And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun. Un-slumping yourself is not easily done. You will come to a place where the streets are not marked. Some windows are lighted. But mostly they’re darked. A place you could sprain both your elbow and chin! Do you dare to stay out? Do you dare to go in? How much can you lose? How much can you win? And IF you go in, should you turn left or right…or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite? Or go around back and sneak in from behind? Simple it’s not, I’m afraid you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind. You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
Well! It struck me as very poignant (Yes! I am going to use that word in every post!) to listen to these oddly beautiful words read in Isaac’s sweet voice, and think about what they mean for each of us at our different times of life. Isaac’s future is so full of decisions, large and small. He can go anywhere, do anything, be friends with anyone! He’ll have to figure out the way the world works, what people expect of him, what risks are worth taking, which people worth meeting. And knowing my Isaac, he won’t race at a break-necking pace, he’ll wind slowly through weirdish wild space, singing an amiable song, and drawing pictures of the strange creatures he meets there. I don’t feel so vexed about some of these things any more. I’m not all that worried about how much I’ll lose or win or the right way to get in. I do think about the windows, though – some lighted, most darked. I realize that I’ve always thought about the world this way – as if I’m looking in at other people’s windows, and I hope the dark ones are full of sweet moonlight and silvery shadows and peaceful dreams, and I hope the lit ones are aglow with friendship and warmth. I do think about the weirdish wild space. I do hope the weirdness and wildness are the inspired, creative, inventive, kind, and not the reckless why-would-a-person-do-that-to-themselves-or-anyone-else kind. I worry about my boys going through the unmarked streets and I wish I could give them a map and a lantern. I guess I’ve been thinking about what it means to be in a slump, to be discouraged. (I searched for the word “discouraged” in The Ordinary archives – it’s a frequent visitor! I must be a moody old cuss.) To be discouraged means to be without courage, and when I’m in a slump, that’s what it feels like. I don’t mind a lazy or unmotivated spell, I suppose that’s part of the cycle of our day-to-day life. But it feels bad to be afraid to try. Afraid of failure, or afraid that it’s just not worth the effort. Honestly my ambitions are so small, it seems a silly thing to even worry about! To make a nice meal, write something I feel good about, be patient and cheerful with the boys…just a small handful of little things, but they fall through my fingers, sometimes, and I drop them in the darkness of the wild spaces. Of course, the opposite of discourage is encourage, which means to give courgage. Just thinking about the meaning of it lifts me up a bit! It’s like the word “comfort,” which means to give strength, it’s a powerful word! Comfort and encouragement aren’t just like a pill to make you feel better for a little while, they’re like good sustaining food, that gives you the strength and courage to go on today, tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow. And the strength and courage could come from anywhere around you – from the people in the lit windows, from discovering that you’ve gone into the right place and turned the right direction, from discovering that you just don’t care about sneaking in the back, you’ll walk right through the front door, or you’ll find another place, because there’s always another place, from walking to school with an Isaac who has new bright blue sneakers on his feet and a piece of cinnamon toast in his hand. Thinking about that lifts me up a little bit more. “This enables the birds to run lightly over the floating leaves of aquatic plants, by so much increase of breadth of support that they do not slump in.”Another way out of a slump, of course, besides running over it on little bird’s feet, is to try something new and inspiring. This weekend David bought a small and wildly expensive tub of black truffle butter. He also bought some beautiful golden beets, and pretty carrots – pale yellow, bright crimson. And my favorite castelvetrano olives, as green as spring leaves. The whole time I was slumping my way through my discouraging job, I had the rosy picture of these ingredients in the back of my mind. When I got home I cooked them up like this…I roasted the carrots, beets and a couple of parsnips very simply with olive oil and rosemary. And then I tossed them while warm with a few spoonfuls of truffle butter and a handful of olives. I grated some sharp cheddar to be melted by their warmth, and made very peppery crepes to wrap it all together, because it’s fun to eat with your hands. Bright and warm and sustaining. If you happen not to have black truffle butter or castelvetrano olives, you could easily substitute regular butter and a bit of roasted garlic and kalamata olives (or any you happen to like!)
Here’s What’s Golden by Jurassic 5. What’s golden? My beets, that’s what!
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour
1/2 t salt
lots and lots and lots of black pepper
butter for frying
Whisk the eggs and milk together in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and whisk until the batter is lump-free. In a large flat skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Put a ladelful of batter in, and tilt the pan so that the batter goes in a thin layer to the edges. When it starts to look dry on top, flip and cook on the other side for a few moments. Stack the crepes on a plate and keep them in a warm oven until you’re ready to use them.
ROASTED ROOTS & OLIVES
4 or 5 golden beets, peeled and chopped into 1/3 inch dice
a small bunch of yellow, orange and red carrots, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch dice
1 or 2 smallish parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch dice
olive oil to coat
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves only, chopped
a few sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 cup castelvetrano olives, pitted and halved
2 t black truffle butter
Preheat the oven to 425. Combine all of the vegetables and toss with the rosemary and just enough olive oil to coat – 2 T or so should do it. Place the thyme sprigs on top of the veg. Roast for about half an hour, give or take, until the veg is soft and browned on the edges. Tip into a bowl, stir in the olives, and mix in 2 t of truffle butter. Taste for salt and pepper.
Serve with grated sharp cheddar and the crepes.