What’s Cooking

“Be ardent in your work, and you will find God in your cooking pots.” -St. Teresa of Avila

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Lloyd R. Moylan (1883-1963). “Navajo Women Cooking

Our 2016 Presidential election was nothing if not a call to action. With one of the lowest voter turnouts in history and a result that’s instilled fear and anger in most, this election has proven what we’ve been told all along: Our democracy only works when we do.

In the last 10 days, I’ve watched friends and family roll up their sleeves and do just that: call representatives,  write letters, march in the streets, and take other actions to uplift the ideals so many of us share. Is it my imagination, or have I witnessed a growing kindness in daily life, as well? My heart swells at this sudden social and civic engagement (even if I wish it’d come before the election).

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my pet project: s i r s e e. At a time when the nation seems to really need a drink, I’ll be offering wine. (Hey, we all make an impact in different ways, okay?) The wine will not be not for sale. Instead, you will be able to access the wine by making a donation to your choice of featured charities.

Yes, that means I’m giving the wine away! My community partners–including the printer, the designer, the shipper, and others–are donating in kind, too. We have gathered a lot of resources in hopes of raising funds for important projects.

First, I want to outline which organizations  s i r s e e   aims to support this winter, and why. It is my hope that Continue reading

Solstice Means Stillness

Photo by Wibeke Bruland

Nearly a decade ago, I promised myself I’d spend summer solstice in the brightest part of the world. It wasn’t so much a bucket-list thing—not sure I have one of those—but more a kind of calling. At the time, I’d been visiting one of the darker parts of the world: Denmark in December. I’ve since craved light in its most potent form.

When a writing residency took me to Iceland during this year’s summer solstice, then, I relished not only the time to write, but the fulfillment of that promise. (No, neither Iceland nor Denmark are part of the Arctic Circle, where light and dark would be most extreme. But I’m calling it “close enough”.) I’ve just returned from that trip, after a month of soaking up the brightest light I’ve known. Continue reading

Nerve & Me

 

This week, I was honored to share an essay in Vela Magazine , a publication I’ve long admired. The essay explores what life with epilepsy has taught me about uncertainty.

The world—and our bodies—do not always operate in a neat and orderly fashion. Control is not our default modus operandi, or even our ideal. Thirty years with epilepsy has taught me to accept, even love, this truth.

I rarely talk about my epilepsy, and when I do, it feels vaguely dissatisfying, as if I’m not quite expressing things adequately. Writing this piece, then, was healing.

It was also difficult, requiring a ton of research. In the process, I learned a lot about epilepsy in the workplace that I’d never known–even as I’ve managed my own condition. In terms of career,  epilepsy has can be a nasty deterrent. 

Still, I like to think the human spirit is indomitable. And this seems like a fine time for a “Garden State” throwback (which, for those too young to remember, features Natalie Portman as an epileptic). No seizures here, just love…!

Let nothing hold us back from the life we crave.

 

Say What? (On Curiosity & Connection)

 

I’m one of those people who tends to apologize.

A few years back, I crashed my car–a 1967 Ford Falcon in near-mint condition–through no fault of my own. Thrilled to be in one piece and hopeful the other driver was, too, I leapt out and exclaimed, “I’m soooo sorry!”

I said this, despite a lifetime of warnings I’d received about the danger of taking responsibility at the scene of a car accident. Why? …because in my vocabulary, “sorry” is often not an apology at all. It’s a show of empathy. In this case, I was worried about the other driver.

In its complex coding, “I’m sorry” is akin “bless your heart”. When I say it, I’m often sending goodwill and sometimes even pity–not subservience. You either get this, or you don’t.

This is a problem of interpretation–a matter I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and not just for this reason. Our globalized society melds languages, dialects, slangs, and jargons. Amid that mishmash, we seem more likely to misunderstand and offend one another. What to do?

I believe we must show more curiosity toward one another.

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Changing Forecast

Brilliant bloom in Joshua Tree National Park

Look how the sun has emerged, despite

expectations and the wringing of hands.

A new warmth arises on the April wind.


I am here again at an old crossroads:action

at odds with intention. Accomplishment sacrificed

to the short-term pleasure of just being here.

–Barbara Swift Brauer, from “Changing Forecast”

West Marin Review, Spring 2008

Do pardon my ridiculously long hiatus. What kind of devoted blogger just up and vanishes like that?

I vanished, alright. One day I was in East Point, Georgia, and the next day–poof! I was gone. For some reason, I thought I would manage to keep blogging throughout this latest relocation (yes, my second cross-country move in eight months). Over the last few weeks, I packed up everything I own and drove it over 3,000 miles to Petaluma, California.

After a brief affair with my native South–not to mention extra poundage primarily attributable to The Flying Biscuit–I feel lucky as hell to be back land of milk and honey (and all around healthier cuisine) known as California. It was touch and go there for a few months, as my partner and I hemmed and hawed over the prospect of an international relocation to Denmark. Ultimately–and no doubt to the disappointment of travel hungry friends and family–I decided that the San Francisco Bay Area feeds my work and life in a way that no place else can.

En route, I thought that I’d be able to pound out enthusiastic blog entries from, say, the scuzzy motel where we stayed in Henryetta, Oklahoma. War correspondents can write from Basra, after all. But I guess I’m just not hardcore like that. After a 10-hour shift at the wheel, anything I had to say was bound to be an incomprehensible stream of mush. Just ask my partner.

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The Accidental Tourist, Unplugged

Frozen Lake at Kripalu

Footprints across a frozen lake, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, Massachusetts

One of the hardest things to do—for freelancers or anyone—can be to stop and make yourself take a vacation.

On the surface, it seems impossible that a freelancer would have any trouble arranging a vacation. If I’m in charge of my own schedule, what’s the problem? But generally, the freelance life is less predictable than a nine-to-five one, and harder to tame. I’ve traded an infinitely structured life for an infinitely flexible one. I never know when a contract might come in, so am always hesitant to plan anything at all, including a trip to visit my grandmother. And if I do, be darn sure I’m not entirely escaping—I’ll have my laptop in tow.

Well, at least I’ll try to have my laptop in tow.

Over and over again, I put off this trip to the Berkshires, during which I wanted to combine R&R at a yoga center with a visit to see a dear friend. Given my two-week dry spell with work, I felt incredibly guilty taking time off. Ultimately, could I really afford it? (No.) Shouldn’t I be looking for work? (Yes.)

Ultimately, my partner practically booted me out the door. Thank goodness. By the end of February, I was on a train cruising through the winter wonderland of the Hudson River Valley. It all happened so quickly that I had the distinctive feeling I’d forgotten something. By the time I got to my friend’s house in New York and broke out my laptop, I realized what it was—my power cord.

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The Gift | Lewis Hyde

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In a fantastic little bookshop in Lenox, Massachusetts this week, I found a book called The Gift by Lewis Hyde. The title refers to that certain something we each individually have to offer. A kind of cult classic (recently going into its 25th edition) it was called “the best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators” by Margaret Atwood. I’m only partway through, but when I ran across this May Sarton quote, I knew I wanted to keep reading:

“There is only one deprivation … and that is not to be able to give one’s gift … The gift, turned inward, unable to be given, becomes a heavy burden, even sometimes a kind of poison. It is as though the flow of life were backed up.”

If we can’t find a way to share what we have to offer–and many can’t at their day jobs–we’re lost. But I believe that we are meant to continue trying.

The Rest You Must Invent

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Just trying to keep it in perspective. (Salt mines, Czech Republic) 

 

You think the world owes you
It don’t owe you a thing.
When it’s given all it can
The rest you must invent.

–Morees Bickman, “Rosebush Inside”

Especially here in America, we think that we deserve the good life. Isn’t it is our birthright? Isn’t it in the constitution? Isn’t it written somewhere?

Even if it is, I would like to know who exactly can honor that contract. Natural disasters, accidents, villains, and just plain chance intervene in our otherwise glorious destiny and sometimes, bad things are going to happen. The good life is not something we should expect; it’s something we have to work for. And even when we do, there are no guarantees.

We are spoiled.

I mention this because it relates to the general conception of what a healthy work life really is. What kinds of demands and expectations can we reasonably place on our work lives?

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Getting Over It (à la Snoopy)

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Prior to my winter travels, I surfed out a fairly pitiful period of isolated, suburban existence. (Boo-hoo. See this entry.) I’ve thought a lot, then, about misery and creativity: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Are the two mutually exclusive, or do they actually feed one another?

Years ago, my writer-philosopher friend was at once lost and found when he fell in love with his wife-to-be. “But if I’m happy,” he reasoned, “what will I have to write about?” The two are still married, and my friend is a banker. Did true, utterly fulfilled love kill his creativity?

David Lynch seems to accept no excuses for losing touch with the creative force, countering that, If you’re an artist, you’ve got to know about anger without being restricted by it.”

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