Monthly Archives: April 2017

wednesday morning(s) in the garden

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I’m still here, but the days are full. It’s our first weekend home and without guests in three weeks, so there’s a lot of catching up to do. It’s pouring rain outside, so we’re staying in our pajamas as long as possible. I do have to go out eventually – to Artmart, and hopefully to get a new camera. My camera broke on our spring break trip, and the cost of repairs don’t make a lot of sense when compared to the cost of a much newer, improved model. It’s weird to me – it seems like it’s hard to keep pace with things. I feel like we should be consuming less, fixing more – but the equation for making these decisions is so different now. It’s hard to keep pace with so many things, but I still try. I center the busy moments around the moments of ritual. Wednesdays are a large part of that.

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So consider this my gentle suggestion that you find a moment like this in your week somewhere. If you are like me, it seems impossible to carve out on paper. But the reality is, it’s not that hard. It might require rethinking a morning routine or an alternate path to work and school. Sometimes it means a non-typical breakfast solution, or a wardrobe change to combat the dicey weather. Maybe start with once a month, just to try it on. Then every other week, then weekly. It doesn’t have to be in a garden. Find your own spot, and walk with the weather as it is. Don’t wait for the stars to align to make it happen; adjust to the stars as they fall in that moment. Bring an umbrella, eat dry cereal from a plastic bag. It’s worth it.

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There are so many days that speed by despite all efforts to under-fill them and be still and present. When I introduced this ritual into our Wednesday mornings thirteen years ago, I never anticipated how important and essential they would be to me. I shared them with E, than the two girlsĀ together, and now with F. I have their undivided attention for an hour, and they have mine. We don’t even have to talk, we just walk and notice things, and fill up for the day and the week.

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One day it will be just me on these mornings. I know that, and feel it already. I take photos now, but I don’t really need them. I see them in every bend of the sidewalk and step of the stone. I will greet each spring with its rapturous pink, and spot sweaters of the same color in the distance, even when they are no longer there. I will tuck spent blossoms into my jacket pocket and find them later in the week. I’ll put interesting sticks on the floorboard of the car, even when my car is once again clean, and my own. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll find their own garden to explore, and know that I’m walking there with them as they roam.

since we last talked

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I didn’t mean to let the silence linger here – I was on a roll, but one of the first things to go when I get busy is that tiny little sliver of early morning time to write. Sometimes I just need to hit the snooze button. In my absence I turned forty-two, in what turned out to be a really lovely, low-key kind of way. The sun came out and the temperatures rose. My garden membership was renewed, the most beautiful flowers arrived at my desk, new books arrived in my lap, and family also donated to We Stories in honor of my day. I met up with M and the girls on Friday afternoon to meet Chelsea Clinton (a real birthday highlight), and then we ate late night tacos across the street to continue the celebration.

I was still riding pretty high on the birthday vibes that weekend, and then we suffered a pretty significant setback on the house project. One week out, and it feels manageable, doable, a bit more hopeful. But in the moment it felt like a suckerpunch. Insurmountable and gut-wrenching.

That pendulum swing can be difficult to navigate – it always is for me. I’m pretty good at giving a challenge all I’ve got, but it’s far more difficult for me to revisit a challenge that I thought was behind me. I move on, I’ve moved on. I’m not always willing (or optimistic) about stepping back a few steps.

I went for a long run on that following Sunday night, and I really turned my thoughts (and myself) over to the idea of revisiting. Linear progressions are much more predictable, which makes emotions (and reactions) easier to modulate. Even a birthday weekend is a linear thing – another year completed, a new one begun. But if I’m honest with myself, and I look at the things in my life that are the most meaningful and long lasting, I have to acknowledge that none of those things turned out exactly as planned or along a predescribed timeline. As M pointed out to me – we have the tools in our toolbelt to handle this – this is what we do. And he’s right. This is what we do.

forethought

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I had a board meeting last night and I brought a cake. It was a celebratory cake, in honor of the award this organization is receiving, and it was planned as a welcome cake for our two new board members. It’s also my birthday week, and so it seems a fitting week to consume more cake. On the way to the meeting I was thinking about cake. I was thinking about our upcoming house project and the dismantling and rebuilding of our kitchen. I was thinking that I’d love to be the kind of person who always has a cake on the counter – stopping in to pick up your kid or to drop off some materials for a meeting? Come in, have a cup coffee, would you like a slice of cake?

This could be that cake. It’s the Gateau Breton from last month’s Cook’s Illustrated magazine. I’ve made it twice now, the second time greatly benefitted from not having an oven temperature snafu in the middle of baking. It’s a sturdy cake, and an elegant one. It’s not overly sweet, and I increased the filling by a tablespoon or two and it’s nearly perfection. I have a large bottle of expensive dark rum, so at two tablespoons per cake, it seems like I could be set for awhile. It fits perfectly on my small marble cake stand, and it slices and plates easily. I served it at the start of the meeting, and that simple act spawned an energetic conversation on the act of making, and serving, a cake.

I do this a lot. I make things in my kitchen, I bring them places to share. I run the sort of committees that serve receptions and organize menus and feed people. I think in terms of serving sizes, fresh flowers, punch ingredients. I have a lot of practice at this, it’s fairly second nature at this point. I love to eat, but even more than that, I love to feed others.

The conversation that developed eventually centered around the idea of forethought. I believe it became a hashtag moment at some point. It was used to describe the differences between those who love the idea of cake, and the person (me) who plans the cake a week in advance, shops for the ingredients, makes the cake, packages the cake, remembers the serving silver and the napkins. #forethought was thrown out several more times, as the conversation moved into menu planning and dinner recipes, shopping lists, project planning and note-taking. It was my instinct to pull away from this and retreat – I just do what I do, and I don’t find it exceptional or unique or particularly praiseworthy. I do find this particular group of women exceptional, unique and praiseworthy, so why wouldn’t I make them a cake, and serve it with the silver?

On the way home from the meeting I thought a lot about the idea of forethought, and getting past my initial instinct to deflect attention away from me, I decided to claim it. It’s a good descriptor for me, and it’s how I operate best. It doesn’t mean that I never do things at the last minute – I often do – but my wheels are always spinning on the tasks that I have ahead of me. There are so many people and organizations that inspire and motivate me, and sharing something that brings me joy to them is my best way of honoring them.

Maybe I’m already that person with the cake on the counter. Have a seat for a moment in your busy day and have a slice. Let me tell you how much I love you in the currency of butter and sliced fruit. Let me reconnect to you again while the vegetables roast, let the scent of fresh flowers remind you that you are home.