estranged or alienated, or offended when you don't hear back and are imagining the worst. It's awfully hard. Especially for someone who is as full on as me. I don't know how to play it cool, how to wait for a phone call, how to play games. I missed out a whole chunk of dating life that my peers have had. I am a complete neophyte and half the time it feels as if I'm about eighteen years old, with the same emotions and the same dorky, jerky, unsmooth movements of a colt.  I want to be Princess Grace or even Joan Collins but I'm more like a Kirsten Wiig SNL character, awkward and hopeless (though without doll-sized arms).

Kirsten Wiig

And of course when you see each other it's literally the best thing in the world. But in between, it's hell.

The phone seems to be the best way to communicate. It's easy to have long silences, just listening to each other breathe, without feeling awkward. Skype feel more demanding, somehow, of being on show. And there are emails, which I love, and he doesn't, where you get the things that seem hard to voice. But there is a such a huge element of blind faith that has to be present in order for these things to work.  It's such a luxury to be able to touch the sleeve of your beau, or to just hand the book over to them to read a line, or to hear the same bird singing together, or make scrambled eggs for two. Or, to laugh in the same room, till you weep.

(Saturday joke: A hamburger and a hot dog walk into a bar. The bartender says "Sorry guys, we don't serve food here.")


I just don't know how not to be full on.

And a recipe:

proper scrambled eggs (serves 2)

Gordon Ramsay's scrambled eggs with chives


break three eggs into a bowl
add sea salt & freshly cracked pepper & a little slosh of milk
beat with a fork till frothy (you can add chopped chives too if you like)
melt a good glob of butter in a pan over a medium/medium-high heat (you don't want the butter to brown but you want a little sizzle)
add the eggs and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, scooping the cooked bits up and into the rest of the mixture. continue until the desired consistency is formed.
serve immediately, preferably on some wholegrain toast







Fragile

"It occurs to me that the peculiarity of most things we think of as fragile is how tough they truly are. There were tricks we did with eggs, as children, to show how they were, in reality, tiny load-bearing marble halls; while the beat of the wings of a butterfly in the right place, we are told, can create a hurricane across an ocean. Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkable difficult to kill."

-- Neil Gaiman