knot by intricate knot
each click of each lock
a step toward liberty.
that I might expand to fill
this universe of you.
Ed note, 9/2014: So, I was perusing my google drive today and came across this piece. Searching the blog, it appears that I’ve never posted it. Perhaps it was deleted in the mass-deletion event of 2013. I’m going to repost it here because I remember so well this day, how it felt to be in it. I am so looking forward to crisp fall weather and baking meditation.
Ed Note, 10/2013: As I was writing this piece, my daughter knocked on the door. She walked in, sniffed the air and said “something smells amazing-banana bread?” (it was two loaves of banana pumpkin.) Then she said “I bake all the time now! I don’t know why!” I showed her this piece, and said “this is why.”
It’s the mindfully simple act of cooking that saves me from slipping into the abyss of seasonally triggered depression in the fall, I think. Finally I can throw-ok, wrestle-the windows open some days, rainforest-like mornings of Whippoorwills and train track repairs I hear off in the distance.
After the furious routine of our pre-dawn school frenzy, I stand in the kitchen bleary eyed, performing tasks by muscle memory: a zombie brought back to humanity by pumpkin spice syrup and caffeine. This is act is the opposite of mindful. This act is pure mindlessness, and sometimes I meditate on that fact alone. What is this mind body disconnect, which allows me to grind beans, measure grounds, boil water, remove a cup from the shelf, prepare the press, pour boiling water into a tube, perform the vacuum extraction in order to get coffee, flavor/sweeten coffee, milk the coffee, and clean up- all while planning the day’s kitchen tasks in the forefront of my mind?
It is this sort of half living/double living that I am working to avoid by practicing working meditation in my kitchen, yet a small, rebellious voice in my head sips my perfect cup of coffee and says “fudge that crap. CLEARLY all that advice was aimed at people who are crapty multi-taskers.”
In zen, part of the practice is working meditation. On the perfect days, I consider this work in the kitchen mine, often working in complete silence, arranging my bowls restaurant line-style so as to work multiple projects at once.
I love my dishes so much, am so connected to this process, that practicing mindful cooking meditation is very difficult for a busy brain like mine. Each recipe contains a wealth of stories, each dish springs to life as my hand touches the surface. My things don’t match; we never registered for dishes, so everything I touch reminds me of someone. Even as I type I’m thinking Oh Kaile, I ate last night from that green flowered plate you gave me! My prep bowls, nothing special, remind me of my best friend because she’s right, you can’t find any thing better for small measures and eggs. I’ve long since lost the covers.
Now sometimes you won’t need this much orange juice in the bread, Mary Jane Cushman’s voice echoes inside my head as I mix ingredients for cranberry loaves for the freezer. Because the humidity sometimes makes this bread over moist. My eyes wander toward our bookshelf, scan the spines for the children’s book where the recipe lives. I wonder if my daughter can read us this book tonight.
Wait. Mindful. Back to my task.
Dabbing vanilla on my neck, I wish I had the page from that magazine where I learned to make apple pie from the essay that reminded me to always dab vanilla on my neck whenever I made one, just because it smells so good. It was the same torn out page I carried for years that reminds me, now, to put on my grandmother’s apron. Burying my hands in cut apples I’m back in a tiny trailer in North Carolina, alone and pregnant, clad in my grandmother’s apron, smelling sweetly of vanilla and cinnamon. Baking pies for my last Thanksgiving dinner as a single person, my last holiday as an unencumbered adult. By Christmas I would have a child. Goddammit. By this Christmas, My child may have a child. Wait a minute Universe, can we chat a time out? She’s still just a baby, so.
It’s not working. I sift the apples through my fingers, I concentrate on the grit of brown sugar, try to BE the silt cinnamon and imagine that my daughter’s baby is born on its due date which is identical to the due date predicted for my daughter 18 years ago. As if on a separate track in my head I remind myself not to make out of town plans for Christmas even as I feel myself beginning to notice that the kitchen is 150 degrees and I have started breathing incredibly fast. Why are the fudgeING windows open when obviously the air conditioner needs to be on.
Maybe French onion soup. I hate onions; the mess, the aroma, all that slicing and peeling. I can lose myself in the task of caramelizing onions and the payoff is arguably worth every cursed second. But a burnt onion does not forgive you, and neither does a Christmas dinner table full of hungry family that’s been promised World Famous French Onion Soup.
The onions act almost as well as a tranquilizer for me. Here we go: sliced fall onions into my thrift store cast iron dutch oven to roast into a pitiful show of my labor, but sweet, so sweet. Back into a pan on the stove with red wine to reduce; I want them sweeter. This is where sometimes the onions and their company calm me down even more, if you know what I mean.
In the meantime, I’m using every excuse to fire up my workhorse of a blender. My vita mix emulsifies spices and vegan beef flavored broth base with boiling water. I get lost in the pulse function. Back and forth between my reduction pan and the blender I go and by now, January is a million miles away because I’m sneaking spoonfuls of onions and sips of wine.
One day, will she call me for these recipes, like I did with my mother when I was ready to call a truce?
I did it again. fudge.
I get out the flour and consider making several loaves of bread.
I’m beginning to equalize from the last few weeks. crap is weird, y’all. But. Every morning and night I get to go out there and watch my baby koi playing in the resurrected pond. And sometimes I get to climb up into a lap and daydream about the Spanish moss and the crepe myrtle and rope swings. And if I squint just right I can see an old lady in a giant sun hat, clipping flowers to place into a mason jar at the supper table.
Last week: Robin Williams, Ferguson, this endless project. all of it- it all threw me pretty hard and I caught a taste of that old blanket of dark that used to be where I lived out my days.
My #highimpactgratitude today is for the temporary nature of those moments. I’m not scared today. Just for today,
I’m not afraid that I’ll go down there and never climb out.
Hey, friends? All day every single day, if I’m not at work, I am listening to an endless stream of chatter from the tiny humans in my orbit. Currently I have been listening to minecraft chatter for 12 straight hours (YES! WHILE I WAS SLEEPING, TOO. He kept coming in to wake me up and talk about minecraft because he couldn’t go to sleep BECAUSE MINECRAFT)
And drifting down the hall now is Katy Perry on repeat. and repeat. and repeat. If I go into that room, we will talk about hermit crabs. For one thousand hours infinity trillion.
So. That is why I don’t return your phone calls or answer your calls when my phone rings. If you have an urgent thing, by all means tell me in your message so that I will know to barricade myself in the bathroom where I might buy myself thirty-six seconds of focus before someone casually opens the door to chat me up because what’s the toilet matter when you REALLY NEED SOMEONE TO LOOK AT YOUR MINECRAFT HOUSE?
I am available to you! Via text, IM, or email! PLEASE contact me via text, IM or Email so that I can interact with an adult. But please don’t take it personally if I don’t want to voice talk to you because guys. You don’t want to have a conversation with someone who must interrupt you every fourteen seconds to field a question about the lifespan of hermit crabs or to look up a keyboard shortcut for minecraft.
On the days when I have no kids and a work night full of talking to people in my Server Costume? What about those days, you ask? Why can’t I just return all my phone calls on those days? Well because all my psychic talking to people energy goes into trying to compel people to leave me a 20% tip.
I love you all. I really do. Text me.
Love banished the other half of my heart
Terrified, my heart cried out into the darkness
Her small voice lost in the wind
She stood rooted to the ground at the end of the drive
Suffocating beneath the night sky
As a song of rage flowed between love and the knight
Plants, orphaned by their smashed pots gasped for breath beneath my tiny feet
I was a statue in the cold, anchored to the sagging boards of the porch.
An ocean rolled down the cheeks of my knight and then
I watched his retreating figure grow smaller
As he trudged, determined, down the drive
Through the weapons flung angrily to the ground by love
In my tattered nightgown I waited
Until larger he grew on the horizon
Cradling the other half of my heart
Stone turned to jelly as my legs scrambled for purchase;
I finally tumbled into the bed where carefully my knight had tucked my heart under the covers.
Kissed us both on the forehead and whispered, “apart? never!”
I’m going to start posting these little things here on the blog, and not just on facebook. I think it’s time to resurrect this old thing.
High impact gratitude: Some people call me naive, and it’s true that I tend to trust things and people probably more than some do, but I appreciate knowing that everything is really just going to be OK in the end. This helps me share, helps me move on from co-parenting conflicts, and helps me feel more connected to my community, and lessens my attachment to things. Everything is so impermanent. (…I tell myself, as I collect wet socks from the backyard where my kids have flung them in their excited haste to play in the mud)
I know that my life looks chaotic and messy and often shows a disregard for convention. It’s monumentally full of love and abundance, and I feel lucky every day that I have children who play in the dirt, friends who look past the clutter, and family who share freely and lovingly.