Margherita Lasagna (With pappardelle)

There’s a phrase the kids use these days that I like a lot, and that phrase is “for a minute.”

The Urban Dictionary, that irreverent testimony to the liveliness of language, defines it thus: “A vague reference of time, which could be a few days or a few weeks. The majority of the users either don’t actually know that a minute is a measurement of time or have dumbed down their own brains to the point of not caring that they sound like morons.”

I’m sure they know that a minute is a measurement of time, and I admire the deftness with which they capture the absurdity of its passing. A minute is a devalued thing, like a penny; but I believe it deserves better, it deserves to be held in higher regard. How contrary a minute is! How long when you’re waiting for work to end, how quickly-passing when you’re late. How agonizingly long the last minute of extra time feels when your team is up 1-0 and down to ten men, but how cruelly short when the situation is reversed. Time has always passed strangely, of course, but something about these quarantine days–staying in one place, seeing fewer people, not marking all the usual holidays in the usual ways–brings it all into stark focus.

It’s become a new old joke that during quarantine we can’t keep track of the day, the week, the month, even the season of the year. Though the big spaces go slowly, the small moments seem to crawl. We don’t have all the old users-up-of the day. The drive from here to there, the commute to work, time spent chatting with a neighbor, time spent wandering around a store. But weirdly I’m more protective of my time than ever. People, I do NOTHING on weekend days. I’m too discouraged and distracted to write, though I do think about it. What I do every weekend day is I watch Spanish football, walk the dog, and bake. THAT’S IT! and yet the few times we’ve driven anywhere in the last 9 months I thought, I don’t have time for that! I know I’m not using it wisely, but I find I value the time more.

I’ve written about this before, but it seems so apt at the moment, and it’s so beautiful it’s worth repeating. It’s from Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot. He’s talking about a man condemned to die, waiting to be killed. “He said that nothing was more oppressive for him at that moment than the constant thought: ‘What if I were not to die! What if life were given back to me–what infinity! And it would all be mine! Then I’d turn each minute into a whole age, I’d lose nothing, I’d reckon up every minute separately, I’d let nothing be wasted!’” And what happened to the condemned man after his punishment was changed at the last minute, and he was granted “infinite life.” Did he live reckoning up every minute? “Oh, no, he told me himself–I asked him about it–he didn’t live that way at all and lost many, many minutes.”

I don’t think it’s overly dramatic to say that we’ve been surrounded by death the last 9 months, wherever we live in the world. I think it’s important to remember that fact, because in America, at least, we have the sorry skill of glossing it over, making it less important, dwelling on shiny trivial things. We are living through a pandemic. We are living through a pandemic. It’s such a strange contradiction that quarantine makes time pass slowly but the reason for it makes every minute more precious than ever.

So I’d like to reckon every minute up separately, in the new sense of the word, in which a minute could be weeks or days or years. And I’d like to value the time, value every minute, even if we’re just sitting in a darkening room at twilight, with a blue snow-light out the window, and we’re typing away at some nonsense, while our teenage son plays beautiful wandering video games talking to friends on the same voyage, though they’re each in their own houses, and the other teenage but adult son is buzzing on his new haircut and wandering around our actual town with a friend from college, and Clio is grumbling in her sleep, and we’re watching French football narrated in Arabic on an illegal stream, and the house smells like roasting garlic and newly baked bagels, and David is in the kitchen helping with the cooking. It’s not much, but it’s everything. And I will reckon up every minute of it.

This is our new way of making lasagna. It doesn’t use lasagne noodles, so in fact, I suppose it’s not lasagna, but we call it after the idea of the dish rather than the noodle used. We use thick papardelle noodles, or even a mixture of papardelle and Fettuccini, and we just tangle them in a thin layer. It makes everything lighter and more interesting. Nothing is carefully arranged, everything is a bit of a lovely mess. This was our take on a Margherita pizza. We actually made the sauce in the summer with tomatoes from our garden and from the farm we belong to, and we put it up in bottles. This would be probably best to eat in summer, but in winter it’s like a beautiful memory of summer.

Here’s Mama, Won’t You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. One of my favorite songs of all time, and it contains the line, “Time does not cut deep but cuts most absurdly.”

Chickpea flour-battered shishito peppers

In the evenings Clio and I might walk to a field on the edge of town. Each day it’s a little darker; autumn works quickly. We’re probably not supposed to be there. We’ve been warned off other fields by the police. And she could run away from me, it’s not fenced in and she’s done it before, in other fields, in other years. Maybe there’s a ghostly deer she could follow into the thicket, along the creek, to the big road. Of course I go through the list of all the worries, every single time; all tangling with the bigger list of worries, which has grown and grown in the last half-year.

But I drop her leash, I let her run with the frantic joy of a fast girl who has been stuck in a house for half a year. She comes back to me, and Is there anything more beautiful than the beaming crossing white paws of a grey dog, flashing towards you in a forbidden field in the near-dark? I think not.

We might walk back on the towpath. Nearly dark now, screech owls asking their querulous questions. The lights on fences and sheds come on as we pass, they light for us, and make a glowing tunnel through the trees. I’m talking to people in my head. I’m talking to people I know, and people I’ve never met. I’m talking to Clio, who looks up at me in the dark with her smoky beautiful eyes. I have so much anger and sadness that’s been building in me for the last 8 months, the last 3 years.

The chalk-white path is striped with lights and shadow. The canal water is lacquer-black, with slowly floating leaves glowing in the warmth of light from houses. We come to our stop on the path at a house with a beautiful little garden clinging to it along the towpath, a garden with a magnificent fig tree. All the long cold spring it was wrapped in burlap, dormant, but by the last weeks of summer it was vibrant, verdant, full of beautiful small figs. The owners of the fig tree, whose names I didn’t know then though I do know them now, gave me three beautiful figs. They were so rosy and pretty, and we ate them with honey.

And this is what has made all the difference, not just in the last 8 months, not just in the last four years, but (I have to believe) always. A moment of personal connection, a gesture of generosity, a gift of something grown and cared for. Certainly the value of friendship and decency has appeared in a stark and heightened light in our season of isolation. Certainly after four years of anger, hatred, and division raining down from above, kindness seems rare and important. It’s hard to think of things to be thankful for, lately, but surely this is one, the appreciation for small moments of connection, the understanding of how precious they are.

Ordinary friends, I want/need to write again. I’ve been dormant and discouraged. I apologize in advance for any crappy posts I may post, including this one. I’m rusty and well out of practice of writing anything at all. Of writing anything at all I care about.

This summer we got shishito peppers on the regular from our CSA. Eating them like this was pretty much my favorite thing for a while. It’s basically shishito pakoras, but there something so fun about eating an entire pepper! Seeds and stem and all. It’s just delicious, but mostly it’s fun. And I’ve read that though they’re mild and sweet, there’s often a surprisingly hot one in the mix. I love that idea! We haven’t encountered one yet, but you never know. You could easily mix up the spices here, or just use curry powder or garam masala, or any of the spice mixes available in this day and age.

Here’s my musical obsession from the last few months. Mano Negra with Mala Vida. I love the little film, I love the song, I love it all!

Black rice, bean and beet burgers

Hello Ordinary Friends. It’s been a bizarre, sad time for the whole world. I’ve written a bunch of stuff and deleted it all. There’s really nothing I can say.

Everything feels more emotional than usual, but does everything feels heightened, or does everything feel dulled, because it’s the same thing every day? It’s a strange, lost-at-sea feeling. All rules are changed. We’re working on airport rules. Air-borne disease rules. Not going to lie (one of my favorite phrases the youth use now) we’ve had some heartrendingly beautiful times and some probably equally beautiful, in the end, but not so fun times.

So when Malcolm and I made this movie it made me happier than I can say. It started out as a retelling of a Greek myth, something we’ve talked about for a long while now. It turned into a meditation on being stuck with yourself during quarantine. That was all Malcolm. All of his decisions were the right decisions, and his vision is remarkable.

And of course we’ve been cooking and baking like mad! I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for a while now. This is the best vegetarian burger recipe in the world. In a time of impossible, unreal and unlikely burgers, let’s celebrate the beauty of a flavorful bean and rice burger. Black rice is the secret here. Earthy, a little chewy and delicious. This is a very adaptable recipe, you can use different kinds of beans, different spices, red rice works well, too. Instead of a beet you can use a sweet potato or some butternut squash.

The song is in the video. The recipe is after the break.

Almond cake with chocolate and strawberry jam


Clio knows that he gets off the third bus. The first two she lets pass with only the mildest of interest. But when the third bus stops, she waits alert and aching with anticipation. When Malcolm appears around the corner, she races over at her ridiculous top speed, she circles him a few times, and then she bolts back to me to give me her signature double-muddy-paw-to-the-belly kick, to make sure I’m paying attention to the miracle of her boy coming home from school. And then we collect Isaac, who is (to use a phrase he himself propelled into popular parlance) Fun To Be With. Isaac is a man who always answers the banal question, “How was your day?” with a series of interesting and unexpected stories.

I listen to Isaac’s stories with one ear, and with the other try to sort through Malcolm’s stream of pleasant absurdities for any actual news about his day. It has rained since the middle of the night, an incessant pouring rain, but this is a pause. The sky has a flat yellow winter-twilight glow, though it‘s only 3 o’clock. A block away fire engines scream down Main Street, with their sense of panic and urgency, and everyone turns to watch. Crowds of children walking home from school turn and stare at the lights and the noise. Ahead of us a flock of blackbirds hover strangely in front of a stop sign. Turns out there’s a branch with bright red berries crossing the sign. The birds eating stopsign-red berries don’t care about the fire truck, as they create a pressing disturbance of their own. Underneath all the noise is a strange waiting stillness. It feels like something will happen, even if it’s just the small change of more rain falling or night drawing in.

It’s a slender story, there’s not much to it. Just walking home from school as millions of people do millions of times, day-in-day-out. And yet it seems worth saving.

I read a story the other day about a student walking home, written by one Anton Chekhov. Ivan, the student, is walking home just at the end of the day, and though it’s spring, winter is in the air. He’s cold and hungry and night is falling, and “It seemed to him that the cold that had suddenly come on had destroyed the order and harmony of things, that nature itself felt ill at ease, and that was why the evening darkness was falling more rapidly than usual. All around it was deserted and particularly gloomy.” Ivan’s mood reflects the weather and the time of day, and he thinks about the neverending history of ignorance and poverty and want. “…he thought that just such a wind had blown in the days of Rurik and in the time of Ivan the Terrible and Peter, and in their time there had been just the same desperate poverty and hunger, the same thatched roofs with holes in them, ignorance, misery, the same desolation around, the same darkness, the same feeling of oppression — all these had existed, did exist, and would exist, and the lapse of a thousand years would make life no better. And he did not want to go home.”

He stops to warm himself at the fire of “the widows”—a mother and daughter who sit washing up after dinner. He tells them that the Apostle Peter must have warmed himself at just such a fire, and though they say they know the story, he goes on to tell it anyway, the story of Peter denying Jesus. It happens to be from The Bible, but what’s important is that it’s a tale of human frailty, doubt and forgiveness, from somewhere far away and long ago. When he looks up he finds the mother widow weeping, with big tears flowing freely down her cheeks. He says goodnight and he moves on, he crosses a river by ferry boat. He thinks about the widow being moved by the story, not because of the way in which he told it, but because “Peter was near to her.” He’s moved by their connection to a story from a far off time and place, and the unchanging progress of history that seemed so bleak to him before suddenly fills him with joy.

“The past,” he thought, “is linked with the present by an unbroken chain of events flowing one out of another.” And it seemed to him that he had just seen both ends of that chain; that when he touched one end the other quivered…he thought that truth and beauty which had guided human life there in the garden and in the yard of the high priest had continued without interruption to this day…and the inexpressible sweet expectation of happiness, of unknown mysterious happiness, took possession of him little by little, and life seemed to him enchanting, marvelous, and full of lofty meaning.

This past year it has occasionally felt as though the icy wind of ignorance and hate is gathering strength, and it’s easy to feel discouraged and gloomy, particularly on a pouring-down-rainy day. But maybe there will be a break in the rain, and you’ll watch people you love deliriously happy to see other people you love, and you’ll think about parents all over the world all down the years meeting their children at school. And this will remind you of a story about a student walking home, a story that moved you very much about a story that moved others very much. And little by little even small things will seem marvelous and full of lofty meaning.

This is a sort of cake I make a lot. You can try it with any kind of jam you like (I like cherry or raspberry!). You can leave the chocolate out. You can try with different nuts, but you might find that almonds make it the smoothest. I like to add a shake of cinnamon sometimes. you can even leave the jam and chocolate out and this is still good. you can also wait to add the chocolate till you take it out of the oven. Then turn the oven off and scatter the chips over. Return to oven for a minute or two until the chocolate is soft. Smooth it over the top with a knife or spoon, and then let cool.

Here’s a collection of songs performed by Reverend Gary Davis in a beautiful film

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Honeysuckle Ice Cream


There was a candy factory in the town where I spent my early twenties. When you sat out on somebody’s soft dusty tar-covered rooftop, when you looked out over all the other rooftops in the city and into the bright dinning windows, with a million questions on your mind, the air would be hot and sugary and full of promise.

The town I live in now is teeming with elderflowers and linden and honeysuckle, and on a June day when you step out of your front door you’re met with a wave of warm sweet air, air you could swim in, air you could eat. Many of the questions are answered now, but of course every answer spawns a million new questions, which pester you in the middle of the night like needy children.

The other morning after breakfast the boys set out to bring me an early birthday present, with much whispering in code words, much laughing and conspiring. I expected them to come home before too long with a rock or a stick or a feather. Maybe with a toad peeing through their fingers. But an hour passed, and then another, and they weren’t back. So I went to look for them. Onto the magical dog island. Past the house where I think nobody lives, past the place that smells like some weed not sweet at all, but savory and sharp with a hint of scent-of-wet-dog; that smells like memories of childhood places we weren’t quite allowed to be. Behind garages, between buildings, by train tracks and at the edge of parking lots at the edge of town. Uncultivated.

Past all of that, onto paths that rise and fall and rise again, that twist this way and that. It occurred to me that I almost never take a walk alone. I always have a boy or a dog with me. It felt strange, like I’d forgotten something, like I should go back and start again. I passed a man walking with a tiny boy, and I wanted to ask if he’d seen my giant boys, but I didn’t. And then it got very quiet. No people, no dogs, just woodthrushes, who always sound like they’re trying to remind you of what is important, always quietly to tell you to Pay Attention. I listened for my boys, and I could almost imagine hearing them around every corner. But being a mother means almost-always nearly-hearing your child calling for you, from day one.

Finally I found them, bright and laughing, on the train bridge over the canal. They didn’t seem surprised to see me, they almost seemed to be expecting me, which made it all feel like a dream. They had a secret—they had something hidden under the bridge. But it didn’t take them long to tell me: they were collecting honeysuckle nectar in a little bottle. Well! It’s something I had done when I was a child, a story I had told them many times. We want to bring back memories, they said. Did we bring back memories? My god, yes, but the memories you’re stirring aren’t nearly as powerful as the memories you’re making. Memories gathered drop-by-drop in a small bottle.

A few days later Isaac and I sat on a bench in a park on a summer evening, with the clouds seeming to spread in bright soft circles over our heads, and he informed me that he knows what he wants to be when he grows up–he wants to be an animator. He also said it makes him a little sad to know what he wants to be. I tried to cheer him up by saying that an animator can go anywhere and do all different kinds of work, can create any sort of world imaginable (and I can’t wait to see the worlds in his head!). But I also told him it was ok to feel sad about it, that I understood feeling sad about it, and he looked at me with an expression that only Isaac can make, and said, “I know you do.” And I tell you it makes your heart ache a little to look into the sweet serious face of the best possible answer to a question you didn’t even know you were asking, and think about all of the other best possible answers you couldn’t have dreamed of, and all of the millions of new questions they make you ask every day, and all of the questions your answers will ask, and the answers they’ll be surprised by and on and on forever.

There’s no actual recipe for this. We haven’t even made it yet. The boys asked what I did with the honeysuckle I collected when I was little, and I barely remember. And the first bottle they collected sat on a hot table till it turned to vinegar, and not the kind of vinegar you want to imbibe. I told them it was fine: all things, and this gesture more than most, are about the idea rather than the fact, the process rather than the product. But they washed the bottle out and set out to collect more. And on my birthday we’ll add it to vanilla ice-cream. I wonder how that will taste, and I’m looking forward to it.


Chipotle Roasted Potatoes


On an unseasonably warm day in February, Clio and I went for a jaunt on the towpath. It was like swimming in the ocean. We passed through alternating currents of warmth and coolness, which bewilderingly didn’t correspond to the areas of slatted light and shadow. The birds were confused and loud, in a tizzy; the bees and beetles were aimless and dizzy. Thawing mud and wet grass had a hopeful scent. And the late February light was hopeful, slanting on slick bare branches, bright wet moss and bark.

Of course the unseasonable hopeful warmth came to an end. The sky was inky, gloomy and ominous. The rain spattered against windows half-opened for the first time in months. The wind threatened to tear the roof off, and the storm on the radar looked like a solid flaming bar of hellfire headed our way. And now the bushes and trees, with their hopeful budding leaves, look vulnerable and almost foolish, stretching out of the snow.

Everything has felt a little darker and colder since the election of our 45th president, and the creeping greyness gets thicker and heavier with each passing day, with each new reading of the news. So much to say and do, nothing to be said or done. It’s overwhelming and exhausting, which is the point of it all. It’s like we’re all little kids with super-villain parents. They’re trying to wear us out or distract us with shiny things so that they can get on with their fiendish plans.

Yeah, I’m tired. I guess I’m just a “liberal snowflake,” and I’m melting. Like everyone else who didn’t vote for Trump, I’m weak and needy, and I should just man-up and accept the reality of Trump’s world. Except that there is no reality in Trump’s world. It’s not real, it’s based on alternative facts and ambiguous words and outright obvious ridiculous lies. And one of the obvious lies is that there’s any strength or courage in anything Trump represents. He claims to be a tough man who will make America strong again, but he is so clearly a weak childish man who is frantically destroying everything that made us strong in the first place. His platform is, unabashedly, that America and Americans should say “Me first, everyone else is trying to hurt me and take what is rightfully mine.” Toddler logic. And the funny thing is that Trump is like a toddler with super-villain parents just like the rest of us. Because he’s not in charge, and we all know who is. And his handlers give him shiny things so that the rest of us will get distracted when he has a tantrum and throws them out of his pram.

Well! Surely nothing makes you weaker or more of a victim than to assume that everybody is out to get you. As anyone who as ever spent time being human can tell you, it takes more strength to care about people than to shut yourself off. It takes great courage to care for someone you know, and even more to care for a stranger. It’s not brave to assume that anyone different from you is a threat, and it’s downright evil to play on ignorance and sow fear by telling people that anyone different from them is a threat. It’s cowardly to shut people out of your life or your country, and it’s more-than-foolish to do so based on rumors and lies. It takes strength to fight these appeals to the worse demons of our nature, the demons of selfishness, suspicion, and bigotry. But we’re finding the strength to fight, often in surprising places. There are no paid protestors at the Town Halls and rallies. These are grandparents and babies and everything in between, many of them politically awake for the first time in their lives. And I’m beginning to let myself hope that the warmth and ferocity of our struggle will melt this administration, with its feeble understanding, fragile ego, and frightened brittle rhetoric; we will melt it to nothing.

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Cinnamon buns with apple cider glaze


I like a day that starts out cool and ends up cool but warms in the middle. I like a day when the light changes so fast you feel dizzy, and I don’t mind that evening comes before you expect it, and that the surprisingly deep cool shadows bewilder you with their soft blue sledgehammer. I like that the changes in the light and the warmth gently bruise you with anticipation and regret. I like a late-summer day.

On several of these warm-middle-of-the-day days lately we’ve gone to see Malcolm’s cross country meets. In the ever-increasing list of things that make me weepy, this would be right near the top. The event begins with groups of teenagers from different high schools milling about, warming up and chattering and organizing themselves. What’s the collective noun for a group of teenagers? A contrariness of teenagers? An insecurity of teenagers? Except that they don’t seem insecure, these teenagers, these stars of track and field. They seem sunny and happy and enviably comfortable in themselves. And though they’re chatty and cheerful before the race, when they’re running they’re so serious and focused, in a world by themselves. The face of each one of them, the ones I know and the ones I don’t, just knock me out with the glowing beauty of their intensity. They’re all so vulnerable and so strong, whether they sprint across the finish line or walk across it long after everyone else has finished. They’re all doing something I have never done and could never do.

The first race was on a hot hot day, and Malcolm passed us, sweating and clutching his side, before puking his way across the finish line, never breaking his stride. Well! I wanted go to him, of course I did, but he’s fourteen and was surrounded by his friends. The next race was far from home, much farther than we expected, in a land of dairy farms, small strip malls, vacant buildings. By the time we arrived the day had cooled. Bright clouds and black vultures circled overhead and the darkly purple clouds on the edges of the fields piled high and deep. Behind us the yellow fluorescent glow of empty high school hallways was strange and familiar. It felt like rain but it didn’t rain. David and Isaac and I were tired and hungry and thinking about the long ride home. After the race they ran some more, a cool-down run. And after all of this running, when we got to the car Malcolm took off again, by himself, to find a feather he’d seen in the woods during the race. It felt like a long while later that he came back over the hill, running, clutching a huge beautiful tattered brown and black feather, as if he could take off flying.

I got us lost on the way home in the maze of small houses with Trump signs on small lawns, making the long ride even longer. By the time we got back it was dark. The boys and David set the table outside and lit the lamp, and I walked to get the pizza. The moment I got home the rain came, but we sat outside anyway, under our umbrella in the glow of our lamp, with our two bright boys, collecting any little bits of information about the first weeks of school they would let slip.

img_2683Yesterday Malcolm informed me that we were going to make these, and I was more than happy to oblige! I made a soft, sweetish dough and let it rise while David and Malcolm were off spray painting furniture. While these were cooking Malcolm helped me make dinner. I haven’t cooked with him in a while, and I forgot how fun it is. Anyway! It was Malcolm’s idea to put apple cider in the glaze, and he made it himself, and they turned out delicious! If I made them again, I’d probably add some cider to the dough itself, as well.

Here’s Stars of Track and Field, by Belle and Sebastian


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On Waiting


When you own a store and you sit in it all day, it can feel like waiting for guests who didn’t know they were invited. It just feels like waiting. Of course so do most jobs, even jobs that are enjoyable or valuable. You’re waiting for your next break, or for your lunch, or for your shift to be over. We spend a lot of our lives waiting. Waiting’s not so bad, most of the time. It carries a sense of anticipation, and anticipation carries a sense of hope.

And this summer we discovered the best kind of waiting yet. We hung hummingbird feeders in our backyard, and every morning we would sit and wait for the birds to show up. We’d just sit and watch the plants grow and the garden turn greener and greener and we’d wait for the tomatoes to ripen and we’d wait for the hummingbirds to arrive. And they did. Every single day. Almost to a schedule. A hummingbird is a ridiculous thing. Too sweet, too pretty, too rare. Something nobody can really draw or paint without preciousness, and probably something nobody should try to write about. Seeing one feels like a gift or a blessing, to use an overused but completely apt word. And that’s just when they hover for a moment in your garden. When they land on a tree or a stake in your yard, when you start to recognize one from another, when they take on distinct personalities, when they hover close to your face as if they’re trying to tell you something, when they stay for a while in the glowing green twilight light of your perfect summer garden while you sit and breathe the dusty smoky air and drink the hummingbird-green chartreuse you got for your summer birthday. Well, that’s worth waiting for. That could bring tears to the eyes of a person less steely than myself. Of course the thing about a hummingbird is that she doesn’t announce herself. She’s not preceded by a fanfare, she makes no noise. You have to chance upon her, or you have to be watching. You have to wait with focus. And while you’re waiting, every faintly or fastly fluttering thing will attract your attention, and you’ll realize that they’re all pretty, too. The bugs and bees and bigger blundering birds,  the twisting falling leaves. And no matter how focussed and expectant you were, the hummingbird will always be a heart-bothering surprise, turning up out of nowhere. And even if she’s exactly where you were directing your focussed gaze, the space will feel buzzing new and strange, like a slice of another world.

Somewhere in the midst of all of this waiting and watching, I started wondering about the French word for wait, attender, and I became curious about the connection between waiting and attending. So I searched it up, as the boys would say, and here is my scholarly report. From various old languages, Old French, Old English, Old Latin, we have “To direct one’s mind or energies, to expect, wait for, pay attention.” “To stretch to or stretch towards” “To heed, take care of, protect.” I love them all! To stretch yourself towards the the thing you are hoping for and waiting for! I love that! And I love the sense of expecting, too, it’s one step beyond hoping. And I love the sense of protecting and caring for, which I suppose is from the “waiting-upon-someone” sense of the word; dancing attendance, as the Williams Shakespeare and Yeats might phrase it. But mostly I love the heeding and the directing of energies and the paying attention. I love the idea that we’re not just killing time, waiting, we’re heedful, we’re attentive. We should wait for everything the way we wait for hummingbirds, keenly, and we should notice everything else that happens while we’re waiting with the same keen attention. We should stretch ourselves towards the thing we anticipate and expect, and we should notice every beautiful thing that flies by us as we’re waiting. And then we should stop writing about hummingbirds, because nobody should try to write about hummingbirds.

On a side note: I had a recipe to go with this, but honestly, I haven’t had time to write it all down, it’s not a recipe I feel happy about, and I’m tired of pretending this is a food blog, which it hasn’t been for several years. I’m not saying there will be no more recipes, but there won’t always be recipes.

There will always be songs though! Here’s Bob Marley and the Wailers with I’m Still Waiting.



Yeasted cornmeal crepe

IMG_0572.jpg“I’m not worried!”

“You’re mom, Mom.” said Isaac.

“It’s like you have a dog with you at all times you have to worry about.” Said Malcolm.

“An imaginary worry dog!” I cried, loving the idea. (Our very real dog and actual perpetual source of worry had been left home for this trip.)

Isaac said, “Mom always has to worry because she’s always with Clio or us, for her to not worry she’d have to go on a walk all by herself.”

Last time I wrote it was blizzarding, and now it’s snowing pale petals and golden sycamore seeds. After a slow start, we’ve had a rare spate of perfect spring days, and the boys and I are going on an adventure. Usually David is their man for adventures and I drive the getaway car. But David is too tall for this adventure, and though it’s my lack-of-height that gets me invited, I’m still honored that they want me along. They discovered a special secret place and they want to show it to me. Am I going through a list of possible dangers in my head? Of course I am. Malcolm assures me, “Really, mom, the hazards are few.”

It’s a pair of tunnels that run off the canal under the path on the other-side-of-the-canal to a strange sort of pond in the-secret-passage. It’s a new place they’ve discovered under a familiar place. An unknown hollow under ground we’ve walked hundreds of times. The entrance is a strangely pretty concrete ditch, and the tunnels themselves are dull concrete and lined with a trough of dark boggy mud. But there are small seedlings growing in the muck, spindly and skinny and stretched towards the light. And the light on the other side of the tunnel is spring distilled–glowing and green. To me the tunnels could lead to a magical world, and to the boys they’re  a good place to hide in a post-apocalyptic world-at-war scenario. Which tells you all you need to know about how children’s literature has changed in the last few decades.

They show me how to walk with your feet on either side of the tunnel walls, so that you don’t fall in the bog; they point out impressive spider webs above our heads; they adorn the walls with their own graffiti tag in white crayon. They cut away the thorn bushes from the far entrances of the tunnels so we can stand on the edge of the pond, and they’re sad that it’s filmed with gasoline. People think they’re so powerful, Malcolm says, but they make garbage and coca cola and guns. Malcolm wants to stay for hours and eat sandwiches perched over black mud and garlanded with spider webs. But I’m ready to go home.


While we’re walking home I worry about worrying too much and worry about the boys knowing that I worry too much. Popular knowledge dictates that we should emulate the good old days, when parents stayed indoors smoking and day-drinking while their children ran wild on train tracks and super-highways and incurred character-building injuries. But surely, as in all things, there has to be a balance. I don’t lock my boys indoors; they’re not terrified of the world. They’re curious and adventurous and scared of most scary things and scared of a few not-very-threatening things, like everyone else on the planet. They roam our town. That very day they went back to sit in the tunnel and watch birds and spy on people walking on the path above. They sat until the thrill wore off and a savage goose chased them away, then they went for a ramble in the secret passage. They were gone a while. The fact that they knew I worried made me worry less. They came home safe and told us stories.

And isn’t that how it should be? We walk the path together or we walk the path alone, we explore the secret places all around the path. We’re never free of worry because we’re never free of love. We know there’s someone glad to see us when we get home, waiting to hear our stories.


These were a sort of cross between a flatbread and a crepe. Easy and fun to make, and very tasty. Everybody liked them. We ate them like pita bread, with croquettes, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce inside. And the next day Malcolm wrapped them around scrambled eggs.


Here’s Tunnels by Johnny Flynn

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Flourless chocolate almond cake with coffee and cinnamon

IMG_0364.jpgLast Saturday was a blizzarding day. The sky was white and bewildering, the time passed quickly and not-at-all, and the snow lay in deep, perfect drifts all around. A week later, the snow is still in giant gravelly piles where it was pushed away from all the places people walk and drive and park. The time is still passing strangely. The hours pass in the usual way, some flying some crawling, but at the end of the day it’s all a blur and I haven’t done half the things I’ve persuaded myself that I need to do. It’s days like this that make you want to turn into Malcolm’s latest superhero creation: Slothman. Slothman’s super power is that he goes slowly, he takes time to enjoy things. And he enjoys everything. Malcolm believes that people, and himself in particular, move too fast. He is a speedy fellow. So if he could turn into slothman he would slow down, everything would slow down. He could be happy just sitting up in a tree doing nothing but just sitting up in a tree. That in itself would become something to enjoy. The funny thing is that I think Malcolm already has this quality in spades. Not the slowness part, he is fairly full-speed-ahead in all endeavors. But the enjoying part. When you’re doing something with Malcolm–cooking or playing cards or going for a walk–he’ll announce, “This is fun.” And because he says it, you stop and think, “this is fun,” and then, strangely, it becomes more fun, just because he said it. And on the day that Malcolm told me about Slothman, we were on a walk. He’d been jumping puddles rimmed with black mud, and I was worried about his shoes, because it’s my job to worry about his shoes. Malcolm stopped walking and I yelled, “No jumping puddles!” But guess what–he wasn’t jumping puddles, he wasn’t moving at all. He was standing perfectly still, with a beaming face, and he said, “It’s so pretty! The light through the trees! And the shadows!” I looked ahead on the path and it was pretty, it was beautiful. The pale hopeful January light through brambled leafless trees. I thought about taking a picture, but it would never work, I couldn’t capture it. So we just stood for a moment and watched the shifting slanting light, until Clio woke us and we moved on.


Snowy weather is always good baking weather, so we’ve been making lots of cookies and cakes and bread. One day I ran out of flour, so I made this cake. It’s very tasty! Soft and flavorful, but with an almost crispy layer on the top. The flavors–cinnamon, chocolate, coffee, almond–they’re perfect together! This wasn’t at all hard to  make, and it was even easier to eat.


Here’s Groovin in Style by Ken Parker


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