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Archive for December, 2014

It’s a feast!!!

Mining the moment for something that feels good, something to appreciate, something to savor, that’s what your moments are about . . .   Abraham-Hicks

It has become a tradition for my friend Muriel and I, our rendezvous at the restaurant El Camino in Brunswick on my first evening back in coastal Maine for a weekend visit.  After our buoyant greeting and our enthusiastic catch-up while waiting to be seated, we settle in for a long and luscious time together.  We carry our journals to the table with the knowing that as we eat, we’ll plan our two days of creative activities and we’ll share the progress on projects-already-set-in-motion, two writers who are also two lovers of food, good food, locally-sourced and cooked soulfully and seasoned in ways that can’t help but set our tastebuds to soaring.  And El Camino, a Mexico meets seaside Maine establishment tucked on a back street in this college town and housed in a funky old diner, is a place that doesn’t disappoint.  It is always bustling in El Camino with families and couples and college students and all of us eager to feast on the entrees written carefully in colorful chalk on the black boards hung on the walls of each of the restaurant’s off-kilter rooms.

Once we settle into our seats, we continue our ritual, squinting our eyes to read each of the choices, from seasonal salads and soups to flans and cobblers.  We read them aloud, almost taste each selection as we make our way down the list, ooh and ahh and savor this preview to what is going to come next.  Because then it is time to order and our server has become a friend during these bi-monthly visits to El Camino and she knows that we are not holding ourselves back.  We’re hungry and we’re ready for a feast so it’s the huge salad of fresh local greens no matter what the season with the cilantro-lime dressing that we order first and the homemade corn chips salted to perfection and served with what must be the best-tasting salsa and guacamole in the whole world, and then it’s on to the refried beans, sides of both black and pinto, and the entrees, one entree of Fish Veracruz and our vegetarian favorite, homemade Raja Tacos stuffed with sautéed greens and roasted squash and peppers and onions and seasoned to perfection.  And then, it all starts tumbling to the table, in bold beautiful colors, a whirlwind of food, a symphony of taste and touch and smell, all here for the two of us to enjoy.  And that’s what we do; we enjoy.  We share.  We savor.  We linger and tell stories and comment on the bursts of surprise and pleasure as we bite into something unexpectedly wonderful.

Oh, it is wonderful, this prelude to a weekend of creative play with friends and cousins and siblings, this meal in which it is easy to be completely present, with Muriel, a dear friend, and with this food prepared soulfully and served with a gracious smile.  It is easy to linger and savor and digest each morsel, each moment when you have the whole evening, when you have nothing else pressing against you to get done, when you are on a weekend retreat.  But what about now?  What about this moment?  When you are not on a weekend retreat, not yet anyway, and it is three days before Christmas, and your to-do list is mighty and long and the time, it seems to be flying and you and your spouse indeed will be flying early tomorrow morning out west to visit your kids in Moscow, Idaho.  How do you slow it all down and remember that is in the slowing down that the flavors pop to the surface, and the moment that you are living becomes a feast set before you to savor?

This morning, I sat on the living room rug wrapping presents, on the wool rug handwoven by women in Iran, and it happened.  I’m not sure how it happened, but, in the midst of a day that I’ve deemed busy, I remembered to breathe.  And I slowed down for a moment.  And on the breath’s exhale, I felt the heft of the rug beneath my kneeling legs and I was dazzled by its rich blue color, the color of a sunny sea.  And I looked around our living room and was struck by the two golden walls and the two terra cotta walls and the art that I could almost dive into because I love it so much.  How could I let a moment like this pass me by?  How could I forget to chew it up?  How many moments do I gobble down, swallow whole without appreciating their particular seasoning?  When I returned to the task at hand, something had shifted.  The beauty of our home stayed with me, was inside of me, is inside of me now — just as the deliciousness of my meals with Muriel remain ready to bob to the surface in any moment that I think about them.  When we savor our meals and our moments, they are pressed into us, pressed into our cells and into our souls and we remember that our lives are a feast.

So that’s my wish and my intention as I move forward, moment to moment — some full of noise and some spacious with silence — through this holiday season and into this new year


And above all, watch with glittering eyes . . .

And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.  Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.  Roald Dahl

Each day, be amazed . . . be entranced by the wonder of the Universe.  Mary Southard

This wasn’t my normal reaction to a traffic jam.   And traffic jam was an understatement for the barely- creeping-forward mess my husband Cam and I found ourselves in last Sunday as the sun sunk down over the Cascades.   We were heading back to the Seattle Airport in the early evening hours after a four-day Thanksgiving visit in Moscow, Idaho with our two sons, their wives and our two-and-a-half-year-old grandson Viren when all of a sudden we found ourselves in a standstill on the interstate ninety miles east of the Sound.  As darkness fell over the mountains, the cars, crammed together in gridlock, suddenly came alive for me.  I know it sounds crazy to adult ears, but it’s all I could see.  License plates became toothy white grins, rear headlights squinted and stared and blinked back at me, pieces of chrome and knobby handles transformed themselves into eyebrows and noses and ears.  It was a wild ride, this-ten-mile-an-hour slink over the mountain pass, a Car Story adventure as good as any video that a two-year-old might watch after a busy day.  And I knew it was the influence of the two-year-old playmate I’d been hanging out with causing havoc with my adult perception as I looked forward into the never-ending sea of car-faces in front of us — but why fight it, I thought.  It’s a lot more fun playing this game than seething and swearing and steaming over like an overheated engine.

It’s a lot more fun playing all sorts of games with a two-and-a-half-year-old.  When you are two-and-a-half, your imagination is lit up and you’ve developed the language skills to share this lively way of seeing the world with those around you.  So, that’s what we did, Grandma and Viren, we played — on Thanksgiving afternoon, while Grandpa mixed up the stuffing and one son smoked the turkey and the other mashed the potatoes, while daughter-in-laws roasted squash and cauliflower and made the salads, we found our way outdoors to a land of crisp northern Idaho sunshine and make-believe.  “Hi kids, I’m Harry Bunny!” Viren pronounced, taking his cue from a favorite TV show and looking out over the hedge of cedar bushes at the yard in front of him.  And I, marching behind and following his lead, added, “And I’m Grandma Bunny, and we’re here to show you kids a good time.”  And then, we did.  We showed those kids out there in imaginary land a rip-roaring good time.  We marched our way around that yard, from birch tree to newly-planted apple to reeds of Idaho grass and we cupped our hands and we took turns saying, “Look kids, we’ve found a gift for you!”  And then, curious about the gifts ourselves, we asked each other, “What is it?!?”  Sometimes it was a lion that was cupped in our hands; other times it was a star that we flung high in the sky.  And I could almost see it, the star we flung high.  And I could almost hear it, that lion that roared its mighty roar and lived in a rock planted out near the road.

All weekend, we played.  We adults pulled our inner two-and-a-half-year-olds out of the basement closets, ignited our adult-sleepy imaginations and saw the world anew as we bumbled our way through the crowds at the local department store on Black Friday, oohing and awing and stopping to admire each and every decorated tree.  And later, it was with the glittering eyes of a child that we gazed up at the four eagles circling above us as we traipsed around the reservoir on crusty frozen ground.  And when it snowed the next morning, the first real snow of the year in this northern Idaho town, it wasn’t hard to look out at those huge clumped-together flakes falling from the sky and feel a sense of wonder.  And I know that all of us sensed it later in the day, the hushed holiness in an old-growth forest covered by new snow, as we hiked along a hilly trail just miles from town.

And what would it be like to make it a practice, this way of seeing the world fresh and new and filled with the delightful and the unexpected ?  I wonder what gifts we’d find in our ordinary moments.  And that’s what it seemed like, a sweet and ordinary game that Viren and I were playing on Sunday morning as we stared out into the back lawn and told each other what we were seeing.  “I see the blue blue sky,” I said.  “I see the big tree,” Viren added.  Back and forth, we went, describing this snow-covered sparkling world of matter behind his house.  And then it was Viren’s turn.  “I see an angel,” he said and squinted his eyes to take in the details.  “And he has black curly hair and bushy eyebrows.  He has glasses and looks kind of like Daddy.”  He then went on to say what he was wearing but I didn’t get it all.  I was trying to stay matter-of-fact, like it was an ordinary thing to see an angel in your back yard.  “Oh,” I said.  “I think it might be your Great Grandpa Ernie.”  And then the game continued.  “I see my bike and the wheelbarrow and Daddy’s white bucket.”

This week back home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, I am consciously trying to take a cue from Viren, to soften my eyes and deepen my breath and open myself to the possibility of an angel in my own back yard.  And yesterday morning, as I drank down my vitamin-packed elixir, I happened to glance out there, to the yard behind the house, to the white pines and the sparkling snow and there it was, scooting across the lawn, something I’d never seen before.  It was foot or so long, and skinny and furry and white with a little black mark on its perky tail.  It was a weasel shooting over to a hole in the snow by the bird feeder.  And to me, it seemed like an angel, something magical and unexpected and filled with delight.


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The family in Moscow, Idaho Thanksgiving Weekend, 2014

The family in Moscow, Idaho
Thanksgiving Weekend, 2014



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